And now, I present to you… my favorite books for middle school readers published in 2018!
(…that I’ve read so far. I’ll get back to you on the rest.)
Click a book cover to see its Goodreads page.
This is showing up on all the award prediction lists, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s an honest, vulnerable piece of realistic fiction with an engaging voice. I want to give Mason a huge hug. Recommended for grades 4 and up.
This funny, inventive adventure is full of powerful young women, growing friendship, and best of all, fascinating Hindu mythology. It’s sparked a big interest in the subject for me. I love that Rick Riordan is supporting Own Voices authors telling stories based in their own mythology to complement his Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse ones. Recommended for grades 4 and up.
Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald
This title has a ton of potential for reluctant readers. It’s a loving examination of football that also takes a serious look at some serious problems with the sport and its culture. And since it’s written in verse, it flies by. Recommended for grades 6 and up. (There is some mention of underage drinking, though it doesn’t occur “onscreen” and isn’t condoned.)
Dear Sister by Allison McGhee
I’m a huge sucker for books about siblings, and this one is so stinkin’ cute. It’s simple, sweet, and has lovely illustrations.
This funny, relatable story shines a light on how homelessness affects kids, and how those around us may be struggling without our even knowing it. A highlight is the tough yet loving look at the flaws of Felix’s mom. Recommended for grades 6 and up.
The subject of police brutality against Black people has been making the rounds in YA literature, but Rhodes bravely takes it into middle grade territory. This book makes it crystal clear that the murder of Black people by police officers is a travesty for which we, as a society, must take responsibility. But at the same time, it manages to provide a sympathetic window into the lives of people on different sides of the debate. This is a tough read, and it’s going to make some readers very uncomfortable…in ways that are wholly necessary. Recommended for grades 4 and up.
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
This sequel to Scythe is riveting, just like its predecessor. Prepare for more action, intrigue, surprises, and Deep Thoughts about Life. Recommended for grades 7 and up; contains violence and mild sexual references.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Have I mentioned that I’m obsessed with this book? Yes? Okay, but I gotta say it again. This is a book of gorgeous illustrations paired with a powerful story of self-discovery and the courage to defy unfair societal expectations. It looks at how friendship is necessary and empowering, but can also be a source of loss. Reading it feels like going to a drag show; it’s playful, meaningful, welcoming, and exuberant. Recommended for grades 5 and up.
This one feels like a guilty pleasure, but I blew through it. It’s a well-constructed return to the dystopian genre that hits the high points of that genre while dodging the more annoying cliches. Messed-up family dynamics, shifting allegiances, political turmoil, and a search for self spice up the physical action. Also, there are no love triangles, so points for that. Recommended for grades 6 and up.
Nightbooks by J.A. White
Fairy tales are best served with a heaping helping of creepy, and this one delivers. It draws on centuries of storytelling tradition to spin a fresh, unpredictable new tale set in modern New York City. It’s a masterwork of atmosphere, and is just dark enough to be disturbing while still appealing to young readers. Recommended for grades 4 and up.
2018 titles at the top of the To Be Read List:
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier – If it’s half as good as The Night Gardener, I’m here for it.
24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling – Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus was delightful and one of my most popular booktalks in spring. Hoping for a repeat performance.
The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix – I’m always on the lookout for high-interest, high-quality nonfiction. This is showing up on a lot of award lists, and it sounds like something I could actually sell to a kid for fun reading.
The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider – The title is just too good to pass up.
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka – I have this on me right now, waiting to be read. I heard it’s a little mature, but hoping to be able to recommend it to 8th graders. I have no doubt it will be good.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang – I’ve heard great things, it’s got a great cover, and it’s set in the 90s. Yes please.