Books in the Middle: Reading for Middle School

Our focus is on books middle school students might like to read and topics pertaining to books for these students, and we are giving recommendations. Teachers, librarians and middle school students are the contributors to this blog. If you would like to listen to booktalks of some of these books, please check out this site and enjoy!

Mysterious Will January 9, 2023

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-3 4.09.54 PMAvery is just trying to get by. Her half sister, Libby, took her in two years ago when Avery’s mother died. Libby and Avery share a father, a father neither of them has anything to do with, so it was super nice of Libby to take on the responsibility of a 15 year old teenager. As much as Avery appreciates all that Libby has done for her though, she can’t help wishing Libby would get better at picking boyfriends. Or rather, get better at not returning to the same dead beat abusive boyfriend. Which is what Libby tells Avery when she gets home after a pretty lousy day at school. That the old boyfriend is back to the current boyfriend. Avery decides she would rather spend the night in her car than deal with Drake.

What she doesn’t expect is to see Libby at her school the next day, after being pulled out of her English class and sent to the principal’s office. And what she really doesn’t expect is the young man in a suit who says her presence is required at the reading of his grandfather’s will. His very, very, VERY, rich grandfather’s will. Avery has no idea why she is needed at this will reading since she’s never even heard of the man who died. But she learns very quickly that the young man is one of four brothers and all of them have secrets and that the reading of the will is just the beginning of how Avery’s life will change.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is an engaging suspense book that will keep the readers wondering what Avery’s connection is to the Hawthorne family. Because it is the beginning of a series though, don’t expect all the answers in this first book.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.


Stalking 101 November 28, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-7He doesn’t really think it is creepy, even if his best friend Charlie, disagrees. He looks at it more as gaining life skills. After all, if he does someday want to work for the police or as a private detective, he will need to know how to watch people. So, no, he doesn’t really think he is stalking people, more just observing them…without them knowing!

So when Alden notices Greg Matthes (all American perfect guy) walking out of school one day looking seriously mad, he thinks he should follow Greg, just to practice his skills. Even though he has promised Charlie he will stop following people. What Alden never expects to see though, is Greg talking angrily with his girlfriend, Amy, and then he witnesses what he thinks is Greg hurting Amy…maybe even killing her!

Alden can’t believe what he’s seen! Can he trust his gut instincts that are telling him something is seriously off about Greg’s behavior and what about Amy? If she is dead, what did Greg do with her body? And why hasn’t anyone reported her missing?

Following by Jeffry W. Johnston is one of those suspense reads that will have you guessing, along with the main characters, just what is going on! If you are a fan of that type of book, this will be a great read for you.

Recommended for 8th graders and up.


Family Secrets November 21, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-11They are all mystified to be receiving letters asking them to come to the island owned by their grandmother. After all, she cut her own children out of her life years before any of them were even born. So why now, after twenty years has Mildred – as all three of her grandkids refer to her – asked them to visit her on her resort island? Milly, Aubrey and Jonah are all clueless. However, each of their parents is happy for them to become aquatinted with their rich grandmother. After all, maybe she’s had a change of heart and will put them in her will again.¬†

Milly, Aubrey and Jonah all have different reasons for wanting to connect with their grandmother, or avoid her as the case is for one of them, but they are all in the dark as to why their parents were disinherited all those years ago, when the cryptic message was delivered to them all stating they all knew what they had done. None of their parents appears to know what was done however, so the mystery has endured. Maybe the grandkids can figure out what did happen all those years ago. 

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus is another suspense novel by a writer who is fast becoming a fan favorite among my students. In this book, there are some good twists that even I didn’t see coming and I can usually pick up on them early on. Any mystery and suspense fans will enjoy this latest from McManus!


One is Trapped, The Other, Running November 7, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

They made it through the desert but now, Sara is in a detention center in Texas hoping to get asylum indownload-4 the United States because she knows if she goes back to Mexico, there are people there who will kill her. Her brother, Emiliano has been hiding at a ranch in Texas after being rescued from near death in the desert. But he has a very important phone – a phone that Sara has been risking her life for, and now Emiliano’s life – because it contains information that could bring down a whole human trafficking smuggling ring being run in the United States.

Emiliano ends up going with his Father to Aurora, IL because Sara’s contacts tell him they will be able to get the phone unlocked and help get the information out that will save the poor woman who have been trafficked. However, once Emiliano gets to Illinois, it becomes clear that his father will do more to protect his new wife, than he will to help Emiliano and his sister. Who can Emiliano turn to when anyone who moves to help him might end up dead?

Illegal by Francisco X. Stork is a stark look at the ICE detention centers and the amount of hurdles that anyone trying to come into this county legally must go through. And it also highlights how so many people coming are escaping horrible situations. Emiliano learns that even people who may feel very strongly about his illegal status can see the human side of his plight.

Recommended for grades 8 and up due to complexity of issues.


Writer’s Block September 26, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-4So it is a real thing. Not being able to write. And R.M. Haldon’s got it bad. So bad that maybe he needs to think outside the box to get something written, anything written to finish up his epic fantasy series, Swords and Shadows. After all, he has fans waiting, and waiting and really waiting for him to tie up all those loose ends. So why can’t he, when the first books came so easily to him?

Bridget, his assistant, knows that he is stuck, but she’s sure that he will be coming around soon. Or she at least hopes he will. Still, she has no trouble re-reading all his other books in the series. It keeps her going. And it feels like a connection she still has with her mother who died from cancer. After all, reading the books together was their thing. Still, it is strange that Bob (as she calls him, since that is his name) hasn’t been contacting her as much lately. Or at all. Typically when he’s writing, he likes to check in with her. And as crazy as it seems since she is a teenager, she really is an amazing assistant because she knows all of his books, inside and out, and can help him keep the continuity of the stories going. So what is going on? Is he really writing, or has something happened to him? And if so, is there anything Bridget can do to help him?

Eyes of the Forest by April Henry is a look at just how far some people will go to get what they want – even if it is the end of a series book written! As is typical for Henry’s stories now, this book has multiple points of view, which helps to move the story along. But, as with the last Henry book, she is beginning to focus a lot on inserting lots of information that she’s learned as the author into her books, and at times it can be a bit distracting from the pace of the book. Still, if you are looking for a mystery, it is hard go wrong with an April Henry book.


Trapped in another Time August 22, 2022

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Mystery and Ghost Stories,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-3Abe has always had a “thing” for Mitzy, but has never been able to do more than just nod her way as he walks by her on his way home from school. Not that there is anything¬† waiting for him at home. Just the every day life of one of the many who blend in and go about their lives.

But today, for some reason, he decides to take a little detour and go into a store front shop. There he meets a woman who says she will tell him his fortune. Not that he thinks he has anything fortunate to look forward to, but what the heck. Only what she says surprised him, and even more so, when he goes to leave the shop, he blacks out, or thinks he does. When he comes to, he is in London of all places and not in his own time! In fact, it appears he has traveled back in time to the exact moment that the infamous Jack the Ripper first strikes! And perhaps most surprising of all, is that he finds out Mitzy has also been transported back in time. The question is, how do they get back? Both have been told something by the fortune teller, but neither of them has any idea how they can complete what she has said they need to.

Ripped Away by Shirley Reva Vernick is a quick, interesting read. While the book does center around the crimes of Jack the Ripper, both Abe and Mitzy are more concerned with how to get back to their “real” lives and not the ones they find themselves suddenly inhabiting. Instead of lingering on the gruesome murders committed, the book focuses on how a Jewish person was suspected of being responsible for the murders due to the pervasive prejudice against Jews. The fact that this prejudice played a role in the case with the Ripper will probably be new information for many readers. Ripped Away also gives an idea of just how limited the lives of people living in London during this period must have been and how the lives of younger people have changed.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


The House Wants Them July 25, 2022

Filed under: Horror,Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

She knows everyone thinks she is “crazy Poppy” but she really does see a girl in the mirror – in any mirror- that she looks into. And not only that, but the girl gives her things. Things that Poppy sees in the mirror and then finds in real life. But Poppy has no idea who she is and why she appears only to Poppy.

And Marcus has for years heard music that he must play- music that only he can hear. But it drives hisdownload-1 mother nuts because she doesn’t like to hear Marcus play. It reminds her too much of her dead brother, who was a musician too.

Azumi has lost her sister in a woods in Japan, and it has been over a year, but she can’t let go of her. In fact, she is sleep walking. Then there are Dash and Dylan, two popular television stars who have their own secret story.

What do all of these kids have in common? They have all been summoned to the house called Larkspur, all seeming to be an answer to all their problems, but have they solved them, or just found themselves locked in a sinister house that has no plans on letting them out alive?

The Gathering by Dan Poblocki is the first book in the Shadow House series and is a really good, creepy read for anyone who enjoys worrying when the lights go out!

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


No Solution April 27, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 3:00 pm

downloadStevie can’t wait to get away from her parents – parents who don’t share the same beliefs that she does. They work for a Senator that Stevie can’t stand. So when she finds out about an old Cold Case – a murder that hasn’t really ever been solved, and it is at a school – she decides she has nothing to lose and applies to it. However, Ellingham Academy is filled with students who are exceptional in some way. And Stevie isn’t sure how she made it in. Other than the fact that she is pretty obsessed with the Ellingham murders.

As she meets her house mates, two other girls and three boys, she wonders if she’ll end up being true friends with any of them. Luckily, she was able to chat with two of them over the summer leading up to their arrival at the school, but still. As the school year gets underway, Stevie is fascinated to be at the place where the murders happened – or at least the kidnappings. She decides to make it her school project to solve the murders. But deciding something and doing it are two different things entirely!

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson is truly devious in that the book creates not one but two mysteries to solve…and doesn’t deliver on either one of them. Instead the reader is left at the end of the book with two cases with some idea of what might have happened, but nothing clear cut. In fact it ends with the dreaded “to be continued.” Ugh. I have to say, as a reader I was seriously annoyed by this fact. However, if you as a reader, love series, then this is the book to start reading, because you will undoubtably want to read the next one.

Recommended for 8th graders and up.


Finding Your Way Back April 4, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Mia’s family is moving back to the place she grew up in Vermont, after having lived in Boston for a fewdownload years. Mia is happy to leave Boston and its painful memories behind. Having been sidelined with a badly broken arm is enough to make anyone question going back into gymnastics, but Mia has no such issues. She wants nothing to do with the sport anymore. She’s just happy she gets to be back with her Gram again and helping her with the business she runs. Mia’s mom though, wants Mia to be “involved” this summer and that means Mia can’t just park herself in front of the television and watch all the seasons of her favorite shows.

What she doesn’t expect is to find two really awesome camps and a Gram who is convinced someone is trying to take down her business – a business that is about selling crickets for human food. After all, who on earth would want to do that? But as more and more strange things begin to happen, Mia thinks her grandmother is onto something. The question is, what can Mia do to help her Gram, and maybe even herself in the process?

Chirp by Kate Messner is part mystery, part finding yourself after something traumatic has happened but all of it is a good, fast enjoyable read!

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Who Was It? August 30, 2021

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

When she heard the news, it took her breath away. She was just getting to know Grant, and now, suddenly, he’sdownload-1 dead. Shot by one of his best friends on a hunting trip. But who did it and why? Kate, and everyone else, can’t wrap their heads around the fact that one of the most popular boys in their small community has died and no one is saying who pulled the trigger.

But people, especially Grant’s parents, want answers. What happened in the woods that morning where five best friends went out and only four lived to tell the tale. But that was the problem. No one was talking. Kate is in a unique position because her senior year internship has her working for the District Attorney’s Office and the lawyer she helps out has just been charged with figuring out who did pull the trigger.

Kate has her own reasons for wanting Grant’s killer brought to justice since she had been getting so close to him. So close that she was almost at the party the night before he died. But the closer she gets the more she uncovers about Grant, and he certainly wasn’t who she thought he was. Still, can she help find the killer before someone else dies?

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston is a really good read that will have some nice turns in it for you. While you might not guess who the killer was, in many ways it doesn’t matter, since the read to get there is so enjoyable!

Recommended for 8th grade and up.