10 Books for Middle Schoolers to Read Over the Summer

Great books for your eager readers to devour this season. By Sandie Angulo Chen
Topics: Reading
10 Books for Middle Schoolers to Read Over the Summer

School's out for summer! That means swimsuits, beach trips, summer camp, and loads of summer reading. We've rounded up 10 great stories for book-hungry middle schoolers. Five picks are nonfiction and five are fiction, but they span genres and topics as varied as the Russian Revolution and futuristic empires, touching memoirs and clever urban fantasies. And if your kids are reluctant readers, find some tips from Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney.

For even more recommendations, check out our Summer Reading for Kids and Teens list.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, ages 10+
What It's About
: Raised in both South Carolina and New York, author Jacqueline Woodson shares tales of her upbringing through Jim Crow and Civil Rights in the '60s and '70s. Told completely in verse, Woodson's book details cherished memories about her grandparents, pop culture, new friends, and living in both the segregated country and diverse city streets.
Why Read It? Woodson's award-winning memoir (National Book Award, Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Award) is funny and sad and everything in between. The intimate and engaging poems will teach middle schoolers about a complicated time in American history, but it's also a universal story about coming of age, changing family dynamics, and learning what makes you uniquely talented.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, ages 10+
What It's About
: Before she was the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai was a young Pashtun girl who loved to learn in her hometown of Pakistan's Swat Valley. Although her mother was illiterate, Malala grew up in a girls' school run by her father. A curious, precocious learner who firmly believed in a girl's God-given right to learn, Malala was considered a blasphemous troublemaker by the Taliban, and in 2012 she was shot by a Taliban gunman. She survived and refused to be silenced.
Why Read It? Educating girls is a global human rights issue, and Malala's story teaches young readers that even the youngest advocate can have a huge impact. As Malala explains, in countries "where women aren't allowed to go out in public without a man, we girls traveled far and wide inside the pages of our books. In a land where many women can't read the prices in the markets, we did multiplication ... we ran as free as the wind."

Murder Is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens, ages 10+
What It's About: In 1930s Hong Kong, a Chinese Anglophile sends his 13-year-old daughter Hazel Wong to boarding school in England. When she arrives at the perpetually dark and damp Deepdean School for Girls, Hazel is in awe of the young (and mean) English girls she meets. Still, she connects with plucky and beautiful Daisy Wells, who asks Hazel to be the Watson to her Holmes. There's not much sleuthing for the girls to do until Hazel discovers the dead body of the science mistress -- but by the time Hazel runs back with Daisy, the body has mysteriously disappeared.
Why Read It? This boarding-school mystery in a historical setting is written in the tradition of Nancy Drew with a dash of Veronica Mars humor and Hogwarts excitement. Although the main characters are girls, boys will enjoy the Holmes-and-Watson-style (or should we say Wells-and-Wong) adventures in figuring out what in the world is happening around them.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip M. Hoose, ages 12+
What It's About
: During WWII, Denmark didn't resist Nazi occupation, and this deeply shamed 15-year-old Knud Pedersen, who along with his brother and some classmates started a small, secret club of political resisters in 1941. Full of brave but naïve teenage boys desperate to undermine the Nazi regime, the Churchill Club committed 25 acts of sabotage -- disabling German vehicles, stealing Nazi arms, and destroying and defacing German property -- before being arrested in 1942.
Why Read It? What middle schooler doesn't want to read about teens who defied authority for the greater good? The Churchill Club's actions sound like something out of a movie, but they really happened, and Hoose interweaves his own historical nonfiction with recollections from Pedersen himself. This is the kind of book students would gladly read for history class, because the characters are such courageous, clever young heroes.

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming, ages 12+
What It's About
: Award-winning children's author Candace Fleming captures the final years of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. Czar Nicholas II isn't prepared to step up and lead his vast empire. An intensely personal man, Nicholas is better suited to family life with his German and English wife Alexandra (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) and their five children: four girls and one sickly son. As revolutionaries gain ground and WWI approaches, it becomes clear that the Czar and his family are headed toward doom.  
Why Read It? History buffs or not, kids interested in "real stories" will love Fleming's straightforward style of explaining complex sociopolitical ideas and historical contexts concerning the Imperial family, World War I, the Russian Revolution, Russian Orthodox ideology, and even European royalty. There's a lot to digest, but it's always fascinating. Fans of nonfiction narratives will dive into Fleming's chronicle of one of history's most fascinating downfalls.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, ages 12+
What It's About
: Fourteen-year-old Audrey struggles with severe anxiety stemming from unspecified school bullying. She is under a doctor's care and making slow but steady progress, but things significantly change when Audrey meets her brother's online gaming friend, Linus. Despite her social anxiety, Audrey finds it easy to talk to Linus, and their friendship eventually turns into a sweet romance.
Why Read It? Best-selling author Kinsella, who's best known for her popular Shopaholic series, delivers her first young adult novel, a realistic contemporary story about social anxiety and gaming addiction that's nevertheless filled with her infectious brand of humor and romance. A book featuring a young teen protagonist, tough issues, humor, and a quirky, close-knit family? Sounds like an ideal mother-daughter read.

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganada and Caitlin Alifrenka, ages 12+
What It's About
: In 1997, 12-year-old American middle schooler Caitlin and 14-year-old Zimbabwean Martin are paired as pen pals through their schools. At first, Caitlin sends photos and trinkets and asks for the same, not realizing the depths of poverty in which Martin lives. Eventually Caitlin and her family start to send financial support to Martin, and their international friendship forever changes each of their lives.
Why Read It? Caitlin and Martin's letters and perspectives will teach kids to better appreciate their relative good fortune and to understand how a little bit of help and a lot of compassion can make a huge impact on someone else's life. Caitlin and Martin's extraordinary friendship should inspire your kid to be a better global citizen.

Undertow by Michael Buckley. ages 13+
What It's About
: Coney Island native Lyric Walker has a family secret: She's part "Sirena." So when 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race (Sirena being among them) of beautiful but violent humanoid sea warriors, land on her beach, she knows this means trouble. Lyric's New York City beach town turns into a militarized zone with the Alpha on one side and humans on another. Then Lyric is asked to give Fathom, the gorgeous and militant Alpha prince, reading lessons, and sparks fly. Which side will she choose?

Why Read It? Described as a combination of The 5th Wave and Twilight with sea creatures, this romantic dystopian fantasy seems to have enough action, war, and adventure to balance out the fiery romance, making it an equally compelling choice for any kid who wants to start reading a popular new series.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, ages 14+
What It's About
: This dual-narrative fantasy follows two characters in an alternate universe with a strict caste system: Laia is a Scholar (the oppressed class), and Elias is an elite military student for the Empire. After Laia's brother is arrested, she joins a resistance movement that places her as a slave at the military academy where Elias is a rising star. Despite their differences, the slave and the soldier have more in common than they care to admit, and together they could start a revolution.
Why Read It? One of the biggest debuts of the year, Tahir's fantasy novel is already a New York Times bestseller and has secured a sequel as well as a lucrative movie deal.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, ages 14+
What It's About
: Thirteen-year-old Noah and his twin sister Jude are inseparable until their art-critic mom announces that their dearly departed grandmother's ghost wants them to apply to a local arts high school. The competition for their mom's approval coupled with an unexpected, catastrophic loss leads to three years of drifting apart, finding love, and discovering whom they want to be as artists, siblings, and people.
Why Read It? Nelson's gorgeously written coming-of-age novel won multiple awards in 2014, and it deserved every accolade. Best for seventh- and eighth-graders mature enough to immerse themselves in the story's magical realism, philosophical themes, and relationship issues, I'll Give You the Sun will impress English teachers and make readers want to share the book with friends.

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About Sandie Angulo Chen

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Sandie has been writing about movies, books, pop culture, and entertainment since 1998, when she landed her first job after college at EntertainmentWeekly.com. From there, she moved to AOL's Moviefone.com, where, as a... Read more

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Adult written by Code9

The Lost Dreamstone (https://amzn.com/B01F7EQGQU) by G. V. Tenuta - Ages 8+ • • • What It's About: • • • Don't believe in the Sandman? Neither did 11-year-old twins, Josh and Jenna. That is, until one night when something moved in the corner of Jenna's bedroom. That event started a chain reaction that catapulted the twins across a threshold into a mystical realm, "the place of dreams where nothing is quite the way it seems: where that which is, perhaps is not and what is not just might be." Josh and Jenna are shocked to discover they are the key to fulfilling an ancient prophecy: Now the Dreamstone has been lost - Waiting who knows where? - Like a ball between two players tossed - ’Tis neither here nor there. - Two children from the Outer World - Together shall come alone. - They must be twins, a boy and girl - To find the lost Dreamstone. - The prophecy must be fulfilled or everyone, everywhere, will suffer horrendous nightmares every sleeping moment of their lives for as long as they live. Tasked with finding the Dreamstone in a realm populated by Dreamons and Drangels and Skrids––Oh my!––not to mention those annoying Weedles––the twins are met with dangers and strangers beyond their wildest dreams. Will Josh, the adventurous one, find this adventure to be more than he can handle? Jenna, the cautious one, will certainly find her cautious nature challenged by the need to press onward in spite of the obstacles at nearly every turn. Failure to succeed in their quest is not an option––at least not if they ever want to return to their home and to the comfortable lives they once knew. D'rath Kahn, the Dark Lord of Nightmares has declared it so. The Lost Dreamstone, complete with colorful illustrations by the author, is geared toward Middle Grade readers with a thirst for action, adventure and a touch of weirdness. • • • Why Read It? • • • We all experience the phenomenon of dreaming. With all of our differences, dreaming is one thing we all have in common. And what kid isn't mystified by the strangeness of their own dreams... and their nightmares? What are they, really? Where do they come from? How do they get into our heads? A fanciful answer to those questions is discovered in The Lost Dreamstone and the answer will give young readers something to think about. As one reviewer put it: "A thorough delight to read, The Lost Dreamstone is a wonderful balance of spell-binding adventure, fun & quirky humor, and dramatic, insightful wisdom ( "Future fortune is often lost because a threshold is left uncrossed.") adding a valuable dimension of thought provoking depth and substance seldom found in children's literature.
Kid, 10 years old

you should add "recommended for" before the age you write as I am 10 and I am reading some of the books in bookshops in the section "young adult" and at school all the books I read are in the year 7 section which is restricted for year 7's in fact a lady in the library knows how good I am at reading an she said tell the other people in the library that she said I can read the year 7 books. so just keep that in mind. also I did 2 years of reception (a thing my parent chose to do) so I am a year 4 not a year 5
Parent of a 7 and 12 year old written by hawchoo

Common Sense Media is SO helpful as we navigate media choices for our kids. This list is GREAT! Thanks. I have a very advanced middle grade reader. It's challenging to find him quality literature that is still age appropriate (he is very much anti-smoochy stuff).

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