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. Enjoy!

Battling Everyone July 31, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 2:11 pm

downloadDarwin feels like he can’t catch a break. Like how his dad is in prison and his mom thinks if he attends a fancy school out in the suburbs, Darwin won’t end up following in his dad’s footsteps. But when the history teacher at his new school questions whether he actually wrote his paper himself, or when the kids all whisper when they see him, or when a kid approaches him to join a fight club, Darwin knows life is never easy.

Tap Out by Sean Rodman is a quick read and pulls the reader in to the big dilemma facing Darwin. Should he keep fighting and winning to earn money for his mom, or is the fighting only making life harder for him; to fit in, to move on, to feel good about himself.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Never Ending Loss July 26, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:14 am

At first he thought he was having a nightmare, that he was dreaming his apartment had been hit by bombs, like so many others in his city and that he would wake up and everything would be fine. But Tareq was living the nightmare. His apartment had been bombed, and his younger sister and brothers all killed, along with his mother and his grandmother. Only one sister and his father escape alive. Now they have to make a decision. Get out of the country they have loved, or face more death, even though there are no guarantees of safety if they do leave.

downloadTareq’s father decides they must leave Syria and journey to Turkey as the first step in fleeing their war torn country. However, they need money for this and they travel to a part of Syria that is controlled by Daesh fighters and there Tareq witnesses things he never thought to see in real life. And they haven’t even left the country yet.

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi is a hard and compelling look at the realities facing many people in the world today. What do you do when the country you love is fighting against itself and taking down the citizens? Where is safe in a world where many are scared of the refugees seeking asylum? This story is told by Destiny, and he/she looks at the world and knows the lives and struggles of the people and wonders how we humans can do such awful things to each other. This is a powerful book, and the story of Tareq and those he meets on his journey will leave the reader with a broader understanding and hopefully empathy for the plight of others in this world.

A strongly recommended read, but for students in 8th grade and older for the complexity of understanding Destiny is telling the story, as well as the nuances of the politics involved in this situation as well as some of the graphic violence.


Across the Years July 22, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:01 am

Two sisters who couldn’t be more different, a mother who never seems satisfied, and a father just trying to make his way in this big wide world. Sonia and Tara are used to moving – from India, to Ghana to Britain and finally to America.  It is there that many changes happen in their family. Sonia is finally able to confront their mother about how she treats their father, and Tara fully gets into her characters to help her fit in and realizes she can act like no one has ever seen before and well, life goes on.

downloadYou Bring the Distance Near by Mitali Perkins looks at a family in transition from their initial roots in India to their final settling place of America and all the trauma and triumphs that go with it. How do you fit in, and still feel like yourself? Is it even possible? And not only are the girls having their own issues, but their mother must find her own way to be herself in all these new and strange countries. And when the girls grow up and have their own girls, what challenges do the children of immigrants face that are different from their own mothers?

This book can be confusing at times and I would recommend sitting down and reading it for long periods of time, otherwise you will loose the thread of the story. There are a lot of nicknames for each of the characters in the book, which can also be daunting if you stop and start the story. As a reader, I was able to connect mostly with the last part of the book, which I enjoyed immensely. The book encompasses many years and as a result does jump in time so be prepared for that to happen.

Recommended for 8th grade and up because of the complexity of the story, not due to content. Really interesting look at the immigrant experience from many different perspectives.


Always Running July 17, 2018

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 3:58 pm

A new house, a new town, a new school. Cameron has done it all before, multiple times. In fact, he’s getting so tired of the same old story, that he’s beginning to question whether his mom is making things up. Maybe his dad wasn’t quite as bad as she remembers. Maybe if Cameron did contact him, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. After all, he hasn’t talked to him or seen him in years.

The latest move has put Cameron and his mom in a tiny town in the middle of And not only that, but the house they move into is strange. It is an old farmhouse in the middle of cornfields, with some woods off to one side. Quickly, Cameron realizes he won’t fit in at school, and his mom seems to be pretty wrapped up in her new job. When Cameron starts seeing a boy, he wonders if something is going on with him. His mom is worried about his behavior and Cameron realizes he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing all the time.

After hearing some rumors about the house he now lives in, Cameron does some investigating and finds out that a long time ago a little boy and his mother disappeared from the house. One woman in town claimed they had been murdered, along with her cousin. But no bodies were ever found and it became part of the town lore. But Cameron keeps having strange dreams about a boy, a boy he comes to believe is the boy who disappeared. Is Cameron losing it after all these years of running? Who can he trust? Maybe it’s time to let his dad back into his life.

The Dogs by Allan Stratton is a mystery of who did it back then, and who can you trust now. Readers who like a bit of suspense and uncertainty will enjoy this book.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Make a Wish July 14, 2018

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 3:32 pm

downloadRed is old. In fact, he’s hundreds of years old. He’s seen a lot in his time. Well, as much as can be seen when you never move from one spot. Ever. He’s an oak tree, but a pretty special one. You see, years ago,  someone made a wish and wrote it on a piece of paper, tied it to one of Red’s branches and then, waited. Amazingly, the wish came true! And that is how the tradition started – with Red becoming the town’s wishtree. Each year on the first day of May, people come from all over to deliver their wishes – some for the year, some for right now, some for years in the future. And Red takes them all.

However, times are changing. Red’s deep roots are starting break up the sidewalks and get into the plumbing of the nearby houses. It looks like Red’s time as the wishtree might be coming to an end. Especially when something else happens to draw attention to the tree. Someone carves a word into the tree – LEAVE. Red has a feeling he knows who that word is directed toward. A little girl and her family, who have come from a long way away and are trying to make a new life, are different from others. The little girl, Samar, makes a wish one night, for a friend.

At that moment, Red and all his friends who live in him, decide that they will try to make this one last wish come true before Red’s time runs out.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is for anyone who has ever wondered “what if the trees could talk…and the animals…to us?” Or looked for a friend in an unconventional place. This is a heartwarming quick read about acceptance, tolerance and making new friends while keeping old ones.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Once a Liar, Always a Liar? July 10, 2018

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 12:50 pm

Kay has a close knit group of friends at her boarding school, a school where she escaped after tragedy struck her home years before. A tragedy she can’t help feeling a part of…because of a series of lies she told. At Bates, the boarding school, many of the studentsdownload-1 appear to have a golden life, but as a student there on scholarship, Kay has to walk a fine line and keep her grades and her place on the soccer field perfect, or it can all slip away.

One night, as Kay and her friends are about to have their annual skinny dip in a pond on campus after a Halloween party, they make a grisly discovery. A girl has beat them to the pond, but she won’t be coming out on her own. She is dead. Quickly, rumors of a suicide turn into rumors of murder. When Kay gets a mysterious email that sends her to a website, she knows that her time might be up. Basically, if she doesn’t force other members of the school out, her own terrible secret will be out. Kay has limited knowledge of computers and hacking, so she turns to a girl named Nola to help her before time runs out and her secret is revealed.

As Kay and Nola begin to unravel the pieces of the website, it quickly becomes clear that lots of others at Bates have things to be weary of, and as Kay works to save her own skin, she begins taking down members of her own group of friends. The question becomes, who is next? And could the website be setting Kay up to take the biggest fall of her life?

People Like Us by Dana Mele is a book that most readers will enjoy. I was a little confused at times by Kay and her romantic indecision when it came to some of the people in her life. Kay’s secret also seemed a bit much, but other readers will be able to forgive that if they enjoy the rest of the story.

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up.


We All Have a Dark Side – 500th Book Review!!!!! July 5, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 12:20 pm

Before I get into this book review, I have to pause for a moment and acknowledge this is Books In the Middle 500th Book Review!!!! I’m super excited we are still going strong after starting in October of 2012. Thanks to all the teachers, librarians and students who have contributed to this blog and for all the readers and viewers out there! Here’s to the next 500!


He killed his father. There is no disputing that as a fact. However, being 14 at the time his lawyer was able to get him tried as a juvenile, even though there were others who wanted him tried as an adult. After all, his father was an upstanding member of the community. Or was he? And just what kind of community was it?

Nate hadn’t always been with his dad. For a time, when he was younger, he and his mother were on the run from his dad. But then his mom got killed in a freak robbery, and he ended up back with his dad, even though he begged the court to not send him back. No one listens to a kid, right? And no other family member stepped forward to take him back. And it isn’t right to keep a son from his dad, right?

Turns out, Nate’s dad was the leader of a white supremacy compound called The Fort in a small town in Kentucky. The people from the town and The Fort revered Nate’s dad and they didn’t take too kindly that he was killed – murdered in their eyes. Even if he was possibly about to kill Nate.

Now Nate is about to be released from the psychiatric facility he’s been in for almost two years, trying to get over his programming from his time at The Fort, and to an uncle he didn’t even know he had. A man Nate decides to call Traitor. After all, where was this guy when he and his mom needed his help the most?

As Nate and his uncle begin to try to settle into life in Alabama, his uncle can’t seem to get over the idea that Nate will turn into his father at any second. And when, ironically enough, the first kid at school to make friends with Nate happens to be black, his uncle is terrified that Nate will harm the boy in some way. After all, how could Nate possibly be friends with someone that The Fort told him was horrible. All the while, Nate himself is terrified that The Fort will find him, and kill him. Because that is what they do to people who betray them.

Devils Within by S. F. Henson is a really interesting and harsh look into the realities of life in America. There are documented hate groups in every state in the country, except for Alaska and Hawaii. Nate takes the reader on a journey that hopefully, not many have personal knowledge of. At times it is brutal and perhaps shocking, but an important book to read to gain knowledge. Also, it is a just a really great read! It was hard to put this book down!

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up because of violent content.