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!

Say Whaaaattt? September 13, 2021

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

download-2Liliana is floored when she is called to the office of her high school at the beginning of her sophomore year and finds out she has been accepted into the METCO program. The only problem is that Liliana has no idea what the METCO program is. So she goes to talk to her guidance counselor, who, it just so happens is a graduate of the METCO program. Liliana is shocked to discover that her parents signed her up for this opportunity when she was young and her name has final come up. The METCO program takes kids from the urban areas of Boston and puts them into schools in the surrounding suburbs. The white surrounding suburbs. Liliana, a proud Latina, isn’t sure she wants this “opportunity.”

But things are messed up at home. Her father has gone missing. Although, it soon becomes apparent that her mom knows where her dad is, but doesn’t want to share that information with Liliana and her younger twin brothers. Her mom is STRESSED out, understandably so, but Liliana has no idea how to help out since she doesn’t know what is really going on.

On top of all of that, her oldest and best friend Jade is so consumed with her boyfriend she never seems to have time for Liliana anymore – even when Liliana needs someone to talk to about this new school she’s going to in Westburg. The other METCO students at Westburg certainly don’t go out of their way to be welcoming, so Liliana finds herself floating in a world that she doesn’t fit in at all. Or so she thinks at first.

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon is a current and realistic look at how a person can be pulled in so many different directions and struggle to find themselves as the world keeps on spinning. This book does have some continuity issues – but overall is a good read and most readers won’t be bothered by those issues.

Recommended for grades 8 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.


Vanilla and Chocolate Make? July 14, 2021

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:03 am

downloadIt has been a while since her parents got divorced, but it doesn’t mean that things are easier now for Isabella (as her dad calls her) or Izzy (as her mom calls her.) See, they can’t even agree on what to call their own child! Every week, Izzy finds herself in a new home – either living with her dad or her mom. It is hard to feel like she truly belongs anywhere. And now that she’s in 6th grade, she is realizing there are some things harder than just knowing whose week it is, but how does she, a child of a white mother and a black father, fit in to the world around her.

Life just keeps seeming to get harder and more complex for Izzy. She plays piano and has a huge recital coming up that she is both excited for and a bit stressed out about and on top of that, something really horrible happens at school that makes her begin to wonder if she knows people at all or what they stand for. What does she believe and stand for? And her parents can’t seem to agree on anything, big or small and it is all becoming way too much for her to handle – why can’t they see that?

Blended by Sharon Draper is a great book for anyone. It shows how we all struggle, yet looks at the very real racial problems in our country and how our biases can have serious consequences.

Highly recommended for 6th grade and up.


Finding Yourself June 21, 2021

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

downloadAllie is struggling after witnessing her father being the victim of prejudice on an airplane flight to visit relatives. She has always known people are prejudice, but to see it happen right in front of her, was very hard. Her father was raised Muslim and still identifies as that, even though he isn’t religious and doesn’t practice it. Her mother converted to Islam when she married Allies father. Allie’s dad never bothered to teacher her Arabic, so she can’t talk with her own grandmother, and this has been bothering Allie more and more. Where does she fit into the world?

Allie decides she wants to pursue learning about her religion, Islam. She reaches out to some people at school and as she dives deeper into learning, she finds herself with more and more questions. She worries she is hiding too much. From her father, from her friends, and maybe especially from the boy she is beginning to like, a lot, named Wells.

All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney is a fabulous read focusing on what it feels like to be on the outside of anything and wanting to be a part of something greater than yourself.

Highly recommended for grades 7 and up.


Aging Out May 24, 2021

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

downloadMuiriel was named after the hospital she was abandoned at. To be precise, the John Muir Medical Center in California. And since she was a girl, well, they tried to keep it close. And when her social worker, Joellen, gave her a book about her namesake for her 8th birthday, it, in many ways changed the direction of her life. If she had any say in it, that was. Because John Muir was a famous naturalist, who spent most of his life outdoors and trying to protect the wilderness we have today – places like Yosemite. Still, to a little kid of 8, probably not the best gift, or so she thought at the time.

Now Muir is about to embark on her last placement in foster care, because she is 17 and will be aged out of the system when she turns 18. And then she will truly be on her own. But her rules have been carefully in-place for herself for many years, and she believes she will survive this placement as well as she has the others. Don’t make any friends or connections, don’t cause trouble and always be ready to leave.

However, almost as soon as Muir sets foot on the only place Joellen can find to put her – a small island off the coast of Seattle, Muir begins to break her own steadfast rules. Her foster mother, Francine seems almost too good to be true, she makes a friend almost immediately and then she meets Sean at a dream job. What is happening to her well planned out life? Muir feels herself moving in a totally different direction and she’s not sure how to stop or if she even wants to.

What I Carry by Jennifer Longo is an amazingly good book about a subject that everyone should know about and most don’t even think about. What happens to all the children who never get adopted and “age out” of foster care? Where do they go, who can they depend on and what will their lives be like? Truly a wonderful book.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Is it Fair? May 10, 2021

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

Have you ever been embarrassed? Like so embarrassed that you had trouble talking? Olivia has a moment like that download-2when she’s being yelled at by her principal, all because she is wearing a tank top and won’t put her sweatshirt on. But she has a reason for not putting her sweatshirt on, a very good reason.

Molly witnesses Olivia’s moment and she knows WHY Olivia won’t put her sweatshirt on. And pretty soon, she decides to point out the inequities in the current dress code at her middle school. It is a dress code that seems to only go after the girls, and the boys don’t have to deal with it. Is that fair? Nope, not in Molly’s eyes. So Molly begins a podcast to expose the injustice she and others see, with their dress code.

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone is a great book and deals with the very real issue of how dress codes have been made to make students feel uncomfortable at a time when they already do! A wonderful story about an issue that is on the minds of most students who attend a school that has strict enforcement of often times old and archaic ideas of what students should dress in and how they should look.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Social Pariahs April 26, 2021

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

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

downloadRob and Meagan both have reasons to hate going to school. Rob’s is because of something his father did, and even a year latter all he wants to do is get in and out of school each day. What he has to deal with at home is more than enough. His interactions with everyone just seem too fraught with what happened and he wonders if everyone thinks he knew about it.

Meagan feels alone also, but it is because of something she did. She feels she has only her best friend left and that everyone is still mad at her for her actions and how they impacted others. Neither wants to have a partner for their math project, and as a result, they end up being stuck together. At first it is pretty rocky going, but soon they start to realize they have both misunderstood each other, and perhaps many others too. Can they find some common ground, and maybe help others in the process?

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer take a look at the idea that we all, in some way, feel that our actions must have huge consequences when sometimes they don’t and vice versa. How do we deal with the guilt of something we did, or how do we move past others perceptions when we actually didn’t do something? It can be complicated, but this is a such a great read and you as a reader will be pulling for both Rob and Meagan to figure it out!

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


To Be an Idol April 12, 2021

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

Candace can sing – like really sing! But the only people who know that are her two best friends because Candace’s parents (mostlydownload-1 her mom) don’t seem to approve of her singing. Her parents are both from South Korea and she knows they both had musical backgrounds. But they don’t do anything with it now in New Jersey. In fact, they own a connivence story – which seems to be about as far from music as they can get. While her brother seems to be fine with playing a sport, her parents would rather she be in orchestra playing a string instrument, like the viola. Which she hates, even if it makes them happy.

So when a large South Korean company decides to hold tryouts for a new K-Pop Idol girl group, she lets her two friends convince her to try out. After all, what are the chances she’ll get picked? Pretty good, it turns out! But at that point, Candace has no idea what kind of sacrifices she’ll have to make if she wants to be an Idol!  

K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee is a great look into a world that is perfect on the outside and designed to make you love what you see. But perfection comes at a cost. This is such a great book for anyone interesting the workings of the K-Pop industry and just what it takes to be an elite performer. 

Recommended for grades 7 and up. 


Be Aware All the Time March 29, 2021

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

Savannah is pretty sure she and her mom are going to be moving again. Because, once AGAIN, the man of her mom’s dreams download-2 12.45.11 PMhasn’t turned out to be the man of her dreams. And for Savannah, this move is going to be hard, because she likes it here. She is taking Kung Fu classes and loves it. She tries to get along with her mom’s boyfriend, but one night, just before she’s about to head off to Kung Fu class, she gets into a fight with Tim, and he takes her phone after accusing her of back-talking to him. Her mom is at work, so it is hard for Savannah to see how it won’t be just her word against Tim’s. And since they live in his house, she can only guess who her mom will side with.

At practice that night she worries so much about what will happen when she gets home, and when she and her mom will probably be leaving since the situation seems to be getting worse and worse by the day. She isn’t paying much attention when she leaves the studio.  And that turns out to be possibly the biggest mistake of her life.

The Girl in the White Van by April Henry is another great mystery from a great author. The perspectives that Henry gives the reader from all sides keeps the suspense and the storying moving at a break neck pace. Any reader who enjoys a good mystery and suspense book will inhale this story.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Does the Truth Matter? March 15, 2021

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

downloadAs the third year anniversary of her school’s mass shooting comes and goes, Lee is forced to relive the horror of that day when her best friend was shot and killed in the same bathroom stall with her. But now she’s hearing rumors that her friend Sarah’s parents are going to be putting out a book about her death. Lee knows the story of how Sarah died took on a life of its own after the shooting. And in that story is a lie. A lie that was repeated so often, it hurt one of the other survivors who was in the bathroom with them. Lee is faced with the dilemma. Is it sometimes just too late to speak up?

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger takes a deep look at what happens when we let one little thing slide by – something we think is little at the time, and yet how it can become something monstrous the longer we let it go. Yet the flip side is does the truth always have to come out?

Recommended for 8th grades and up due to content.
P.S. Notice anything interesting about the date of this release? Honestly, it just worked out that way! You’ll have to read the book to get it! 🙂