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!

Sometimes taking a risk can change your life… February 15, 2014

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By: Jessi Kirby

I was hooked during the very first few pages of this text! Wrapped with hints of Robert Frost metaphors and questions connecting to our lives, I knew this romance was going to capture me whole, and it didn’t disappoint. We start our story with Parker, a studious, rule-follower, who takes pride in her choices and her hard work. As a senior TA for an English teacher whom she admires, she is given the task to postage and send out senior journals that were written 10 years ago. This teacher gives the assignment each year for his seniors to compose entries in a black composition notebook about what they will make out of their lives and the various plans they have and foresee, and then will send them to his former students ten years later. When Parker discovers a particular journal, she can’t help but read it- the first risk she’s taken in her life, upon taking it for her own viewing pleasure.

This special journal that she took was none other than the seemingly perfect Ashley, whom actually was reported missing, and presumed dead, when she and her equally perfect boyfriend, Shane, took a terrible spin during a bad snow storm a day after graduating. Their car was found in shambles, as were their belongings, and that was how their love-story ended. As Parker initially wants to read the journal because of her fascination and assumed thoughts for a perfect love story, she begins to uncover new ideas that she never had dreamt about Ashley or Shane’s relationship. As she begins to discover these new ideas around her life currently, Parker seems to piece together a different puzzle that she has indeed become infatuated with.

This story really connects with taking chances, self-discovery and taking risks. But will there be the “happy ending” that Parker desires, like in her Nicholas-Spark fantasy romances? This is definitely a must-read for all romantics out there, and those that are willing to take time to think about many messages that come about through the contexts of this journal prompts, and with help from Robert Frost of course. Stay Golden…

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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?