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!

What lengths will you go to face your fears? April 5, 2014

Title: Panic

Author: Lauren Oliver

Genre: Realistic, Mystery

Overall, this is a fantastic, cleverly-written and intense story of a game called Panic. At the beginning of the text, many characters are introduced, but once you get further into the piece, it makes it easier to put all the story lines and relationships together.

Panic is a secret game that has occurred for many years in the poor town of Carp, basically stemming from the boredom of nothing to do. Seniors are the only ones that can enter the game, which follows a series of death-defying activities and games where the last man standing is proclaimed the winner of cash collected from each student at Carp High (each paying a $1 a day during the entire school year) and the title of Panic champ.

imgres-2Each chapter follows the storyline of the various characters intertwined focused specifically on Heather and Dodge and we first begin with Heather. After having her found out that her boyfriend cheated on her, she decided she didn’t have anything to lose and joined in on the games. Their first competition to show their seriousness was Opening Jump taking place the day after their high school graduation where they were expected to face their fear and jump off a cliff into the nighttime abyss.

Dodge is the next character we meet who has a specific agenda as to why he wanted to join in on Panic, which had to do with his sister’s accident that was caused by this very game.

Nat, or Natalie, Heather’s best friend also joins the mix. After having completed her Opening Jump, she spoke with Heather and the two decided they would split their winnings if either ended up the Panic champ. Nat also made the same alliance with Dodge, without his knowledge, that she really hadn’t planned on following through with. Along with Nat, the character of Heather’s male best friend, Bishop, who seems to always be there to help Heather and the others out whenever possible.

These are the main competitors that are followed throughout the competition, as they work hard to help one another out as the time continues and they face their individual fears along the way. Meanwhile, no one knows exactly who is creating these different games and plots, but they do intend on finding out, especially after an officer was killed during one of the Panic activities.

I could not put this book down, as there were many different twists and turns along the way and story lines that I wanted to see through. This intense book will definitely leave you satisfied at the end, while having fulfilled a successful understanding of each of the main characters. Lauren Oliver does it again with this standalone novel!


What happened if you woke up as a new person each day? March 13, 2014

Title: Every Dayimgres

Author: David Leviathan

Think about the relationships you have and the comfort of knowing someone is constant in your life. You have a routine, you have a family you are a part of, and a support system you have around you. What would happen if that all vanished? What would happen if each day you managed to wake up as a new person, embedded within someone else’s life, only to stay for a single day? Could you ever fall in love?

This is exactly what is occurring within the text, Every Day, a beautiful written and enlightening story that I really feel the reader can’t help but be reflective on their own lives. Since the main character changes to a different person each day, this person doesn’t technically have a specific gender, as he has transformed into both males and females. One day while inhabiting the body of Justin, he makes an immediate connection with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. Since “he” can’t seem to stop thinking about her, the contact continues. But he will then be contacting her as someone else. To what lengths will “he” go to try to continue this connection? Is it a possibility? Will he share his secret?

You’ll definitely have to read it to figure it all out!


How did you survive your first year of middle school? April 2, 2013


By: R.J. Palacio

I recently had a discussion about this book with a close colleague of mine and after finding out the age of the main character I was ready to side with her and dismiss the book altogether. Then, I had a student of mine give a book talk on it that instantly pulled myself and many students in the class under the “Wonder” spell. I knew that the book had a great message, but was pleasantly surprised with some other factors.

In this text, the author switches off between various characters perspectives.  Yes, some of them include 5th graders who are just starting middle school, but also vary between high school students, one being the main character’s sister. Since the main character, August (Auggie) is just starting middle school, I do indeed think that a lot of what he and his classmates face is relevant to our middle school students, despite the age difference.

Back to the storyline: August has a facial deformity and has undergone many surgeries throughout his lifetime, that have left his face and features unlike what most people would consider to be “normal.” You see Auggie’s struggle as he tries to overcome the stares, nasty comments, and the general drama that students undertake during middle school. All the while, you see how being friends and even related to Auggie has affected others around him.

I believe this book has a great message that many middle school students can connect to. It made me think a lot to put

imgresmyself in their shoes, not only of Auggie and all that he dealt with, but the other characters as well. The way the book was written really allows for a lot of self-reflection and discovery along the way.


Have you ever felt invisible? March 19, 2013

Well, that is exactly how Fern feels within her constantly-on-the-go family in See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles. At first the story captures you with the connection you instantly build with Fern, a middle-schooler who doesn’t feel like an important part in her family. Someone who tries to help her high school brother that is grappling with decisions about his sexuality and much bully


ing at school; along with someone who tries to make her dad happy while running their restaurant, even if that means her having to be in some silly commercial. I looked at Fern as the glue in the family; though we all know that just because the glue is there to help “things” stay together, not everyone always knows about its presence.

I really liked this book because I felt it had many layers just waiting to be shed as the book progressed. As you learn more about the family, their dynamic and how the individual characters are feeling in their given situations- a traumatic incident occurs, one that I did NOT see coming in the slightest. Will Fern be able to help her family stick together? Or will she fall apart, thus leaving her family to do the same? This was a tear-jerking book that I just could not put down. It gives you a very realistic account of what happens when tragedy hits a family and how friends and family have to pull together to get through it.

A definite must-read to all my middle schoolers- boys and girls! It’s got a little bit for everyone- drama, tragedy, humor, romance, typical high-school problems, identity issues and family & relationships dynamics!


Burn for Burn January 5, 2013


Burn for Burn written by: Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Oh how I love myself a dramatic, girlie, contemporary fiction novel! Burn for Burn was a fabulous addition to my love of drama-filled high school romances and adventures. Written by Jenny Han (a favorite author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series) and new favorite Siobhan Vivian (author of recently read The List), this drama will leave with a great feeling of satisfaction. We’ve all had people that have “wronged” us and this group of girls, naturally all part of different clicks and groups at their high school, come together to seek revenge of those individuals that have indeed done them wrong. I believe that most of us who have been in high school and college, can connect to at least one of the story lines along the way of relationship disasters, jealously, and being queen bee! Some parts are a little mature, as it takes place with junior and senior high school students, but otherwise I do believe there is a great lesson and moral underneath all the intense and understandable drama! Loved it!


TTKU- Try to Keep Up… December 5, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy Books — lhorn1217 @ 9:00 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What would you do to fit in? To what lengths would you go to find friends, especially the most popular friends in three_quarters_dead peckschool? In this novel Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck, (though I listened to it), you meet Kerry, a dorky, lonely sophomore who finds herself with the “opportunity” to get exactly what she’s wished for: a group of friends. Even better, these are the three most beautiful and popular girls around school. As they plan an initiation of sorts for her during Halloween, you begin seeing the darker side of these three girls, with Tonya as their ring leader. Kerry continues to make excuses for why her friends leave her deserted at a girls house she was forced to sneak into and various other situations she is put in. Then, while Tonya is on the phone with Kerry, as they are driving to search for prom dresses, the three girls getting into a deadly car accident, leaving Kerry to face school and life without them- or so she thought? The fantasy book reminded me a ton of Mean Girls- especially in listening to the entertaining job of the person who performed on the audio version- which happens to be one of my favorite movies. There’s a good lesson in the end, a good read for all ranges of middle school students, and a good way to evaluate your true friendships. In Tonya’s repeated line to Kerry, “try to keep up!”