February 15, 2022

Best Books To Get Middle Schoolers Into Reading

Lots of middle schoolers say that reading simply isn’t for them. School is partly to blame for this, as reading often gets turned into a chore rather than something for enjoyment (though many teachers do try their best to make it fun–some successfully, others not so much.) But that doesn’t mean reading can’t turn back into something enjoyable. It’s simply a matter of finding the right book. This is just a shortlist of recommendations covering various genres and styles. If one of these sounds interesting, there’s a good chance there are more books by either the same author or similar ones that you’ll love too. Not to mention most of these have a movie or tv show adaption to watch after (or before, I won’t judge!) 

    • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card 
      • Ender’s Game is a book that every sci-fi should read and enjoy. It has everything: aliens, video games, adventure, and an extraordinary but complicated protagonist. Written in the 1980s but set in the very distant future, Ender Wiggins is a child genius selected to study in an elite school to train to fight the Buggers, the aliens that Earth is locked in war with. It’s a bit of a longer book at over 300 pages, but it’s packed with intense fight scenes set in zero gravity and interesting plots as Ender tries to figure out his place in the school–and in the war. Ender’s Game also got made into a movie starring Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford in 2013. Orson Scott Card also wrote lots of spin-offs and sequels, so if you fall in love with the world and history, there’s plenty more to read!
    • Holes by Louis Sachar
      • This is a classic coming-of-age book (and also one of my favorite movies) that’s about friendship, cruelty, and good ol’ karma. It follows Stanley Yelnats, who is seemingly cursed with bad luck and gets falsely accused of stealing a pair of famous shoes that were donated to a homeless shelter. As punishment, he is sent out to Camp Green Lake (which isn’t green or a lake at all) and is forced to dig holes all day in the heat. There, he meets unlikely friends like Zero, another kid at the camp, and some enemies, such as the cruel Warden who has rattlesnake poison in her nail polish. The book is full of twists and keeps you hooked till the very last word. 
    • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
      • Now, I’m going to be honest–this book is a tear-jerker. My 6th-grade teacher Mrs. Bodenmiller read this to us during class sometimes and I never remember a classroom full of tweens being so quiet and attentive before (except for when Bill Nye was on.) Wonder is about a young boy named August Pullman starting his first day at middle school. That’s scary enough for any typical 10 year old, but August isn’t exactly normal; he was born with a facial deformity and needed several surgeries throughout his life, leading him to be homeschooled and to constantly wear an astronaut’s helmet on his head. While it’s clear this story is a sad one, it’s also a funny and profound one about love and humanity. And, like many great books, it got made into a Julia Roberts movie in 2017.
    • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
      • This is a classic book that your parents probably read in middle school. Lots of schools even assign it, but that doesn’t mean it’s just some boring old book. The Outsiders is about a group of greasers living in Oklahoma and if you enjoyed Grease or West Side Story, this is the book for you. The main character is Ponyboy, the youngest in the little gang he is in with his brothers and his friends, and it follows their misadventures and interactions with the kids from the other side of the tracks. At less than 200 pages, it’s a short but action-packed novel that proves why teens still read it 55 years later. The 1983 movie adaptation is also a star-studded masterpiece for fans of classic 80s movies. 
    • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
      • This book is kinda like the Inception of books and it’s every bit as cool as its movie counterpart. This contemporary fantasy adventure novel is about a young girl and her father who is able to have things come out of books simply by reading it out loud. But there is a price to pay for this great power–something must go into the book in return. One day, Maggie’s father Mo is captured by strange people and she must go on an adventure to get him back. This book is critically acclaimed for a reason and got made into a movie starring Brendan Fraiser in 2008. With themes about family and pride, and great references to other famous books, this book is a great fit for anybody (especially if you find someone to read it out loud for you!) Not to mention, it’s also the first of a trilogy.
    • The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
      • This is by far the biggest book, and biggest series, on this list but it’s a great one for fans of fantasy, romance, and action. With six books in the series, a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy, a movie, and a tv show, this franchise has enough content to rival Star Wars. But once you get sucked into this world of shadowhunters, Nephilim, demons, warlocks, and angels, it’s hard to get out of it. Clarissa Frey is our main character (of the main series, at least) and it chronicles her journey in discovering her family history and heritage that was kept hidden from her all her life. With lots of action, sarcasm, and romance, it’s a great middle school read (and worth a lot of AR points too!)
    • Mysterious Benedict Society  by Trenton Lee Stewart 
      • This quartet of books is perfect for those who are naturally curious and feel a bit like outsiders. This spy/mystery/adventure book follows for exceptionally gifted children under the tutelage of the mysterious Nicholas Benedict who need their help to save the world from his evil twin sister. It’s on par with the classic Jame Bond spy movies (and I mean the Sean Connery ones, not the new ones.) Disney even made a tv series based on the books in 2021 with the hilarious Tony Hale.
    • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
      • This is another one of those books that’s important for any teenager to read in America (and not surprisingly, it’s been banned in a lot of schools too.) Set in 1930s Mississippi, 9-year-old Cassie Logan tries to navigate the difficult and racist life of the Jim Crow south. It’s a powerful book about power, not just with people but with land too.  The 1978 movie is also definitely worth watching too, with Morgan Freeman playing Uncle Hammer. It’s one of timeless and brutal African-American fiction books. And its descriptions of deep southern living make its 250+ page count feel too short. 


    • Scythe by Neal Shusterman
      • I’m going to level with you here—this is the only book on this list I haven’t read. It was recommended by a friend while I was doing research for this article. But after doing a little digging, I can see why. In a perfect future with no misery, no war, and no disease, this perfect utopia comes at a deadly price; select few called Scythes are chosen to kill others to keep the population and world in order. Crazy, right? Two teens, Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices and learn about this deadly underside to their world. While this is the only one on the list without a silver screen adaption, it is rumored to be in the works.  It’s one of the few YA books that’s made my to-read list and I hope it will make yours too. 


    • Anything by John Green
      • I know this isn’t exactly a conventional entry is a list of books to read, but trust me on this: all John Green books are worth the read. My godfather actually got me all of his books in 7th grade (after asking his AP Literature class for help) and I finished all of them within 2 weeks. Out of all his books, the one I would recommend the most is Paper Towns, as I think it’s a book that every teen will relate to at some point in their lives. And for the rebels out there, Green’s book Looking for Alaska actually got banned in many schools and libraries.  I’m not going to give any summaries, unlike the other books, because I think these are best experienced going in blind. Just maybe have a few tissue boxes on hand.

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