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!

Beautiful Assassin March 18, 2013


Since this historical fiction novel Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (first in a new series) has been on all of the best of 2012 lists, I just had to check it out.  It definitely lives up to all  of the hype!!!  Ismae’s mother died when she was young, leaving her alone with a brutal, demeaning father who sells her to an even more bullying farmer.  Unexpectedly, Ismae is spirited away in the evening by a group of saviors, who take her to a convent filled with beautiful, intelligent, respectable women.  They all have a secret though… they serve Saint Mortain, god of Death.  Ismae trains in weaponry, poisons, and deception, but her greatest challenge will be protecting her heart from the gorgeous soldier on whom she is sent to spy.  Ismae is a brave, self-sacrificing, honorable heroine in the vein of Cashore’s Katsa, Collins’ Katniss, and George R.R. Martin’s Arya.  This amazing read will be followed by sequels, as LaFevers follows other assassin’s assignments through the convent.


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!!! 🙂