I was an awkward kid in middle school; tall and gangly with big glasses and the finely honed ability to walk into walls, in front of the coolest kids in my class. These were not traits that made me the most popular person in school. I didn’t know how to fit in and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to, which made navigating my middle school years difficult. but, it would have been difficult (ok, more difficult) if I hadn’t had the comfort of books. Books about kids just like me; books that helped me figure out more about what was going (at least as much as any person ever can in middle school). For any pre-teen navigating the highs and lows of middle schools, books can be a balm, a support, and a friend. Here are five great books to help your pre-teen reader survive the middle school experience:
Where You’ll Find Me, by Natasha Friend
Anna’s going through a lot. Her best friend is suddenly one of the popular girls and has left her behind, she’s got a new stepmom, and her mom’s mental health seems shaky at best. Anna feels like she is drowning, and she’s not sure what to do. In the hands of a less accomplished writer, the darker undertones of Where You’ll Find Me would be too much for young readers, but Friend, author of the award winning YA novel Perfect, is an expert at exploring themes of changing friendships, blended families, and responsibility, in a way that is engrossing, refreshingly honest, and appropriate for pre-teen readers.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
All must bow down to the queen of the teen novel, author Judy Blume. Long before Suzanne Collins was dreaming up Katniss Everdeen or Stephenie Meyers put pen to paper, Ms. Blume was writing books that touch deeply on the inner lives of pre-teens and teenagers. The beloved classic, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is one of Blume’s best works on the subject. Originally published in 1970, this modern classic tells the story of Margaret, a sixth grader struggling to navigate the many of the ups and downs of pre-teenhood, from buying her first bra to exploring her own beliefs about God and religion. Funny, poignant, and beautifully written, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret will resonate with young preteen readers.
Breaking Big, by Penny Draper
Written with an expert knowledge of the competitive world of ballet, author Penny Draper’s Breaking Big follows Robin, a dancer who is offered the opportunity of a lifetime—he’s asked to be an understudy in a production of a Midsummer’s Night Dream. Told from Robin’s perspective, the book dives deeply into the fears and self-doubt of a teenager who struggles with finding his way while competing in a world that leaves him feeling out of his depth. Draper’s Breaking Big contains some of the most beautiful ballet imagery I have ever read, and Robin’s absorbing and sometimes heartbreaking tale will entrance.
The Inn Between, by Marina Cohen and Sarah Watts
Sometimes the best escape is scaring yourself silly and for early teen readers, there is no better place to find chills and thrills than in authors Mariana Cohen and Sarah Watt’s The Inn Between. Ostensibly the novel is about eleven-year old pre-teens, Kara and Quinn, best friends who areon a final trip together before Kara moves away with her family. But The Inn Between is much more than a touching tale about coping with loss, it’s also a mystery and suspense novel that expertly weaves in a spooky maze-like hotel and a family trip gone scarily wrong with Quinn’s struggle to come to grips with her friend’s departure. The Inn Between is recommended for everyone, but may especially cathartic for kids dealing with similar issues of friendship and loss.
Hardcover $15.29 | $16.99
School for Sidekicks, by Kelly McCullough
Set in an alternate America, where a sudden disaster has created a race of mythical super heroes, McCullough’s School for Sidekicks tells the tale of Evan Quick, a thirteen-year old boy who longs to become one of the Masks (the good super heroes). Unfortunately, Evan’s hopes are dashed when his idol, Captain Commanding, betrays Evan. Forced to work as an intern for the burnout Foxman, a down on his luck superhero in danger of losing his superhero license, Evan is initially devastated by his turn of fortune. But all isn’t as it seems. McCullough manages an impressive feat in School for Sidekicks; the novel takes pre-teen readers on a nuanced journey into the day-to-day complexities of everyday adolescence, while giving them a breathless glimpse into an amazing new world rendered real by vivid prose. School for Sidekicks is scheduled for release on August 8, 2016 and is sure to delight pre-teen readers.
What are your favorite books to help middle schoolers get through middle school?