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!

Don’t You Dare Read This… March 14, 2013

Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey By: Margaret Peterson Haddix

imgresThis was a quick little read that had a lot of punch and power. We meet Tish, what seems to be your average teenager who thinks writing in a journal for class is stupid and definitely not worth her time.   She and her classmates have discussed how their teacher, Mrs. Dunphrey, allows students to write “Don’t Read” at the top of their entries that they want to be more private. Typical teenagers then think: What if I just wrote the same few lines over and over again?  What if I had some really juicy information and then my teacher started treated me differently? They would have her caught. Moving past the “what ifs”, the entire book is told through Tish’s entries and quick responses from Mrs. Dunphrey, most of which pertain to quick praise for the amount she has written and asking if Tish will ever allow her to actually read her entries, which happens sparingly throughout the novel.

Tish is a powerful and relatable character that Haddix develops well throughout, in a meaningful way. I think a lot of students can connect to her feelings about school, her family, some of her classmates, but I didn’t quite expect to hear about how difficult her life had been and had become throughout her entries. She continues her downfall and has to figure out how to be a teenager who acts like everything is okay, while she becomes the head of her household and in charge of her younger brother, all while keeping up with these stupid journal entries. Who knows, maybe those entries weren’t so stupid after all?

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Waiting Can Be the Worst Part October 31, 2012

Waiting can be the hardest part, especially if you are waiting to find out if your younger sister will come out of her coma. In Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch, T.J. can’t believe that his life has brought him to just such a place, after all the times he and Angela survived living with their mother, and all her crazy boyfriends. To have Angela struggling to survive because of something he did, it is almost too much. When the book begins, T.J. and his sister have been adopted but T.J. has a hard time letting go of the past, specifically how he feels about his biological mother. This moving and fast paced book follows T.J. as he is forced to grow up long before he should, to protect his little sister and at times his mother, from herself and others she brings into their lives. Struggling to deal with the possible death of his sister, he relives everything that brought him to this moment in time, hoping for something positive in a life that has been short on happiness and security.

Why did I love this book? In a time when so many books are focused on dystopian/utopian societies, or fantasy and science fiction, this book is a nice addition because it is a contemporary fiction novel that appeals to both teen boys and girls. The situations T.J. finds himself in resonate for readers because it is so real, and you find yourself really hoping that things will work out for him. In my job as middle school librarian, I’ve recommended this book to both my 7th and 8th graders, in particular, those looking for realistic situations and traumatic family dynamics.
Highly Recommended for 6th and up.