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!

In the Blink of an Eye January 16, 2023

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

When one day his eyelid swells up and won’t go down, Ross can kiss being normal goodbye. Because it turns out he has cancer indownload-5 his eye, or right behind his eye and in order to keep his eye, he will have to go through a lot of radiation treatments. He has two best friends, Abby and Issac. Abby is a solid friend and sticks by him, but Issac basically ghosts him. And trying to fit in, in middle school is hard enough, but when you have to do strange things to keep your eye, it is hard to make new friends.

To make things even worse, someone is making some really mean cartoons that are circulating around the school – ones that are about Ross and he has no idea who is doing them. Sometimes his one bright spot is actually going to his radiation treatments, where one of the technicians is super cool and starts Ross down a path that he never saw for himself.

Wink by Rob Harrell is both humorous and serious by turns. Ross has to learn to navigate his treatments, his diagnosis, his family and friends as well as school. It is a lot for any 7th grader! Especially when all he thinks he wants is to be normal, almost to the point of being invisible.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


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.


The Grapevine of Gossip December 5, 2022

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

download-13Teddy and Kim have been together, well, it seems like forever. So when one day, just after lunch in their senior year of high school, Teddy asks a question that Kim isn’t prepared for, it throws everything off. And to a freshman named Phil Spooner who witnesses what appears to be the end of Kim and Teddy, he has to tell someone. Who better than Kim’s best friend who just happens to be walking by, moments later. That was all it took for the grand saga of what happened to end Kim and Teddy to start making the rounds and rounds and rounds of the school.

At first people can’t believe it, but then, everyone decides it is time to pick sides. Even the teachers get involved because these two were the “it” couple and who doesn’t have an opinion on what went wrong! As the whole situation gets larger and larger involving sayings, and even what people are wearing, pretty quickly people lose sight of the fact that no one seems to actually be asking Teddy and Kim what happened. And frankly, Teddy and Kim are honestly wondering the same thing. What did happen?

That’s Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm is a fun and often funny look at what happens when our expectations get off track and how sometimes everyone has just a little too much to say about things that really, aren’t their business!

Recommended for grades 7 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.


Which Way to Go? October 31, 2022

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

download-3Stephen has some good friends, but lately, his best friend Dan, has been hanging out with his cousin, Chad. Chad, for lack of a better word, is pretty much a jerk and seems to be mean on purpose to Stephen. Any time Chad is around, Stephen just wants to leave. So when a bunch of Stephen’s friends hang out one day, and Chad starts to challenge Stephen to do something he isn’t comfortable doing, Stephen wonders if his friendship with Dan will survive since his parents always say people will pick family over friends.

As the days go on, Stephen begins to see that not only can Chad be a jerk at times, but he can also encourage the kids in the group to do things that begin to become dangerous. And Stephen is starting to see things in the world that he never thought about before, things that his dad thinks he should be prepared for, but his mom thinks he’s too young to know about. How is Stephen supposed to get his friend Dan to understand the attitudes that his cousin Chad shares are hurtful and not right?

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado is a quick insightful read about how we all have different experiences growing up. Some are incredibly painful and some help us see who are friends are and how we can help each other become better people.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


More than Friends October 24, 2022

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

Abby knows Codownload-17oper doesn’t like her “like that” after that disastrous discussion last summer, but it doesn’t mean she can just turn off her feelings. Still, she has to pretend, right? After all, she doesn’t want to lose Cooper as her best friend, and it will totally mess up their group of four friends. But two of those four are going away for the summer, leaving just Cooper and Abby. Abby and Cooper. Okay, she really needs to stop thinking anything will change.

So she will focus on her artwork this summer, in the hopes of getting into a special course at an Art Institute. That means the local art museum that she works at will hopefully showcase her work in a local artists show they have. But when the museum director looks at her work, he tells her she needs to grow, that her work lacks heart. Devastated, Abby sets out to learn how to get more “depth” into her work. So with the help of family, she creates a list – a list of experiences that will hopefully impact her artwork in a positive way. And who better to help her with this list than Cooper, her best friend?

Love, Life and the List by Kasie West is everything you want in a romance. West does a great job of creating characters we care about and want to see have that happy ending.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Completely Made Up October 3, 2022

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

It all started with a comment. A completely inappropriate comment made by their physical educationdownload-6 teacher. One that Will was not going to let slide by, and of course, it meant that she got in trouble for it and ended up in detention. The worst part for Will was the fact that Harriet heard what the coach said to Ruby, and just gave him a pass. But that isn’t very surprising for Will because she knows Harriett is a total suck up to all the teachers at their elite high school in Australia.

But when Harriet shows up later that day in detention with Will (not because she got into trouble but because Harriett is trying to suck up to the teacher who is monitoring detention that day) they do strike up a conversation and shocker – Harriet admits that what the coach said was actually not very nice. And perhaps he is sexist. But then Harriet really throws Will for a loop. She tells Will if she is so upset about it, she should do something about it. The question is, what? What could Will do that would make any kind of a difference. And from that conversation, Amelia Westlake is born! And little do Will and Harriet know, but their collaboration will indeed change things at their school, forever!

Amelia Westlake was Never Here by Erin Gough is a fabulous book! I loved all the humor and all the ideas that the girls came up with to point out the foibles with their school. The book is for mature students since there is a lot of swearing and some mature content, but it is all realistic to the situations and the age of the characters. Start reading this book, and you’ll have a hard time putting it down!

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up.


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.