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!

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.


Counting Words June 27, 2022

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

It has finally come to this. His dad is sending him away. To a mother his father never talked about, and barely told him about. And a mother who Collin thought all these 13 years didn’t want him. Collin knows he is a lot to handle. Well, mostly, his mind is a lot to handle. Since he was little and learned how to spell and count, he can’t stop counting all the letters that people say to him! He can try to stop it, but it inevitably bursts out of him. At first, people just think he is saying a number to them, or talking to them strangely, but over time, they get tired of him always starting his sentence with the number of letters they just spoke to him. And school is always a disaster. Which is why his father has decided to send him away, from California to Minnesota of all places. To the place where his mother has been all this time…living without him.

Collin isn’t sure how his mother will react to him. His father has never seemed to like him much, so why should his mother be any different. All he knows is she lives on a reservation and is Native American. But all Collin knows about Native Americans is what he’s seen on television or learned in school. And it turns out, that doesn’t really help him understand his mom. Or the girl he meets next door who changes his world all around.

The Brave by James Bird is a finding your way in a hard world story and trying to learn to live with our imperfections – as we see them! As a reader, sometimes Collin’s experiences don’t always ring authentic in terms of some school situations, and at times I wondered if the author was trying to write a contemporary story, or a magical realismdownload one. There is a “twist” at the end that this reader did not see coming, but mostly because I felt like it was out of place and didn’t make sense. In the end the “twist” just kind of annoyed me. If you like stories with some sadness and hope in them, this would be a book you might enjoy.


Reading the Signs June 13, 2022

Filed under: Humor,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Jalen loves baseball. But he has a problem. He wants to get onto the best travel team in his area, but thatdownload costs money. Money he and his dad don’t have. So it just so happens that his best friend Cat lives next door to a famous Yankee’s player, James Yager, better known as JY. And it just so happens that Jalen knows there are baseballs that this famous player has hit and signed – which are worth money. If he can only get his hands on those baseballs, Jalen’s money problems will be over, or so he thinks. So he and his friends devise a plan that they believe will get Jalen the money he needs.

However, no one expected for Jalen to get caught…by JY himself! Luckily he is able to get away, but that seems to be where his luck ends, because he sees JY again, at Cat’s birthday party! And unfortunately, JY recognizes him as the boy that was stealing his baseballs. Yager seems determined to make Jalen pay for his crime, but when Yager gets an unwanted phone call, Jalen has an idea.

Jalen realizes his he might have another way to solve his problem, and it involves the famous player!

Baseball Genius by Tim Green is for readers who love baseball and for those (like me) who don’t! It is a fun and entertaining book.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Just Across the Street May 16, 2022

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Bao and Linh have been at war for years. Well, they haven’t been at war, but their parents certainly See, each family has a Pho restaurant¬† and they happen to be across the street from each other! Talk about crazy competition! Bao and Linh years before had one day where they were having fun together at the Buddhist temple years ago, but their parents quickly put a stop to any friendship that they might have begun. So when Bao is closing up his parents’ place late one night, and sees Linh slip out of her parents’ place and appear to be hiding in the alley, he has no real reason to go across the street. Yet he does. Because he knows what it is like to have Vietnamese immigrant parents who only want the best for you, but still put a ton of pressure on you.

That one act of crossing the street and actually talking to Linh for the first time in years changes things! Bao and Linh end up working together on a project for the school newspaper, and Bao begins to wonder if he has found something he is good at, while Linh tries to figure out how to tell her parents just how much her art really means to her. As Bao and Linh get closer together though, they realize that their parents might have more against each other than just running competing restaurants. The question is what?

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le is a fun love story about people getting to know each other, learning family secrets and how to deal with expectations – your family’s and your own.

Recommended for grades 7 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.


Down Went the Plane February 28, 2022

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Danny has been desperate to have a relationship with her father, Cougar, since her parents divorceddownload when she was seven years old. When she was little, she was in an accident that caused her to lose her eye, and she was traumatized from that. Prior to the accident, she wasn’t afraid of anything and was a little daredevil with her father. But afterwards, she became afraid of everything.

Her father went off to become an international star with his survival television show, and Danny has been left with her bitter, demanding mother. Danny can’t understand why her mother seems to hate her father so much. When her father calls and offers her a place on one of his shows for her 16th birthday (it is actually her 17th but her father doesn’t seem to realize that) with one of the biggest teen heartthrobs out there, Danny is super excited. Maybe now she’ll have the time to show Cougar how much she has been wanting to have some kind of presence in his life. And clearly, he wants her around, after all this time.

Danny has no idea that the father -daughter reunion she has been dreaming of will be taking place in the Amazon rainforest after their small airplane crashes in the jungle. How will she be able to prove to her father she is worthy of his love and admiration when she’s terrified of well, everything? To complicate matters, Gus Price, the teen heartthrob is there to witness every single misstep she makes. And of course there is the very real possibility that none of them will make it out alive.

The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer is a survival story with lots of deadly moments and some death as well. At the heart is a girl who has been telling herself one narrative about her whole life and who she is because of it – only to realize she’s been reading the wrong script.

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up.


Another Year January 31, 2022

Filed under: graphic novel,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 pm

Jordan is back for another year at Riverdale Academy Day School and mostly he’s just worried that hedownload hasn’t grown much at all over the summer, and he knows his friends Drew and Liam have. He will have a decision to make at the end of this year too, should he stay or go to the Art school of his dream?

This year, his good friend Drew is struggling with dealing with a girl who really likes him, but he isn’t sure how he should interact with her, and when Drew and Jordan go to Liam’s house, Drew draws away from Liam. Liam comes from a super rich family, and Drew feels awkward. How can they be friends when they come from so very different circumstances. Add to that, the school is trying to acknowledge they need help with being more inclusive, but has some trouble getting there.

Class Act by Jerry Craft is a graphic novel that gives us a peak back into Jordan’s life from New Kid,¬†while giving us more insight into his two good friends, Drew and Liam. Here’s hoping we’ll get to visit these guys more in the coming years!

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


A Dream Destroyed January 17, 2022

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Ya Ta is the only girl in the family and her father and mother both support her desire to go to school. The only problem is, in Nigeria, you have to pay for schooling. So Ya Ta is very hopeful she will do well on a district test, earn a government scholarship and be able to go to a boarding school to further her education. If not, she’ll have to find a way to earn money to go.

Ya Ta is like many girls. She longs for a better life for herself and her family, she adores her older brothers and protects her little brother and even hopes for a marriage to the local pastor’s son, Silence. However, lurking in the shadows, never quite out of mind, is the threat of Boko Haram. They are a militant religious group bent on taking down the government of Nigeria. While Ya Ta is wary of them, she doesn’t think they will ever come close enough to her village for her to worry.

Until the day they do. She sees all her brothers and father killed, her best friends are rounded up with her and taken away to the dense forest. Her only hope is that she can hold out until help arrives, or figure out a way to escape.

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is fiction, but based on the accounts of many girls and women who have been taken by force by Boko Haram and indoctrinated into their beliefs or held for years against their will. The true horror of this story is that this group is still active in Nigeria and still holds many women and girls prisoner.

Recommended for grades 8 and up due the mature content and violence portrayed.


Taking Up Space…In A Good Way! December 13, 2021

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Ellie has had to live with a horrible nickname since she was 5 years old. That was when her older sisterdownload-1 called her Splash, after she canon-balled into their swimming pool. After that point, everyone seemed to be making fun of or disparaging her about her weight. She hadn’t thought anything of how she looked until that moment. But for every moment afterwards, it seems that is all she thinks about.

Now she’s about to start 6th grade and her best friend is moving across the country, away from Ellie. All Ellie can think is that she has no support for school anymore. What will she do? And her mom seems to be ramping up her quest to get Ellie in for gastric bypass surgery. Her only ally appears to be her father.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps is a quick read about the struggles we face in our own families and in the world at large. And how everyone has something they worry about or wish could be different. The hardest thing in life is to learn to accept who we each are.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Trapped at the Mall November 15, 2021

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Miranda didn’t want anyone to know her secret. But then again, Amina, Grace, Parker, Javier and Cole all have something to eitherdownload hide, or be concerned about. What they don’t know is that all of them are going to be faced with some horrible decisions that will change the rest of their lives, forever. That’s because, while they are all at the mall for different reasons that afternoon, it soon becomes apparent when gunmen open fire, no one will be safe.

Miranda finds herself hiding in a back storage room with four other teens who are trying to stay alive as other people have been killed and taken hostage. Being locked away from everyone, and not knowing how to get out of the mall and who to trust, all the teens begin to question each other. Why was everyone in the mall? Did they have an ulterior motive? Parker is stuck by himself for a while until he can find his little sister Moxie. Was she killed in the first bursts of gunfire, or did she escape?

As time ticks by, the teens, hostages and gunmen begin to get uneasy. Who can you trust? Who is working for the gunmen, and who isn’t? And at what point do you just have to believe in someone and something, regardless of the past?

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry is a nonstop action and adrenaline book. Even as you and the characters begin to find out things about each other that you might not want to believe, it keeps things moving and you wondering, who will ultimately survive this horrible tragedy.

Recommended for grades 8 and up due to some mature content.