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!

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.


Every Move…Watched! July 3, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 2:17 pm

It is almost time for another renewal, and Esther is apprehensive. She knows that Harry will do a good job, but it can be so stressful when a new “special one” comes to the farm. If only she could help Harry, with well, anything! But she can’t. As Esther, she isn’t even allowed to leave the farm house. She must pretend that everything is fine. Because if she doesn’t, he won’t be happy. And if he isn’t happy with everything she says and does, she might find herself being renewed.

At the farm, things have to be played out in the right way, or he will be displeases. Eachdownload-1 member of the household knows their place and their role. Harry, the farm caretaker, Felicity, the youngest (and therefore has to be renewed more often) and Lucille, with her special spark. That, of course, can make the transition with a new “special one” difficult.

Esther is feeling more and more pressure. After all, she’s been trapped in this farmhouse for nearly two years, and sees no way out, unless it is to stop playing her role and find out what does happen to the other “special ones” who have disappeared over the years. She’s afraid she knows the answer. She thinks he kills them.

The Special Ones by Em Bailey is a thoroughly original book that will keep the reader twisting, wondering what will happen next and how Esther, Felicity and Harry might be able to escape the psychopath who has them all under his control and has others convinced they are the reincarnation of people who lived over a hundred years ago. This is a great book!

Recommended for 8th 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 as 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.


Can They Make It Out…Alive June 27, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:18 am

downloadEmma is looking for a way to forget and hopefully move on. It’s been almost a year since her little sister died in a horrible accident. One that Emma feels responsible for – and she wonders if her parents blame her as well. So when she sees an advertisement for canoeing in the Boundary Waters of the North, she decides it looks like the perfect place for her. Emma picks a week that falls on the one year anniversary of her sister’s death, in the hopes she’ll be able to forget, at least for a while.

At first, the trip does begin to give Emma a sense of peace and she moves through it with the other teens without much other than bone tiredness as they portage their canoes and paddle through the endless wilderness. Until one night, Emma has a nightmare about her sister dying and wakes to find the forest isn’t peaceful at all. A natural disaster strikes their camp, and of the seven people who went into the woods, only four survive it. Quickly, the four remaining teens realize they might not make it out either. If they can stick together and pool all their resources – tangible and otherwise – they have a better chance. The problem is, not everyone in the group is ready to share.

Stranded by Melinda Braun is a fast paced book that will keep you turning the pages to see if Emma and her fellow lost travelers can indeed survive the wilds of North America. Any readers who are fans of survival fiction will eat this addition to the genre up!

Recommended for grades 7 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.