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 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.


Girl in the Game! September 25, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 2:40 pm

downloadTessa and Caleb have been friends for a while. They live on the same street, play on the same flag football team, and next year will be going to the same high school. Tessa is a possible rising star for the cross country team, and Caleb is hoping to get onto the high school football team.

But at the end of their last flag football game – a game that Tessa feels she lost because she didn’t catch a pass – she feels like she isn’t quite done with football. The only game that is left for her would be tackle football and the tryouts for the high school team will be coming up. Before that happens though, there is a football camp over the summer to get players ready. Tessa starts thinking maybe she’d like to be one of those players.

Caleb has realized that he likes Tessa as more than a friend, and she reciprocates his feelings. However when Tessa starts talking about playing tackle football, Caleb worries. Not only how it might impact his new relationship with Tessa, but the reactions he gets from his guy friends are troubling.

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring takes an issue and looks at it from all sides. Tessa struggles with figuring out the “empty feeling” she had after her last flag football game and wonders if it is because she isn’t done with the game. Caleb thinks Tessa is a great football player, but isn’t sure he wants her on his tackle high school team. As a reader you will feel the struggle of both teens and wonder where it will all go.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


An Illegal Alien August 16, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:11 pm

Jasmine has to be perfect. She needs to get the right grades, she has to be involved in extracurricular activities, and she needs to take her cheer team to Nationals this year, and win! If it means sacrificing having a lot of friends, or any meaningful social life, so be it. After all, her parents didn’t come from the Philippines to give their kids a better life only to have those kids squander it, right? So Jasmine is out of her mind with excitement when she finds out she has been awarded a National Scholarship award which will give her a full ride to whatever college she chooses. She knows this is amazing, because her family would have struggled to put her through college. But when she excitedly shares the news with her parents, she learns an awful, horrible truth. Jasmine, along with her whole family, have no legal right to be in the United States. Suddenly, everything Jasmine has worked her whole life for dissolves. Who is she really, without all her accomplishments? Do they go away because she finds out she is considered an illegal – a term she hates?

As Jasmine has to figure out what her new life might look like, she mets a boy named Royce who at first seems to be everything that she’ll never have. Royce is rich, has his future set AND just happens to be the son of a Congressman who is against illegal immigrants. Yet, Jasmine and Royce are drawn to each other, even though the odds are clearly stacked against them.

Something in Between by Melissa De La Cruz is a great book for understanding the constant uncertainty that someone in the United States lives with as an undocumented immigrant. Especially seeing how children who thought they were in the country legally might feel, only to find out, they aren’t. And the romance is good too!

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Monster Hiding in Plain Sight June 30, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 1:50 pm

downloadWhat do you do when all our life you’ve been told one thing and you believe it? Then, in a matter of minutes, you learn that life as you thought you knew it, wasn’t? For Janna, that comes one night in the basement of her friend’s house. Once “it” happens, she doesn’t know what to think, or who to turn to. Should she tell her friends, her mom, her older brother who has moved back in and now wants Janna to give up her room? Her dad, who is living hours away with this “new” family?

As Janna tries to deal with what happened by herself, life doesn’t stop moving forward at breakneck speed. Finals are coming up and she has to study tons, her older neighbor Mr. Ram seems to be getting more frail by the day, and is her best friend Tats, really hitting on Jeremy, the boy that Janna has been secretly crushing on for some time? Everything seems to start to spiral in on Janna as she struggles to make sense of her world, now that it has been thrown upside down, all the while trying to keep everything going.

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali gives us an honest look at the realities of living as a teen while trying to balance life decisions with those of religion. Janna is a girl with crushes, friends, troubles and sometimes humiliations when her life intersects with her Islamic beliefs.

This book is recommended for 7th grade readers and up.


Strapped In and Trapped June 22, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 5:50 pm

This is the year for sure that Rachel thinks she’ll be able to start on her soccer team. She’s download-1.jpgbeen working so hard and she just knows it is possible. Starting 7th grade, starting on the team (maybe even as a forward,) everything seems to be right on track.

Except for one thing – her back. Rachel’s mother had scoliosis and had to have back surgery to straighten her spine. Rachel has been diagnosed with it, but up until this point, hasn’t had to do anything other than go for uncomfortable doctor appointments every six months since she was 8. All that changes before school starts when the doctor tells her she will need to wear a brace, 23 hours a day to prevent her spine from curving to the point where she’ll need surgery. For Rachel, this could mean the end of her soccer dreams, and perhaps just as devastating, if not more, the loss of her self as she tries to navigate what it means to be different and limited physically.

Braced by Alyson Gerber takes an honest look at how something can change your life quickly, and it also gives readers a feeling for what it is like to be on the inside of things and suddenly feel like that has changed.

Recommended for 6th graders and up.


Headline Only Tells Half the Story June 19, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 5:42 pm

downloadWhat we show to the world, and what is happening in our lives can be very different. Just because we look, or sound, or even act in one way, shouldn’t define everything about us.

Darrian Lopez lives in the world of headlines – because he wants to be a reporter someday. Each time he sees something or an event, he tries to encapsulate it into a headline. However, when he tells his counselor what he wants to be, he finds himself in Mr. Ward’s poetry class! Darrian doesn’t understand why he’s been placed in this class, when he wants to write about what really happens in the world – not fluffy poetry.

Darrian learns quickly though, that poetry might just be the ultimate truth as he gets to know his classmates and their lives through their poetry.

Between the Lines by Nikki Grimes is the long awaited and long hoped for sequel to Bronx Masquerade. For fans of the first book, you’ll be pleased Grimes has kept the same format, giving us glimpses of many different lives and showing how we are all more alike than different. This is a quick read and if you enjoy poetry, or not, still worth your time!

Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


Beauty and The Beast & Other Stories Book Review By 8th Grader Maddie May 9, 2018


Beauty & the Beast and Other Stories by Sarah Hines Stephens has three different stories about the same problem. In each of the stories, the princes have spells set upon them that they have to break to be human again.

Beauty as a child was very simply impressed by the littlest things. Her sisters, on the other hand, wanted everything handed to them. The merchant lost his money and the family was forced to move out of their mansion and into a little cabin. The merchant traveled out one night and didn’t make it home and was sure he would freeze before he got home. So he saw a mansion and decided what he saw was a weird creature . He asked the creature if he could stay the night. The creature would let him stay for something in return. The merchant will allow his daughter to marry the creature. Beauty didn’t like the giant but when he turned into a prince, she fell in love with him.

I think this book keeps you engaged and doesn’t stress you out over number of pages. I like the font of the words.