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!

Torn Between Angels and Monsters January 6, 2017

Filed under: Fantasy Books — lpitrak @ 2:45 pm
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In this amazing fantasy novel, there are two parallel universes– the one our Earth is a part of, and then the one that holds the planet of Eretz, where the monsters live. Karou appears to be a normal high school art student, but in reality, she works for a chimera named Brimstone, in a workshop that is a portal between the two worlds. As long as she daughter-of-smoke-and-bone.jpgcan remember, Brimstone has sent Karou to collect teeth– sometimes from animals and sometimes from humans. These teeth are often given willingly, and sometimes she knows they have been procured by grave robbery, museum theft, or acts even more sinister. Karou never questions what Brimstone does with these teeth, until the day she tries to enter the portal to his shop and finds the door permanently locked, with a scorched black handprint on the front. Now, she is on the run to find her monster friends, battle an army of murderous avenging angels, and discover what the connection between teeth and wish magic really is. This first in an amazing trilogy will keep you up reading all night long!



Raised by Wild Animals March 6, 2014

Filed under: Fantasy Books — ghahn2012 @ 9:05 am
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Into That Forest by Louis Nowra Image

Our public library hosted a fantastic event at both of the middle schools where they donated tons of new novels that are in the process of being published to our students.  I was fortunate enough to get my hands on this title.

In the novel, two girls survive a terrible storm in which the narrator’s (Hannah) parents drown.  The girls are rescued by two Tasmanian tigers that raise them and teach them to hunt and survive in the wilderness.  Eventually, they lose their humanity and seem to be more animal than human.   The story is absolutely fascinating and really makes the reader think.  Would wild animals, especially predatory animals like tigers, ever raise human children as their own?  In the story the female tiger recently lost a litter to hunters, which supports the idea of accepting the children as her own.  It leaves the reader to question, if we were taken out of civilization would we revert to being more like the animals?

This novel is a quick and easy read.  The reader will get caught up in the story of Hannah and Becky.  As a reader, I wanted to connect more with Hannah.  Her experience was very traumatizing, but it is told from Hannah’s perspective as an old woman, which puts distance between the experience and the story.  I felt like Nowra could have written Hannah differently to pull the reader into the story more.  On the other hand, Nowra gives Hannah an almost animalistic perspective, which sets her apart from the reader and makes her interesting in a different way.

I absolutely recommend Into That Forest for animal lovers and readers looking for something a little bit different.


Female heroine who is nice but NOT boring!!! January 27, 2013


Before I begin this post, I would like to preface by saying I love all sorts of characters, and this is a fantastic time to be a young adult book heroine.  There are incredibly strong, brave, self-sacrificing heroines like Suzanne Collins’ Katniss or Kristin Cashore’s Katsa.  There are the brilliant, resourceful, daring girls such as found in Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series.  There are   a multitude of dreamy, passionately romantic leading ladies such as Lauren Kate’s Luce or Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl’s Lena.  Even the snarky, Upper East Side Princesses Serena and Blair from Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl series are so much fun to know as characters.  So, I could go on and on!!  But, outside of the novels of Sarah Dessen, it can be difficult to find books to recommend to teen girls who just want a nice female leading character.  Not boring, not one-dimensional… just nice.  That is why, in addition to being a gorgeously written, goosebump-inducing, fantastically-woven mystery/ghost story, Brenna Yovanoff’s new novel, Paper Valentine, is so wonderful.  Her leading lady, sixteen-year-old Hannah Wagner, is an extremely nice, compassionate, polite person.  She is the kind of character many middle school and high school girls are friends with, are on sports teams and clubs with, and actually are!  Hannah has a good relationship with her mom and stepdad; loves her sister Ariel and enjoys hanging out with her.  She is artistic- she sews or enhances all of her own clothes with findings from her mom’s secondhand shop.  She helps out in her cousin’s photography shop.  She enjoys sleepovers, pool parties, laughing with friends.  She considers other people’s feelings, and if she says something cruel or stuck-up or just insensitive, she recognizes and apologies!  Hannah is not a boring or poorly drawn character. She is just a smart, sweet, thoughtful girl with varied interests and complex emotions.  Oh, and she just happens to be able to see and talk to the ghost of her dead best friend, as well the ghosts of other middle school and high school girls who have been murdered by a potential serial killer.  But that is another story!!! 🙂


What if there’s no room left to hide your secrets? January 5, 2013


Dirty Little Secrets written by: C.J. Omololu

How far would you go to keep the secrets of your family? Ones that you have been living with for many, many years? Lucy has a house-full of problems all the while she attempts to live a normal teenage-life. A very surprising event comes along (I won’t spoil it for you, but I did NOT see that coming) that makes Lucy face her problems head on. As they almost come to the surface with the people in her life she cares about and has hid this problem from for so long, she has to take matters into her own hands and survive through the next few days. Can she do it? A fabulous read, with writing that really makes you feel empathy for Lucy, her situation, and a secret you may have had that you’ll go to great lengths to preserve! Definitely one I will be recommending to my students!


Burn for Burn


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!


Mysteries R Us!

For a good portion of break, I have been reading, or at least attempting to read mystery novels that I can recommend to my students. I have compiled quick summaries and comments about the ones that I enjoyed. I have also mentioned ones that were “misses” according to my opinion. 🙂

12013031The Night She Disappeared written by: April Henry

After reading April’s book Girl, Stolen I must say I was intrigued. It was a quick read that told the story of a girl who was blind that was indeed stolen. I enjoyed how fast-paced the novel was and how it sucked you in from the very beginning. I might add that it was a rather short novel, which is helpful in a sea of books that continuing increasing their page allotments. I had heard from a couple colleagues that The Night She Disappeared  was even better and I would have to agree whole-heartedly! This book takes the point of view of a variety of different characters that are telling the story of Kayla’s mysterious disappearance. Through their stories, ideas, and help from the police, you’ll see this fast-paced thrilled come to life! A great, quick read for both boys and girls!


Confessions of a Murder Suspect 

written by: James Patterson

I have not read much by James Patterson, but after reading this, I would definitely like to change that. The book starts out with the murder of the main character’s parents. Together, with her other siblings, while the rest of the city seems to be trying to pin the murder on one of them, they are attempting to put the pieces together about what happened to their parents. Along the way, they learn more about their own pasts, the secret lives of their parents, and how to work together. All if all, a 4 out of 5, was a little slow at times (another thick book) BUT I think will intrigue middle school students, especially ones looking for a thrilling mystery!

fake id

Fake ID written by: Walter Sorrells

Admittedly so, I am usually not a fan of books that seem “old” or ones that have been written in anything more than the past few years- but I will say I was both surprised and impressed with Fake ID. The main character in this novel is struggling with her mom that had disappeared. Along with that, she has been forced to take on a variety of identities for as long as she can remember. Now that her mom has disappeared, she has to rely on herself and the help of some friends, to help figure out who she is, and why her mom is gone. This story has a few different unexpected twists and turns that make the book even more intriguing, all the way up to the final few pages. A great book again for boys and girls, who especially love solving puzzles and attempting to put all the pieces together to see the bigger picture!


I Hunt Killers written by: Barry Lyga

During this dark phase of my winter break, while reading a variety of mystery and murder books, I also have come to watch the show Dexter, (a show about a member of the Miami Police Unit- that is actually a serial killer himself). I Hunt Killers was the first book I read and it seems that I have become somewhat numb of the dark and severely disturbing acts that take place not only in this book but others as well. So forgive me, if I have a different opinion of this book than others! But I believe this is one of my favorite books that I have read in a long time! What would you do if your dad was a serial killer and shared all the specific details of his kills with you? That’s the exact position Jazz is in. His quest is to not become like his father, so instead he shows up on crime scenes secretly to attempt to catch other killers. A serial killer is on the lose and Jazz, with help from his best friend, are trying to find this killer before he hits again. An intense journey into Jazz’s life and history, a thrill that will keep you reading. Definitely some rough, more intense parts that should be read by more mature students.

Honorable Mention:

Accomplice written by: Eireann Corrigan– two girls come up with a plan of one their not-so-mysterious disappearances in order to gain recognition in their city and have a unique story to help them stand apart on their college applications. Pretty predictable but an interesting idea for a story.

Taken by Norah McClintock– some good parts but a very predictable kidnapping story.

Abandoned Books (for now anyways):

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff

**Nothing new, nothing exciting to keep me interested**


His Dark Materials Trilogy November 14, 2012


I just re-read The Golden Compass, the first book in Philip Pullman’s incredible fantasy/adventure His Dark Materials trilogy.  The Golden Compass is set in the Victorian-era when high-tech travel is limited to boat, sled, and zeppelin, and excursions to the magical, wild, dangerous “North” are extremely deadly.  It is also a world where every person has a daemon, an animal embodiment of their soul which must stay close to them at all times.  Young Lyra Belacqua is a high-spirited storyteller and tomboy who was raised, along with her daemon Pantalaimon, on the campus of prestigious Jordan College in Oxford.  Lyra is much more interested in exploring the secret passageways and fighting the local gypsy children with Pantalaimon than studying, however.  All of this changes when beautiful, brilliant, cultured Mrs. Coulter takes a special interest in Lyra, and begins to groom her to become her assistant on an upcoming expedition to the North.  But Mrs. Coulter is far more sinister than her appearance would suggest, and Lyra discovers that her mentor is in a deadly race to get to the North to experiment on a strange, mysterious substance called Dust before Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel.  Parallel worlds, proud mercenary polar bears, murderous mechanical animals and more of some of the most creative magical wonders ever written about fill the pages of this amazing trilogy.  It is a must read for anyone who loved J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series or Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.