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!

Growing Apart, Growing Up June 29, 2020

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

download-1Maya and Nicki are named after two of their mother’s favorite poets. And their father is a community activist, always helping somewhere and someone, many of them Maya and Nicki’s friends. Maya has always loved her neighborhood, but over the last four or so years, there have been changes. Many that Nicki seems to embrace, but ones that have Maya concerned. After all, how does one feel when the white people who once fled an area, now decide it is okay to start putting up speciality shops and landlords who decide they don’t want to rent anymore, but would rather sell a home that Maya’s best friend Essence has lived in her whole life – just across the street?

And how is Maya supposed to feel when Nicki befriends the new white family that moves into Essences’ old home? Doesn’t Nicki feel the conflict that Maya does? After all, they have planned to go to Spelman College for forever, where generations of smart, strong, influential black woman have gone, but now Maya wonders if the plan is still in place. Especially since everyone thinks Maya and Devin belong together, when Maya begins to realize they don’t really have anything in common, other than they are both driven and both black. Maya is really conflicted when she starts to have feelings for Tony, the high school senior who moved across the street, into Essences’ old house. Tony, who is white.

This Side of Home by Renee Watson does a great job of looking at the reverse of white flight and delves into gentrification, although what Maya is going through is much deeper than cosmetics on buildings. What makes a community, what gives people a history and are you able to move forward, while still retaining the same spirit? Maya struggles are real and very relevant.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Then and Now June 1, 2020

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

Mia can’t believe that her father is shipping her off to live for the summer with a grandmother she has never met. Well, actually she can believe it, because obviously, why would her father want to be around her, not after what she has done. Mia has a daily reminder of that awful night every time someone looks at her and has that moment where they gasp, or when she happens to look in a mirror, which of course, she doesn’t.

Her face is a permanent scar of that night. The night she killed her sister. But Mia is still downloadliving and while her grandmother isn’t exactly warm and welcoming, she does get her a job for the summer working at a local deli not far from her grandmother’s apartment in New York City. New York is a far cry from her old home in Maine. Still the busy life at the deli helps to make Mia forget, at least temporarily, about the awfulness of her life. And on her first day there, she meets Fig. Fig with the electric blue hair and the family at the deli who is big and boisterous and so full of life that it is hard for Mia to be numb around them. Fig in turn introduces her to a group of friends, one of whom is Cooper, a boy that Mia quickly becomes fascinated with.

As the summer progresses though, new and old relationships will threaten the small space of peace that Mia has painstakingly carved out for herself and she wonders how she can truly every be whole again.

We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler is a story about the guilt many carry concerning events that ultimately were beyond their control. Mia must face the choice we all have about such events. Do they completely control us, or give us the insight we need to move forward?

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Dragons and Witches March 2, 2020

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Alys has just been accused of being a witch. Of course, she knows she isn’t. She also downloadknows she is being accused of witchcraft because their neighbor wants their land and Alys’ father has not agreed to sell it. After all, if their tinsmith shop is gone, how would her father make his living? However, when a man knocks on her door, saying he isĀ  Inquisitor Atherton of Griswold, things go badly right away for Alys. The neighbor, Gower and his wife and daughter make outlandish claims against Alys, claims that she has no hope of disproving and when she is pronounced a witch, her father dies from a heart attack. Alys is bound and dragged to a spot high up on a hill away from the village. Because you see, her punishment will not be the standard burning at the stake. No, she will be tied to one and then forced to wait for the Dragon she is to be a sacrifice for.

Alys can’t believe how her life has changed in one swift day. She has lost her father, her home, her village and any friends she had there. And it seems she is to be made a meal of by the end of the day for a Dragon no less. However, when the Dragon does come, he isn’t quite what Alys thought he would be.

Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde is a true fantasy and pure enjoyment from beginning to end. Highly recommended for anyone who loves a good read.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Love on the Ice December 2, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:44 am

downloadAll she’s known her whole life is Hockey! And yes, it has a capital letter in Holland’s house. Because not only does she play hockey, but her two older brothers and her little brother do as well. Their dad was a big hockey player in his younger years and both he and their mom are super supportive. Especially of the fact that Holland is a girl, playing on the boys varsity team in high school. For Holland it isn’t anything new. She’s always played with the boys, from the time she was little. But while it isn’t really strange for a girl to play on the boys team, it is a little strange because there is a girls team at her high school. Still, Holland has been able to deal with the undercurrent that comes through sometimes from some of the old timers who complain she’s taking a spot away from some boy that could be playing.

However, this year, her junior year, seems different. Partly because their school has just learned they are in the running for big prize. Each year in their state, five communities are highlighted for their hockey programs. This year, their town has been selected and if they win the online voting portion, their game will be broadcast live on television! This is a huge deal to the town, to the teams and to Holland. Because it seems that everyone thinks having a girl play on the boys team might just make them win the big live broadcast prize. This puts pressure on Holland at a time when she doesn’t need it. As all of this is happening, Holland begins to realize something. One of her co-captains on the team is someone that she’s loved to hate, but recently, she’s wondering if that hate is turning into a totally different emotion.

How on earth is she going to deal with that, when she has a strict no dating any teammates rule? Especially when she feels such pressure to be the best since she’s the only girl on the team?

Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is a delightful quick romance that throws in a nice dash of hockey – if you are into that sport! This book was so easy to tear through because it was a great read. Lots of swearing if you bothers you, but come on, it is a book about hockey after all!

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


In the Boat House, Strange Things Happen October 28, 2019

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:06 am

downloadHe was annoyed and mad, and a bit pissed off. He had only been trying to help when he heard Shannon screaming off on the side of the school parking lot back where the bushes were. Turns out, she and a bunch of other kids had taken the principal’s car and moved it off the parking lot and onto the grass near the bushes. But they’d dropped it right down on Shannon’s foot – hence the screaming. When Elliot arrived to help lift the car off of Shannon’s foot, that is when the principal showed up too. And said that Elliot was just as responsible as Shannon and all the other kids that she wouldn’t name.

Which leads to Shannon and Elliot being punished and having to clean out the boat house at the edge of the property by the school. Right away it is cold and dark and not a very inviting boat house and a mess! So Elliot, still angry that his good deed got him in trouble, grudgingly begins to clean up and listens as Shannon prattles on and on about nothing much. Then some strange things start to happen. Like the door that Elliot propped open slams shut. And Shannon says that maybe there are spirits in the boat house and they should try to contact them. So she constructs a Ouija board, and they both get more than they bargained for!

Shallow Grave by Alex Van Tol is a quick read and a nice ghost story for anyone looking for both!

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


No Good Deed… October 21, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 1:58 pm

downloadHave you ever heard of the expression, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Well, Justyce is thinking something along those lines while he sits on the ground in handcuffs after trying to prevent his ex- girlfriend from driving home drunk. Even when parents get involved, the police STILL don’t want to let him go. Finally, one of his friend’s mom’s who is a lawyer comes down and is able to get him out of it. All Justyce keeps thinking is what could have happened. What if the officer had gotten a little trigger happy with his gun and killed him? What then?

Justyce has been going to a private, mostly white high school on scholarship for a few years now, and after this incident, he can’t get out of his head how life seems to be stacked against him as a young black man.

Looking around at school, trying to figure out his friends, balancing life in the dorms with the different life at home with his mom, Justyce is finally realizing he has to decide where he fits in this world. He tries to live his life as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but he finds the struggle to turn the other cheek is getting harder and harder.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone is a troubling, honest look at what it means to be growing up in the United States with dark colored skin. Justyce has to find his way out, just like everyone else. This was a book that I read in one afternoon, and was glad I had the time to devote to it, so I could read it in one sitting. Really important issues in this book and a well crafted story.

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up.


In a Swirl October 7, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 7:59 am

downloadIvy has felt like she’s been out of control for some time now. Ever since going into middle school, she feels like she isn’t sure what is up and what is down. All her friends want to talk about are boys, boys, and more boys. At home, her mom and her older sister and father are all consumed with the new twin boys that have arrived. Even before they arrived, it felt like her mom was gone because she was on bedrest at the end of the pregnancy.

The only place she feels like herself is when she’s drawing in her notebook. Ivy is an artist and she pours all her thoughts and feelings into her work. Including the feelings she isn’t sure what to do with – like the fact that her notebook is full of pictures of Ivy and a girl – not a specific girl – but clearly a girl. Not a boy. And Ivy doesn’t even know if this means what she thinks it means, but she thinks it might.

She gets up the courage to tell her older sister about these thoughts, but after witnessing a fight between her sister and her sister’s best friend, Ivy feels more alone than before.

Then the worst happens. A tornado completely wipes out Ivy’s house and everything in it. Luckily, she escapes with her notebook, along with the rest of her family. However, at the temporary shelter, her notebook gets lost. All Ivy can think of is that her pictures are out there somewhere, showing her secret. When school resumes, Ivy is horrified when her pictures begin showing up, one by one in her locker with mysterious notes. And to complicate matters even more, there is now a girl that Ivy is beginning to think she has a crush on.

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashely Herring Blake is a delightful, and angst ridden tale of first love told in a believable and sweet story.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


It Started with a Robbery September 9, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:23 am

download-1Carly is working late, again, at her job at the Breeze Mart, and in comes her most faithful customer, Mr. Shackleford. He’s got to be in his 70s and each night Carly just prays he won’t die on her watch! He is a kind old guy though, and always wants to talk philosophy with her. Only on this night, when he wants to get into a discussion on the rich and poor, it just seems to hit a little too close to home. After all, Carly is only working till 2 in the morning each day because her family needs the money. She’s living with her older brother and they are both scrimping and saving to get enough money to pay someone who will bring her parents and her two younger siblings back illegally into the United States. Her parents were deported three years ago, and every moment since they’ve left has been hard. So when Mr. Shackleford wants to argue that the poor have it easier tonight, Carly just isn’t buying it. After he purchases his vodka and goes outside, Carly gets back to trying to work on her homework. It’s after a minute or two that she realizes she hasn’t heard Mr. Shackleford’s truck start up, and so she looks out the window.

What she sees stops her heart. There is a man holding a rifle up to Mr. Shackleford. He’s being robbed! Carly only reacts and grabs the mini mart’s rifle and charges out the door to stop this from happening to Mr. Shackleford. It turns out to be a young man holding the gun and Carly won’t back down. Nothing goes as according to plan during the robbery, and Carly is left pondering what on earth just happened.

It’s not until the next day at school that she begins to get a clue and when she realizes she actually goes to school with the would be robber, things get very interesting.

Joyride by Anna Banks is a wonderful romance between two people who probably never would have interacted if it weren’t for the unusual circumstances of their forced meeting. The trouble in Carly’s life though is something that many people in our country are forced to deal with, and make sacrifices for each day. This book does a good job of highlighting that real and troubling aspect of our country.

Recommended for 8th 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.


It’s a Game, But Who’s Playing? January 13, 2019

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 5:57 pm

For almost as long as Scarlett can remember, her father has been a beast. He is ruthless in his treatment of both Scarlett and her sister, Tella. After their mother disappeared years before, their father became intolerable. The girls have little to no freedom and spend their days trying to avoid their father. Scarlett has spent most of the years since her mother left dreaming of escaping to the fantastical world of Caraval. Rumor says that magical things can happen during the event of Caraval, created by the amazing Legend and all his performers. Scarlett has written a letter each year to Legend, in the hopes that he will invite them to his magical event. However, years have gone by, and Scarlett has given up all hope. The only way she thinks she can escape her father is to marry and she’s hoping she’ll be able to take her sister, Tella with her to live with her and her new husband.

download.jpgWith the wedding approaching rapidly, Scarlett gets news that she can hardly fathom. A letter arrives from Legend himself, inviting her to this years Caraval, on his special island, along with her sister and her fiance. Scarlett is floored. But she knows to leave will jeopardize her marriage, and her freedom through that marriage, if she goes to Caraval. Tella decides to take the matter out of Scarlet’s hands when she has Scarlett kidnapped from their father’s island and off on a boat, heading to Caraval.

Caraval turns out to be everything and nothing like Scarlett imagined. But when the game becomes serious quickly, and Scarlett realizes that Tella is to be the prize for the game, Scarlett finds herself spinning in a world she can’t tell up from down.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a book for those who love all the figurative language that can be packed into a book, and then some! The writing at times gets in the way of the story, but if you like a book that spends more time on imagery than on moving the story forward, this is the book for you.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.