Ah, middle school. That time when friendships are tested, romances begin and seemingly overnight, everyone around you is a monster.
Maybe that’s why middle school is a golden age for reading. The best books for middle schoolers explore that middle zone between childhood and independence – and hopefully help create a more empathetic creature in the process.
Your middle schooler may be “reading up” and turning to the classics at school. That’s all the more reason to let them indulge in graphic novels or fantasy at home. Kids this age might be drawn to YA, mysteries, horror or manga. Repeat after us: Any book is a good book.
After all, if they can’t escape into a book, there’s really no escaping middle school.
Jason Reynolds is fast becoming the patron saint of reluctant readers.
This National Book Award finalist is a novel told in 10 blocks. Reynolds weaves ten stories about what happens after the dismissal bell into one poignant narrative full of empathy and heart.
This story of a young chimney sweep and her golem manages to be both mystical and serious, taking a look at the life of children in a time when they were sent into danger and sometimes death.
A scene of the young girl getting stuck in a chimney is among the more harrowing bits of middle grade literature we’ve read.
Jordan is one of the only kids of color at his new private school and finds himself torn between worlds in this excellent graphic novel.
A timeless and classic story about the power of sisterhood.
What might have been seen as a book for Mom has new currency with a major motion picture directed by Greta Gerwig releasing this Christmas. Jo is still one of fiction’s best heroines.
This completes the trilogy about a trio of girls that began with Raymie Nightingale. Beverly buries her dog and needs a fresh start, so she runs away at 14.
This novel in verse is one of few books to deal frankly with menstruation and a girl’s changing body, as well as what it means to be genderfluid.
Celi Rivera has questions about her changing body as her mother insists on a Mexican moon ceremony for her first period that she’s determined to avoid.
The latest in the Rick Riordan Presents line presents a world of African American folk heroes and West African Gods.
Other titles in the successful series created by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and The Trials of Apollo) include Arusha and the End of Time, Dragon Pearl, The Storm Runner and Sal and Gabi Break the Universe.
If your tween is into Marvel, or DC, show him or her that anyone can be a superhero.
In this book, these kid superheroes use their powers for good, until they turn 13 and their powers mysteriously disappear.
Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes that she can’t talk to anyone about, and they tell her she must act to save someone’s life.
But how? This book will have special resonance for anyone who loved A Wrinkle in Time.
A kid finds his sense of rhythm through sports, in this gorgeous graphic novel.
A wonderful story about a boy who’s both into basketball, and music.
A feisty heroine gives insight into the struggles of immigrants. Mia Tang is the daughter of immigrants who works the front desk at a motel while her parents clean rooms. But they’re not just cleaning – they’re also hiding immigrants in empty rooms.
A moving book about a young girl facing a slew of challenges and overcoming them.
The graphic novel adaptation of the modern classic finds a boy on the cusp of adulthood discovering dark secrets about the carefully planned utopia around him.
Think The Handmaids Tale, but for middle schoolers and without the sex stuff.
Dinah Lance wants to win the battle of the bands and join Gotham’s junior police, but a mysterious figure keeps getting in the way.
Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries) writes one in a series of DC graphic novels.
The first book in this ghost-hunting series is great for kids who like a good scare.
These young teen ghost hunters are surrounded by dangerous ghosts and don’t get much relief from the living.
Another Newbery Medal winning mystery, this tells the story of a group of sixteen people who have joined for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will.
The game-loving millionaire asks them to determine which of them killed him.
Amal is taken from her home in her Pakistani village and forced into servitude to repay her family’s debt.
Through her struggle she manages to find a way to keep her dreams alive.
The people of the Protectorate leave babies as offerings for the witch in the forest.
The twist here is: The witch turns out to be kind and fills one child with magic and raise her as her own
Three children in three time periods, from the Holocaust to today, are forced to leave their homes seeking refuge.
Refugee effectively and beautifully combines historical fiction with present crises that we see in the news.
Stanley has been sent to a boys’ detention center where the boys build character by spending all day digging holes.
Soon he’ll discover that the holes are about more than character development.
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