Life in middle school isn’t easy. Kids experience lots of different things in middle school but one thing is for sure, middle school life is full of ups and downs.
This list of fictional middle-grade chapter books is all about middle school life. With themes ranging from general student life to struggles with friendships and identity, these books are relatable to most kids. Not only that, many of these books talk about relevant topics such as racism, immigration, friendship, learning disabilities, culture, and family.
Middle-Grade Books About Middle School
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dees
Middle schooler Mila is feeling trapped— a group of basketball-playing boys is getting too close, grabbing her, touching her, and then telling her that she’s imagining it. Ignoring doesn’t stop the behaviors, neither does telling an adult, telling her friends, or wearing baggier clothing. Now her toxic friend Zara is acting mad and jealous that Mila’s getting the boys’ attention. Unexpectedly, Mila finds her strength when she starts karate classes. That helps her find what works to put a stop to the harassment. I highly recommend this essential book; it should be shared widely with middle school boys and girls.
Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
In a word: powerful. This is middle school at it’s most intimate when friends experience the challenges of growing up, from an embarrassing sexting photo to a friendship betrayal. Through it all, we see the power of forgiveness and love. I only recommend this book for middle school kids unless you’re reading it with your child because of the sexting topic.
Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park
Rafe’s goal in middle school is to break every single rule. You can imagine how his plan will go, right? Filled with cartoon-like illustrations, this story will crack you up. (And please don’t try this at home!)
Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong
Grace constantly lives in her brother’s shadow, only having two friends who like her for her. But when the trio gets into a big fight, will their friendship be able to survive? And when will everybody stop comparing her to Kyle!? This is a relatable and engaging read about the ups and downs of middle school –perfect for younger siblings or any reader who enjoys realistic stories.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
In a sweet story of figuring out who you are and taking pride in your culture, initially, Stef Soto feels embarrassed by her dad’s taco truck, especially when he picks her up at school. But that changes when she learns that new city regulations could force her dad to sell the truck and get a different job. Filled with relatable middle school struggles, Spanish words, Latinx culture, friendship troubles, and a loving family, this yummy middle school book is a savory treat.
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
Wink by Rob Harrell
I highly recommend this funny, standout cancer story based on the author’s life for readers who like humorous but emotion-filled stories. When Ross is diagnosed with a rare kind of tumor, he immediately starts radiation treatment. School becomes pretty challenging because his eye is goopy, he has to wear a hat, and his hair starts falling out in clumps– among other things made funny with his cartoon drawings. A goofy, kind-hearted radiation tech gets Ross interested in alternative punk music and in order to impress a girl, Ross asks the tech for guitar lessons. Turns out, the guitar and his new music, help Ross both express his frustrations and find his joy, leading to some surprising results — like a new, unexpected friend.*A few bad words.
Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
A funny but poignant chapter book of middle-school angst and discovery! Unpopular Dwight can make origami Star Wars characters. When his puppet of Yoda comes to life, just like Yoda, the origami Yoda is wise and helpful to Dwight and his friends during the many trials of 6th grade.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl genius with OCD whose grandma wants her to go to public middle school for three reasons: to make one friend, read one non-math book, and join one school activity. Although she’s reluctant to go, Lucy finds friends and connects with a rescue dog for a school project. It’s a well-written, heart-warming story that will change your perspective of OCD and give you hope for humanity.
Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido
An exquisite novel in verse that celebrates music, STEM, making friends, and growing into yourself. Emmy’s eager to start a new school and make friends but she’s thwarted by rudeness at every turn. A daughter of professional musicians, Emmy decides to abandon music and take a computer programming class. She sort of makes a friend with a girl in her programming class named Abigail but she’s only friendly during that class. Which makes Emmy feel conflicted. As Emmy’s family adjusts to San Francisco, Emmy figures out her place in the world, especially as it relates to her growing passion for programming. The author skillfully connects music and programming in a memorable, poetic way that even non-programmers can understand.
Restart by Gordon Korman
After a bad fall, Chase has no memory of who he is or was. But he soon realizes that he used to be a cruel troublemaker. Now that he has a second chance, he can decide who he’ll be with his fresh slate. Because he’s enjoying his new life in the film club and the new (“nerdy”) friends he’s made and doesn’t really want to go back to his old self. This thought-provoking novel shows that who we are is a choice.
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
Growing up, Imogene (aka. Impy) always loved her family’s part in the Renaissance Faire . . . that is, until middle school. Even though she gets her dream to work in the faire as a squire, she also just wants to be like the other girls at her school, too. Her journey is painful and honest as she figures out who she wants to be. It’s narrated as a hero’s journey which, with the faire background and middle school drama, feels perfect. Beyond being a terrific coming-of-age story, I’m sure this book will interest tween readers in Renaissance festivals themselves.
Focused by Alyson Gerber
Clea is a chess-loving girl who gets distracted easily (except when she can hyper-focus in chess) and it’s becoming a problem, especially in school but also with friends. She’s resistant to do the testing her parents want, refusing to believe she could have ADHD. But blurting out things and living with regret, she feels like she’s not in control. As she learns more about her brain, she realizes that she can figure out strategies to help her keep focused. Readers who don’t have ADHD will get a glimpse into the way this kind of brain works. An essential middle school book to read.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
This book about life in middle school is perfect for any reader who struggles with confidence and speaking up for themselves because so does the main character, Peppi. This well-done graphic novel tackles the issues of friendships and confidence, among other things. My kids and I highly recommend this graphic novel.
Vordak the Incomprehensible by Vordak T. Incomprehensible
I haven’t laughed like this when reading a book in years–it’s pee-your-pants funny. Because the evil villain Vordak accidentally transforms himself into a middle schooler. And life in middle school is not going well for him at all…
6th grade is hard enough for Raina but it’s even worse with braces, headgear, and friend troubles. My daughter loves this series starting with Smile. She read Sisters four times the first week she owned it — they’re all excellent books and quite addictive. ALSO READ: Drama, Sisters
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Both Ally and her older brother have hidden that they can’t read — until Mr. Daniels who helps her learn to read and discover her value. It’s a beautiful, emotionally resonate story that will help kids either see themselves or develop empathy and compassion.
Rules by Cynthia Lord
I highly recommend reading this meaningful, coming-of-age story about 12-year old Catherine. Read it in your classroom and with your children to develop empathy and compassion for children who have autism. Catherine’s worked hard to help her autistic brother, David, learn the rules about life. But now that she has new friends, she’s feeling more embarrassed about her brother than compassionate.
Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick
The story begins when a group of 6th graders starts a mother-daughter book club. Each book in this middle school book series focuses on one book the girls read (such as Little Women, Daddy Long Legs, and Pride and Prejudice) and the relationships of the girls among themselves, the relationships with their mothers, and the business of growing up.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Joseph is an abused boy with a violent father, a parent at age thirteen, and is now living as a foster kid with Jack’s family on their organic farm. As he learns to trust them, we slowly learn about Joseph’s deep love for a rich girl named Maddie, his daughter named Jupiter who he’s never seen, and his shattering heartbreak. This is an amazing story– painful yet filled with redemption and hope — beautifully written and one that will give middle school readers much to ponder.
Real Friends by Shannon Hale
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