I teach middle school. On purpose. Generally when I tell people that, they say, “Wow. I could never teach that age group!” But you know what? I think middle schoolers are some of the most interesting people in the world.
They definitely have some of the best literature out there right now. If you haven’t noticed, the young adult fiction world has exploded lately! There are thousands of novels published each years, dozens of which have been made into movies over the past few years. Those movies can often tempt even more reluctant readers into checking out a book.
Because of the vast amount of literature out there for grades 5-8, I decided to break up this portion of the Reading series into three posts:
Books for Middle Schoolers (general books that appeal to a wide audience)
My recommendations are based on my personal experience as a middle school reading teacher for 8 years. These are my “go-to” books that get everyone reading and asking for more.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
This dystopian novel was written a good 20 years before The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the like popularized the genre. Jonas is a twelve year old boy living in a community where everything is decided for you, including your career. Jonas finds out that he will become The Receiver of his community, the one who holds all of the memories of the past. During this process, he meets The Giver who alone has held the memories for years, and he discovers secrets that cause him to question everything he ever knew. A fantastically gripping book with three sequels. The series will keep your middle schooler enthralled for weeks.
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Has your child finished the Harry Potter series and is looking for another likable hero to lead them on adventures? Meet Percy Jackson. Percy is the son of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea. Only, Percy lives in modern day New York. He learns that the ancient gods and goddesses still exist, still have kids, and still fight monsters and themselves. The first book, Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, begins with Percy’s discovery of who he is and his quest to find Zeus’s stolen master lightning bolt. Filled with action, comedy, and heroic teens, the ten installments of the Percy Jackson series are always a huge hit.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Written by a sixteen-year-old girl nearly 50 years ago, The Outsiders remains one of my students’ favorite books. I have read it with my classes every year, and students are always captivated by the story of two rival gangs, a family of orphan boys, and Ponyboy’s coming of age.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Your child has never had a reading experience quite like Wonderstruck before. Brian Selznick is a talented artist who tells two stories in both text and gorgeous pencil drawings. The book switches seamlessly between the two mediums, appealing to the visually-focused middle school age group. It also introduces children to deaf culture and increases empathy toward those with special needs.
On The Day I Died by Candace Fleming
On the Day I Died is a collection of short stories, each detailing the final few days of a (fictional) teenager’s life. I have found that middle school students are extremely fascinated with horror stories and the macabre. While still age-appropriate and relatively tame, there is enough sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense in this book to thrill any teen.
Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio
Wonder beautifully tells the story of Augustus, who was born with a facial deformity, as he enters public school for the first time in sixth grade. Chapters are told from various characters perspectives, which adds depth to this moving book. This is one novel that you will want to read with your child, simply so that you can experience it together. A fantastic book that builds empathy for people who are different.
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
If your child has not read the classic Chronicles of Narnia yet, there is no better way to spend the summer. Read them aloud as a family, listen to them in the car on audiobooks, read them separately, but just read! All 7 books are wonderful, but make sure that you begin with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to become acclimated to Lewis’s magical land and characters.
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Carly has been placed in foster care after a traumatic experience that she has blocked from her memory. At first she hates being with the Murphys who appear too good to be true. However, she eventually realizes that Mrs. Murphy is actually as kind and loving as she seems. Could this finally be an adult that she can trust? Or, should she go back to living with her mother, who is, after all, her real mom? Several boys and girls in my classes named this their favorite book of the year.
Be sure to check out the other posts in the Reading series:
What books do you recommend for middle schoolers?
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