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. Enjoy!

Walking the Walk May 10, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:52 am

Lolly feels like nothing will be right again. His older brother Jermaine was killed – shot- and died a few months ago and Lolly just can’t seem to move beyond it. Now he’s got guys in the neighborhood that are harassing him, his best friend doesn’t understand what he’s going through, and the only peace he seems to feel is when he’s working on his Legos. Lolly feels that he might be teetering on the edge of something, but he isn’t sure just what.

Then his mom’s girlfriend brings him a huge bag of legos for Christmas and Lolly finally has something to concentrate on. He begins to take over the apartment with his Lego city and building them helps him to forget. When his mom says he can no longer build them in the house (or at least all over the apartment) he gets a chance to continue building his city at the after school center that he goes to each day. There, a storage room becomes his special refuge. However, one girl named Rose, who is a strange one, decides that she wants to build too. At first, this drives Lolly crazy, but it soon becomes apparent that Rose is just as talented as he is.

When something happens to Lolly and his best friend, Vega, though Lolly isn’t sure if building his city will be enough to keep the darkness at bay.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore is a great examination of how events in our lives can begin to take over and consume us, even to shaping our direction and changing the trajectory in sometimes subtle and sometimes profound ways.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


After the Towers Came Down April 29, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 3:41 pm

Things were rough for Shirin after the Twin Towers fell in New York City. A year later, when her family has moved yet again, things are still very unsettled. In fact, she thinks nothing will ever change. There will always be the whispers, the stares, the outright hostility, so what is the point in even trying to get to know anyone. They always turn out to be a disappointment.

Shirin and her family are muslim – her parents from Iran – and she chooses to wear a hijab. Navid, her older brother, never seems to have any problem making friends and fitting in. Any adversity she and her brother face however is met with a story from their parents about how horrible they had it and how lucky their children are to be in a place of opportunity. Shirin doesn’t see it that way.

So she finds herself once again, starting at a new school – because her parents are always moving, getting better jobs for a better future (not thinking that moving around makes things harder for their children) and this time it is her sophomore year of high school. Shirin plans to behave like always – ignore the world and hope the world will ignore her. Because when the world isn’t ignoring her – it typically isn’t good.

When her lab partner, a guy named Ocean, starts actually talking with her, she isn’t sure why. Ndownloadormally boys don’t talk to her at all, but this guy seems to maybe want to. She doesn’t get it. Then her brother forms a break dancing group and decides they should try to make it into the school talent show and Shirin isn’t sure that she can get up on stage and perform in front of the entire school. With Ocean acting weird and her brother driving her crazy it is little wonder she feels like her world is spiraling out of control. Especially when she discovers the reason Ocean is acting strange is because he likes her.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi is a great look at a person who has walled themselves off to protect themselves from the large and small hurts of the world, only to realize that some of those hurts, aren’t really hurts after all.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


In the Desert April 3, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 12:32 pm

Wren hates her name. Hates that her family moved to a new house, new town, new state. Hates her new school. Hates to make friends. Do you see a pattern here? Even though she is in 6th grade when they move to the new school, Wren just can’t seem to make friends. Until one day she meets a girl named Meadow in a bathroom and they seem to click. Or do they really? Or is Wren just so happy to have someone, anyone who seems to be paying attention to her. After all, her parents are both too busy with work, her younger brother is always involved in some after school activity and her older sister, Anabella (whom she used to feel close with) is off making her own friends in 8th grade – leaving her little sister behind.

Never mind that Meadow introduces Wren to smoking weed, stealing and some interesting other people that are operating on the wrong side of the law. Even when things with Meadow start to fall apart, Wren can’t seem to pull herself together.

Then, one morning in the middle of 9th grade, Wren gets a rude awakening. She is taken from her home, driven to the airport and put on a plane with a bodyguard. Then she is dropped in the middle of nowhere (after being blindfolded) to be in what feels like an outdoor prison! Wren can’t believe it when she learns her parents have sent her to this horrible place.

Wild Bird by Wendelin VAn Draanen looks at what happens when you hit rock bottom and you don’t like the person you see there. Wren is forced to finally take a moment to just breathe and realize that there are some things that are within her own control.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Polar Opposites January 7, 2019

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 12:23 pm

When Linc and Holly were little, it seemed nothing could pull them apart. But, now that they are in high school, it feels like nothing can bring them back together. Linc struggles with school, while Holly excels. Holly has many friends, while Linc has one. Being in the same grade doesn’t help matters out since it is easy to compare the two of them and their downloadmother does that all the time. Holly is adopted, Linc is not. And yet, Linc feels she doesn’t fit with the family. She sees the world in a very different light than her mother does, and it seems no mater what she does, her mother never believes it is enough. Linc finally thinks she has found a way to make her parents and Holly see that she has different strengths, and they don’t lie following the traditional path in school. However, the closer she gets to making her own dreams come true, the farther away everyone else seems.

The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen looks at a family and shows how little cracks in the foundation can shift the entire house. Linc wonders if she and Holly can ever regain the closeness they had a children, now that life and expectations – both internal and external – seem determined to keep them apart. Plus, Linc begins to imagine she’ll never be good enough for her mother.

Recommended for 8th grade readers and up due to some mature content.


It Came From the Sky January 2, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 11:56 am

She was average and “normal” until she was eight. Then, she was struck by lightning. Yeah, really! At that point, Lucy’s life changed. Suddenly, numbers made a whole lot of sense to her, so much so, that they become just about the only thing that does make sense. After being struck by lightning, part of her brain goes into overdrive and pretty much over night Lucy becomes a genius – at least in math. She’s so good that she’s ready to go to college at the age of 12. Because she’s been so far ahead, her grandmother pulled her out of public school and let her do online courses. But for some reason that Lucy can’t fathom, her grandmother has it in her head that Lucy needs to complete at least one year of middle school before she’ll let Lucy enroll in college. Lucy can’t imagine what on earth she could possibly learn in 7th grade, but her grandmother is determined.

So Lucy heads off to 7th grade with no idea what is in store for her. All she knows is she wants to hide what she is – so people won’t treat her differently. The only problem is Lucy has a hard time hiding her aptitude with math. Seems she can’t even fake notdownload knowing math! When she has to do a community service project with two other students in her class, Lucy’s world starts to get larger – in ways she never anticipated.

The Miscalculations of Lighting Girl by Stacy McAnulty is a book that a student recommended I buy for the school library and read. I’m really glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this title. Read this book – you won’t be disappointed!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


At a Crossroads November 19, 2018

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:55 am

Garvey is struggling to connect with his father who only seems to want Garvey to dodownload-1 something athletic. But that is his older sister’s area of expertise. Garvey is more into music and reading than running around! It hurts him to hear his dad complain to his mom about him not being the kind of kid he wanted. Garvey finds himself slipping farther away from his dad and he isn’t sure how anything he likes will ever find favor with his dad.

One day Garvey starts talking with a new kid at school. A kid who has people making fun of him… a lot! The new kid happens to be albino and he tells Garvey you have to let the bad words people say go unheard. Garvey has been having trouble with this since he’s been gaining weight and that appears to be all anyone sees about him these days. But when a friend tells him he should try out for the Chorus, Garvey feels like he has finally found a place to call home. The only problem is, what will his dad think?

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes is a quick, sweet story about a boy looking for approval from his dad and his learning to live in his own skin.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


When is Enough, Enough? November 12, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:12 am

Jake is coming home as a hero. At least that is what others are saying. In fact, he’s in line to get a silver star for his bravery and conduct in battle in the Middle East. He comes from a military family. His grandfather is an actual retired General from the Army, and his father has made a career in the military as well, although he never saw active duty.

Jake, however, doesn’t feel like a hero. He saw horrible things while serving. And did horrible things. Things he can’t forget about. How do you justify killing young children who are armed? Jake was injured in the line of duty and has a short visit home before heading off to rehabilitation at an army hospital. But he still has more time to serve on his tour. He’s beginning to wonder if he can actually go back into the combat zone.

While he’s home, he is confronted by a girl from his old school who points out all the issues with JROTC programs and how it seems to be a recruitment program for young people to go right into the Army. Jake knows that there were things that his own recruiter lied about when he signed up and so that adds to his conflicts. Plus, even though his girlfriend Aurora waited for him while he was deployed, is it really fair to ask her to continue waiting for him if he goes back? What if he comes back even more damaged, emotionally and physically, than he already is?

Price of Duty by Todd Strasser does an amazing job of showing the grim realities of war adownloadnd how we send over people who, in many cases, are completely unprepared for the mental and physical possible ramifications of the job. It also shows how even though the army is a volunteer army, it is mostly made up of those groups in society that already have limited options, like minorities and people on the lower socio-economic ladder.

Highly recommended book for 8th graders and up. Really powerful, accessible read and shines a spotlight on many of the issues facing veterans and those who are looking to join their ranks.