20 Best Books for Middle Schoolers

September 21, 2023
8 min read

Are you searching for an engaging book that will enthrall your middle schooler? With a plethora of choices available, narrowing down the perfect one can seem like a daunting task. Rest assured, we're here to simplify this process for you! 

Female middle school student reading book on couch

In this article, we highlight a handpicked selection of 20 of the best books for middle schoolers. These chosen gems span various genres, ranging from spellbinding dystopian escapades to soul-stirring tales of friendship and personal evolution.

Middle school signifies a period of profound transition, serving as the transformative gateway from childhood to adolescence.

Students begin exploring a more complex world during this unique stage of life. In this journey, the books they delve into can play an instrumental role in shaping their viewpoints, nurturing empathy, igniting curiosity, and inspiring creativity.

The books we've highlighted are precisely the books every middle schooler should read, offering a breadth of experiences and insights. So, cozy up in your favorite reading nook, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, and prepare to embark on an unforgettable literary adventure!

20 Books Every Middle Schooler Should Read

Dive into the realm of literature with this curated list of 20 books every middle schooler should read, offering an eclectic mix of genres and themes to ignite your imagination and broaden your perspective.

Female middle school student choosing book at library

1. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” by J.K. Rowling 

This magical journey begins when Harry, an ordinary boy living with his cruel relatives, receives a letter inviting him to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s here where he learns he's not ordinary after all. He's a wizard, just like his parents before him. 

Rowling's book is a captivating story of magic, creatures, and epic battles. It explores friendship, bravery, and self-discovery as Harry embarks on a journey. This beloved series is richly detailed with memorable characters that resonate with middle schoolers.

2. "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle 

This exceptional classic is a hybrid of science fiction and fantasy, as it unfolds the story of Meg Murry, a young girl who embarks on a quest through time and space to find her missing scientist father. Meg, along with her younger prodigious brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin, is aided in their journey by three mysterious beings - Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. 

L'Engle's novel intricately weaves  elements of quantum physics with the battle between light and darkness. It's an empowering story about the courage within every child and the power of love.

3. "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins 

Set in a dystopian future, Collins' tale is a riveting survival story featuring Katniss Everdeen, a young girl forced to participate in a deadly competition known as the Hunger Games. The Games, organized by the ruling Capitol, is a brutal fight-to-the-death contest between 24 children from the 12 districts of Panem. 

Katniss's journey is not only a thrilling tale of survival but also defies oppressive authority and exposes the inhumanity of the spectacle. It’s a compelling introduction to dystopian literature, encouraging middle schoolers to think about society, morality, and the value of human life.

4. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry 

Jonas's world seems ideal. There is no war, poverty, or crime. But when he turns twelve and is assigned his role in society as the new Receiver of Memory, he discovers the disturbing truth behind his community's seemingly utopian facade. 

Lowry's thought-provoking novel delves into profound themes of freedom, individuality, memory, and the human condition. It sparks stimulating discussion on the notion of utopia and the price society might pay for peace and conformity.

5. "Holes" by Louis Sachar 

Sachar's novel is a whimsically intricate tale that narrates the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy with a streak of bad luck traced back to his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." 

Unjustly accused of theft, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, a detention center where boys dig holes daily. What seems like mindless punishment is a quest for a centuries-old buried treasure. 

This novel is a delightful mix of humor, unexpected plot twists, multi-generational tales, and lessons of friendship and redemption.

6. "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton 

This is a powerful and enduring story of Ponyboy Curtis and his two older brothers, members of the "Greasers," a band of underprivileged teens in the 1960s. Their world is a constant battle against the "Socs," the affluent kids from the other side of town. 

Hinton's novel provides a genuine portrayal of friendship, societal pressure, and the hardships of adolescence. It serves as a crucial dialogue starter about social class, prejudice, identity, and the power of unity against adversity.

7. "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan 

Riordan's novel brings ancient Greek mythology to the 21st century through the story of Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old boy with ADHD and dyslexia. Percy's life takes a turn when he discovers he's a demigod, the son of Poseidon. 

Filled with epic battles, intriguing puzzles, and a pantheon of Greek gods and creatures, this book offers an exciting adventure. It makes ancient mythology relatable and interesting for today's middle schoolers.

8. "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien 

This unforgettable adventure takes readers into Middle-Earth, where they follow the journey of Bilbo Baggins, a comfort-loving hobbit, who embarks on a quest to win a share of a dragon-guarded treasure. 

Guided by the wizard Gandalf and accompanied by thirteen dwarves, Bilbo encounters trolls, goblins, elves, and other extraordinary creatures. Tolkien's book, with its enchanting world-building, exciting adventures, and timeless themes of bravery and friendship, provides an engaging introduction to fantasy literature.

9. "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry 

Lowry’s book takes place in Copenhagen during World War II. It tells the gripping story of Annemarie Johansen, a 10-year-old girl who gets caught up in the events surrounding the rescue of the Danish Jews. 

Through the innocent eyes of a child, the book explores the horrors of war, bravery, and the extraordinary courage ordinary people can display in the face of danger. It is an excellent tool to foster empathy and create historical awareness.

10. "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio 

This heartwarming story is about Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a facial difference that prevented him from attending a mainstream school. But when he starts 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid. 

Told from multiple perspectives, Palacio's book celebrates human resilience and kindness. It promotes discussions about acceptance, empathy, and the power of friendship.

11. "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen 

The story revolves around Brian, a 13-year-old boy  stranded in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. Brian must learn to survive against the harsh elements, wild animals, and despair with only a small hatchet. 

Paulsen’s novel is a riveting survival story that shows middle schoolers the importance of resourcefulness, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit.

12. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak 

Set against the grim backdrop of Nazi Germany, the narrative unfolds the life of Liesel Meminger, a young girl placed with a foster family. Liesel develops an unusual habit—stealing books, which becomes her solace in the harsh reality of war. 

Narrated through the unconventional viewpoint of Death, the novel delicately weaves a tale of loss, hardship, and the resilience of the human spirit. Liesel's stolen books and the stories within serve as a beacon of hope and an escape, demonstrating the powerful influence of literature in even the most dire circumstances.

13. "A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Lemony Snicket 

This series, laden with black comedy, chronicles the grim journey of the Baudelaire siblings—Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. Following their parents' mysterious death, the orphans are thrust into a series of distressing circumstances while trying to evade their evil relative, Count Olaf, who is bent on claiming their inheritance. 

Although they're surrounded by misfortune and gloom, the narrative emphasizes the siblings' steadfast resilience, cleverness, and enduring optimism. The series cleverly balances elements of tragedy and comedy, making it an engaging read for middle schoolers.

14. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee 

Set in the small, racially divided town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression, the novel provides a potent critique of racial prejudice and moral hypocrisy through the innocent eyes of Scout Finch. 

This deeply affecting narrative explores morality, empathy, and the complex nuances of human nature. It offers an opportunity for young readers to reflect on social injustice and the value of understanding and compassion.

15. "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis 

This enchanting tale whisks readers away to the magical realm of Narnia, a world brought to life by the imaginations of four children. Throughout their journey, they grapple with treacherous forces, make intriguing discoveries, and learn invaluable lessons about bravery, faith, and the enduring conflict between good and evil. 

This magical narrative is an engaging allegory that transcends time, imbued with profound lessons that resonate with readers long after the last page.

16. "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

The novel brings to life the story of Mary Lennox, a young, aloof girl sent to England to live with her distant uncle following the death of her parents. Her life  dramatically turns when she stumbles upon a neglected, hidden garden on the property. 

The garden and its gradual transformation symbolize hope, healing, and rejuvenation  for Mary and others around her.

17. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" by Jeff Kinney 

Told through the handwritten diary entries of Greg Heffley, the book provides a comically accurate portrayal of the trials and tribulations of middle school life. Kinney brilliantly captures the essence of adolescence, complete with its ups, downs, and inescapable awkwardness. 

The story resonates with readers, reminding them of their  experiences and offering humorous relief.

18. "The Maze Runner" by James Dashner

 In this thrilling dystopian tale, readers meet Thomas, a teenager who awakens in a dangerous maze with no recollection of his past. Surrounded by other boys with similar predicaments, Thomas must navigate the treacherous labyrinth and piece together fragments of his past to discover his purpose and the unsettling reality of the Maze.

19. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie 

This semi-autobiographical novel offers a profound exploration of identity, poverty, and resilience through the story of Arnold Spirit Jr., a young Native American living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. 

Arnold's life takes a sharp turn when he  leaves the reservation to attend a predominantly white school. The narrative combines humor and honesty to shed light on the challenges and triumphs of Arnold's journey.

20. "The Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell 

This captivating novel tells the story of Karana, a young Native American girl who lives on the Island of the Blue Dolphins, also known as San Nicolas Island, off the coast of California. After her tribe is forcibly removed from the island, Karana finds herself inadvertently left behind. 

Karana must fend for herself in the face of overwhelming loneliness and the harsh reality of survival. O'Dell's novel is a compelling tale of resilience, survival, and the human spirit's ability to adapt and find hope amidst adversity.

FAQs: Books for Middle Schoolers

This section addresses some of the most common questions about youth literature. 

1. How Do I Find a Good Middle School Book?

Identify the child's interests and reading level to find a good middle school book. Consult with teachers and librarians or use online resources, like our list of "books every middle schooler should read," for recommendations. 

Finally, encourage your middle schooler to preview a book before deciding. Remember, the goal is to find a book that will be enjoyable, stimulating, and inspiring.

2. Why Should Middle Schoolers Read Books?

Besides the many classes middle schoolers take, reading books is crucial in this formative phase as it fosters many benefits. Reading books enriches middle schoolers' vocabulary and comprehension, sparking creativity through exposure to varied contexts and characters. 

It also fosters empathy and critical thinking, thus promoting independent learning. Overall, it plays a vital role in shaping well-rounded, informed individuals.

3. How Long Should a Middle Schooler Read a Day?

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, a general guideline suggested by many educators is that middle schoolers should aim to read for at least 20 to 30 minutes per day outside of school assignments. 

Regular, sustained reading can significantly enhance vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills. It's also a good idea to encourage a love of reading by allowing them to choose their  books to read at a comfortable pace.

Final Thoughts

Going through middle school can be an exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience. During this important time, books can serve as enlightening gateways to a broader world and mirrors reflecting students' own experiences. 

The best books for middle schoolers should engage, inspire, and challenge young readers, broadening their perspectives and developing important skills. 

These books can leave a lasting impact, whether delving into fantasy realms or grappling with real-life issues. Here's to many hours of joyful reading!

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