Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Middle Schoolers Should Read

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is books I wish I’d read as a child. Since “child” covers a huge age range, I’m going to narrow it down to “middle schooler.” Here are 10 awesome books I wish I’d read when I was 11-14.

*This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Books That Middle Schoolers Should Read

1. Nevermoor: The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks—and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart—an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests—or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

Why I recommend it: It’s like Harry Potter meets Alice In Wonderland! It’s hilarious, ridiculous, action-packed, and perfect for kids who love (mostly) lighthearted fantasy (or giant cats).

2. The Science Of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

How do you grow a miracle?

For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.

Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids—flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?

Why I recommend it: The characters. They feel very authentic. I would have wanted to be friends with them when I was 12. I love their energy and humor.

3. After Zero by Christina Collins

Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can't be taken back. Five tally marks isn't so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away.

But now months have passed, and Elise isn't sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher's stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she's ever hoped for.

Why I recommend it: It’s a compelling, magical mystery that addresses a little-known health problem. It’s one of those books that make young readers feel less alone. Kids like Elise are probably more common than people realize.

4. The Miscalculations Of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test—middle school!

Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

Why I recommend it: I was an animal-obsessed child, and the characters in this book are volunteers at an animal shelter. The characters are loveably imperfect. The story teaches readers to stand up for people (and dogs) who don’t fit in.

5. City Of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Cassidy Blake's parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead.

Why I recommend it: When I went to the library as a preteen, I always headed straight to the creepy books. I loved weird folktales, history, and anything supernatural. This book gives readers a thrilling ghost story and a quick tour of historic Edinburgh.

6. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Why I recommend it: This book is dark, so it’s probably not good for sensitive children. I was a picky reader as a kid. Most children’s stories felt too “safe” for me. I always knew that everything would work out in the end. That’s not the case with this book. Things go very wrong in the last few chapters. It’s ultra-realistic, but also kind of devastating.

7. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school . . . again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

Why I recommend it: This series is a fun romp through Greek mythology. The books have clever world-building, fast-paced plots, and characters that will keep readers laughing.

8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming . . . .

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild.

And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Why I recommend it: Make sure you get the illustrated version! The story doesn’t have the same feeling without the bizarre illustrations. One of my favorite books as a preteen was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. This book has similar illustrations, but the story is less silly and more meaningful.

9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

 Why I recommend it: I would have been obsessed with this series as a kid. It’s the kind of book I was always searching the library to find! The plot moves lightning fast. The stakes are immense. None of the characters are safe. Every chapter seems to end with a twist. And, Katniss is a complete badass.

10. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

Why I recommend it: Loveable characters. I badly wanted Charlie to succeed at his goals. I read this book as an older teenager, and I bonded with the characters quickly because they reminded me of people I knew in real life.

Which book do you wish you’d read when you were 11-14?


  1. Ooh, A Monster Calls is a great choice. I would have loved it even more as a middle grade reader.

    My TTT.

  2. Lightning Girl was so wonderful, and I fell in love with every character in that book. I liked Perks a lot. Maybe I would have read something like that in upper middle school (8th grade)?

  3. I think this is a great list that would get so many kids interested in reading! I loved Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games is definitely something that would appeal to kids.

  4. I'm reading Nevermoor & Percy Jackson next month for a couple middle grade readathons! I totally wish I would have read Percy Jackson sooner!

    My Top Ten

  5. Yes would definitely recommend Percy Jackson to middle schoolers. The Hunger Games too, it was one of those books I stayed up super late to read because I was so addicted.
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/top-ten-tuesday-261/

  6. Fun choices! I really enjoyed City of Ghosts, and I own A Monster Calls and Nevermoor so I need to read those soon. Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my all time favorite books.


  7. "And, Katniss is a complete badass." So true. I would have loved these as a kid. Same with Percy Jackson, I think, because mythology. I was super into that.

    Nevermoor sounds fun.

  8. What a fascinating list! I've not heard of many of these, but I did read Perks as an adult and it was amazing. No pressure at all to click, but here is what I thought of it if you are interested: https://hopewellslibraryoflife.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/reflections-on-the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower-or-finding-myself-at-54-thanks-to-a-ya-book-2/

  9. I love MG books, but I've actually only read a few of these. Most of these are on my TBR list somewhere - I just need to actually read them!

    Happy TTT!


  10. I'm writing these down! My middle schooler has only read Wolf Hollow so far. I need to give her this list to look and choose from!

  11. Great list! I still need to read Nevermoor, and I wish Percy Jackson had been around when I was a little girl, too.

  12. The Science of Breakable Things seems interesting. I remember taking part in an egg drop competition in the seventh grade. 😄 Here's my Top Ten Tuesday List!

  13. Nevermoor has been on a few lists today. My daughter loved Percy Jackson, but I never got into it. We both, however, loved reading The Hunger Games series together.

    Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog earlier today.

  14. OH I can't believe I left Nevermoor off my list! I really want to read that, it sounds amazing and I'm glad you enjoyed it :D

  15. My oldest is a middle-schooler and I'm LOVING this list! I'll have to share it with him! He's always wanting new things to read!

  16. Great list! I enjoyed the Nevermoor and Percy Jackson books but know I would have enjoyed them more as a kid.

  17. This is a great list. I have a middle schooler and I would love it if he read this entire list. So far he's only read The Hunger Games and the Percy Jackson series but he loved both of those.

  18. I haven't read many MG books but I do agree on percy Jackson and The Hunger games!

  19. I can't recommend City of Ghosts enough either. Great choices.

    Lauren @ Always Me

  20. As a kid I'd have devoured Nevermoor, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and other things like Harry Potter. I liked kids going on adventures in the books I read then!

  21. I spent my middle school years (we called it Jr. High back in the dark ages) reading sports, sci-fi, a few classics like Jules Vernes, and war books (in the summer between 8-9th grade, I remember reading thick classics war books about the siege of Leningrad and the fall of Singapore, etc).

  22. I wish Percy Jackson was released when I was younger. I'd still like to read this series though! Great list!

  23. I love this list! Nevermore is a series I've been seeing so much lately, and even as a young adult, I absolutely want to read it. I read the Percy Jackson series in elementary school around when the third one came out, maybe? That put me a few years younger than Percy and his friends, but I continued to grow up with him as the later books came out, and having that meant a lot to me. Hunger games, on the other hand, I read as a teenager and didn't really enjoy the series. A Monster Calls and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are two others on this list I really want to read soon. Surprisingly, there's a few here I haven't heard of, so I'll have to look more into those.