The Top Books for Middle Schoolers

If you’re looking for suggestions for the top books for middle school students to read over the summer, we've got everything from fun and silly to books that dig deeper into important issues like race, identity, mental health, and more.

Updated on: June 3, 2020

Top books for middle schoolers

Summertime is a beautiful time for kids to play and have fun, but it’s also a wonderful time for reading. Middle schoolers are in the midst of a time in their lives that is filled with hormones, emotions, and a greater awareness of the world outside of their small part in it. Reading can help middle school students explore the world and challenging issues from the comfort of their homes. It can also help them to continue to think critically and creatively while school is out.

If you’re looking for suggestions for the top books for middle school students to read over the summer, check out our ultimate list:

Galactic Hot Dogs Series by Max Brallier

A great option for kids who love silliness and adventure.

These books are a great choice for kids who love graphic novels and science fiction. They contain videogame-type action, and the main character is a young gamer with an alien sidekick.

Grade level: 3 to 7

Themes: Action, aliens, humor.

Recognition: The author, Max Brallier, Max Brallier is a New York Times, USA TODAY, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

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Booked (The Crossover Series) by Kwame Alexander

A great option for the for the kid who is both artsy and into sports.

This book is the second in the Crossover series, and it is written entirely in verse. It is about a black 12-year-old boy obsessed with soccer who receives some guidance from a rapping librarian as he faces challenges.

Grade level: 5 to 7

Themes: Sports, bullying, friendship, relationships.

Recognition: New York Times Bestseller ∙ National Book Award Longlist ∙ ILA-CBC Children's Choice List ∙ ALA Notable Children’s Book ∙ Book Links’ Lasting Connections ∙ Kirkus Best Book ∙ San Francisco Chronicle Best Book∙ Washington Post Best Book∙ BookPage Best Book

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Clayton Bird Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

A great option for the kid who loves music.

This book is about black middle schooler Clayton Bird, who loses his grandfather. Carrying this loss and his grandfather’s love of music, Clayton goes to Washington Square Park in New York City to join his grandfather’s old blues band. 

Grade level: 3 to 7

Themes: Race, death and loss, music, family.

Recognition: National Book Award Finalist ∙ Kirkus Best Books of 2017 ∙ Horn Book Best Books of 2017 ∙ Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017 ∙ School Library Journal Best Books of 2017 ∙ NAACP Image Awards Youth/Teens Winner ∙ Chicago Public Library Best Books ∙ Boston Globe Best Books of 2017

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I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

A great option for the kid who is a budding feminist.

Although your child may have read the young readers’ version of this story, there is power in the full memoir. Malala’s true story about standing up to the Taliban and refusing to be silenced is one that will never be forgotten.

Grade level: 5 and up

Themes: Girls’ and women’s rights and issues, education, human rights, bravery.

Recognition: The author received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at age seventeen and was honored with the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan in 2011, the International Children's Peace Prize in 2013, and was short-listed for Time magazine's Person of the Year.

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Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

A great option for the kid who struggles with anxiety.

This book would be both helpful and enjoyable for kids who face mental health challenges, and for kids who need a better understanding of the challenges others may face. The main character is fourteen years old and deals with extreme anxiety due to bullying.

Grade level: 7 to 9

Themes: Mental health, gaming addiction, bullying, friendship, relationships.

Recognition: Sophie Kinsella is a #1 New York Times bestselling author.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A great option for the kid who wants to explore America’s current challenges with racism.

This is a powerful fictional story that should be a must-read for everyone ages 12 and up in the household. Though this book has also been made into a movie, the book speaks volumes through the experience of sixteen year old Starr who witnesses the shooting of her best friend by a police officer.

Grade level: 8 and up

Themes: Racism, identity, community, current events.

Recognition: Goodreads Choice Awards Best of the Best  ∙  William C. Morris Award Winner ∙ National Book Award Longlist ∙ Printz Honor Book ∙ Coretta Scott King Honor Book ∙ #1 New York Times Bestseller

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Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

A great option for the kid who wants to explore identity.

This story delves into identity through many lenses, and is a great introduction to intersectional identity. It is a book that can open up your middle schooler’s world.

Grade level: 8 and up

Themes: Race, sexual identity, mental health, relationships.

Recognition: Stonewall Book Award Winner, Kirkus Best Book of the Year, Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year, Bustle.com Best Book of the Year, Vulture Best Book of the Year, Seventeen Magazine Best Book of the Year

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I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka

A great option for the kid who wants to change the world.

This is a true story of the friendship that evolves from a class assignment that involves letter writing between an American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe. That girl and boy are the dual authors of this memoir and share how their letter writing over many years changed their lives.

Grade level: 5 and up

Themes: Global awareness, poverty, cultural differences, friendship.

Recognition: New York Times Bestseller

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Explorer Academy Series by Trudi Trueit

A great option for the kid who loves science, technology, and exploration.

This series is packed with adventure and follows the lives of twelve-year-old students who attend an elite school program called Explorer Academy. They travel the world solving mysteries and use real cutting-edge technology. There are extension books that allow kids to learn about the real technologies behind the story and try their hand at skills like coding.

Grade level: 4 - 8

Themes: Science, adventure, friendship, exploration.

Recognition: A National Geographic series.

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Charise Rohm Nulsen is a writer, social media influencer, activist, and perpetual volunteer. She is a graduate of Boston College (B.A.) and Boston University (M.A.T.) who has worked in the corporate world in Manhattan, San Francisco, and Boston, as well as in education throughout Massachusetts. Now as a work-from-home-mom, she is passionate about helping other women live their best lives and bring about positive change in their communities and beyond.

Charise’s passions include motherhood, social justice, education, living a healthy and natural lifestyle, reading, writing, and traveling.