Are you looking for the best books for 8th graders? Do you have a reluctant reader in 8th grade or upper middle school? Sometimes these kids have not yet met the right book. Here are some possible page-turners for your 8th grade readers! Everything from true stories to thought-provoking realistic fiction is on this list that straddles upper middle grade and young adult books.
Who am I to tell you the best books for 8th graders? I’m a middle school reading teacher who teaches struggling readers. My 8th graders have gravitated toward the books on this list, which I also have read and also love, so I’m sharing them with you.
Now you have a book list approved by real readers. And with this list, you can recommend even more good books to your 8th graders!
Remember, these reviews are subjective based on my students and my experiences, as well as our reading preferences. Use your best judgment if they’re right for your 8th grade readers.
But what age is 8th grade?
In the United States, 8th grade is around age 13 and turning 14 years old. Not always, but you can expect that most 8th graders are ages 13 and 14.
Best Books for 8th Graders
What About Will by Ellen Hopkins
Trace’s older brother (Will) recently suffered a severe concussion. The change in Will is dramatic and stresses the family. Trace senses the changes, but above all, he wants his brother back to how he was before the concussion. This book explores the effect on family members when someone in the family undergoes a dramatic change.
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
A graphic novel can tackle some tough subjects. Invisible deals with five students Spanish speaker students. They get in trouble and must do service hours in the school cafeteria where they learn about each other and the world, like the homeless mom they see living in her van. The world assumes many things about immigrants and sometimes those assumptions are just wrong.
Michael Vey and the Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
Michael Vey is a typical high school freshman living in Meridian, Idaho. He is not typical because he has extra electricity flowing through him and must learn to control it. He doesn’t know people are searching for him. Action and adventure await as his life takes an unexpected turn. This is book 1 of 8 in a science fiction series. The 8th was just published in September 2022.
This is My America by Kimberly Jones
Tracy has watched the clock tick down on her father’s time on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. She writes to law firms who help in similar situations. When someone finally responds back to her, she opens stories about the past others thought were put to rest. Tracy discovers racism is still alive and well in her community.
The Other Talk by Brendan Kiely
In this nonfiction book, Brendan shares about his younger life. This book reflects his conversations with people of color and their upbringing. Their discussions are about subjects such as how to not be suspicious, what to do in police presence, and other potentially dangerous scenarios. Brendan wonders if white people should have talks with their kids to let them know the world is not always equitable. Through discussions such as these, the world may become a more equitable place.
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
Reha wants to honor the traditions of her parents and their Indian culture. However, at school, she wants nothing more than to be like her other American friends. Her somewhat rebellious nature changes when her mother becomes very ill. Reha changes her focus to research which could help her mother get better. (Newbery Award Honor Winner!)
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado
Charlie is a curvy girl who accepts her fate as a large girl. However, her athletic and popular friend Amelia sometimes makes her feel bigger. Charlie’s mom also puts pressure on her to lose weight. Because of this, Charlie is very sure that no boy will ever like her. In this coming-of-age story, Charlie rides the ups and downs of adolescence to learn what she really wants and who she is.
Need by Joelle Charbonneau
Kaylee and Nate stumble upon a website only for students of Nottawa High School. When students enter a need, they must do a task to get their need. Before long, the whole community is being torn apart by what kids think they “need.” This cast of characters shows the dangers social media can create.
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (Or anything by this author!)
Five students (Simon, Bronwyn, Addie, Cooper, and Nate) are all in after-school detention. Simon goes into anaphylactic shock and dies. The other four are the main suspects. Especially when it’s revealed that Simon ran an app telling secrets of his classmates. Each of the students in detention narrates part of the story. Was it one—or all— of the students? Or something more sinister?
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
In this dystopian-style, award-winning queer book, Rufus and Mateo both receive their notice from Death Cast that today is their death date. Through the Last Friend app, they connect and help each other through their final day. As they try to tie up loose ends and say goodbyes to those they love, they also try to have some fun. Neither wants to be the first to die or finish life alone.