50 Refreshing and Relatable Books To Teach in Middle School

What would you add to the list?

Two photos of hands holding middle school books

Middle school students faced plenty of issues before the social, political, and economic upheavals of the past few years. At the same time, challenges to what students are allowed to read in school have made some of their experiences even more marginalized than they had been. With that in mind, we revised our recommendations to be even more inclusive, with an eye toward middle school books you may not already have in your library.

Today’s classroom requires flexibility, especially with young readers. Not all middle school books have to be read silently or independently. Read some aloud to your students, give them audiobooks to listen to, or let them read one chapter at a time to each other. See what kind of conversations come up. Engaged students learn better, and you don’t need a canned curriculum from some corporation to tell you that.

Remember, maturity levels vary widely, and you know your students best. Be sure to read the books first before you share them with your middle school students.

(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)

Best Middle School Books

1. Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

middle school books - Stamped by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

This remix of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award–winning Stamped From the Beginning is an urgent exploration of how the history of race affects us in the here and now, created for young people. There’s even a teachers guide.


Buy it: Stamped on Amazon

2. Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

middle school books Everything Sad Is Untrue

Khosrou is not like the other kids in his Oklahoma middle school, but he knows how to tell a story. This true story of Khosrou’s family and their escape from Iran in the middle of the night is an immediately gripping account of both middle school chaos and personal strife.

Buy it: Everything Sad Is Untrue on Amazon

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

middle school books - The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is the story of 16-year-old Starr Carter as she wrestles with her emotions after seeing her unarmed childhood friend killed by police, which has become a generational touchstone. Definitely for older kids—and definitely worth the conversations that follow.

Buy it: The Hate U Give on Amazon

4. All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue … by Christina Soontornvat

middle school books - All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat

This book is a thrilling and information-packed true story of survival about the 2018 cave rescue in Thailand. Full of interviews and firsthand accounts, the story will keep even the most active students on the edge of their seats.

Buy it: All Thirteen on Amazon

5. Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

middle school books - Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Louise Wolfe is a Muscogee high schooler caught between family obligations and everything that being a teenager involves. Another one for older kids, this is an authentic coming-of-age story with a fresh voice.

Buy it: Hearts Unbroken on Amazon

6. Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

middle school books - Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

When Amanda Gorman read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison in eighth grade, she was inspired  to become a writer. “It was the first time I had seen a dark-skinned girl on the cover of a book and that absolutely enthralled me. Reading Morrison taught me how to write unapologetically with a Black feminist voice that was my own,” she said. Later in life, when she spoke at the presidential inauguration in 2021, Gorman raised the voice of her generation. Her book of poems is expansive and inventive, and it’s one of the top must-read books for today’s middle school kids.

Buy it: Call Us What We Carry on Amazon

7. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

middle school books - The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Simply put, this is one of the most well-written books you’ll ever find in YA lit. Protagonist Leigh Chen Sanders’ voice is stunning in this expertly woven tale of love, friendship, tragedy, and imagination.

Buy it: The Astonishing Color of After on Amazon

8. Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto

middle school books - Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto

Yes, we’re going there. No middle school book catalog is complete without a few good Manga titles. It’s time to shrug off any reluctance and dive into what the kids are already reading. These are teacher-approved, rich with storytelling and character exposition, and ripe for literary analysis. If these titles don’t seem fit for your students, check with them—they know best! First up is the classic Naruto, a story about a young chaotic kid who is determined to become the world’s greatest ninja.

Buy it: Naruto on Amazon

9. Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

middle school books - Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

This spin on traditional manga (with the usual high-flying warriors and action sequences) tells the story of two kids who want to become manga artists themselves. The characters are high school kids trying to live their dreams—very relatable to young readers.

Buy it: Bakuman on Amazon

10. A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima

middle school books - A Silent Voice by Yoshitoko Oima

When Shoya meets Shoko six years after he knew her in school, he learns about the consequences of bullying. This is a great story for middle schoolers and is an accessible way into the manga genre.

Buy it: A Silent Voice on Amazon

11. The March Series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

middle school books - The March Series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

The three-part graphic novel series details how John Lewis made his way from his family farm to the Edmund Pettus Bridge alongside Martin Luther King Jr. for the historic Selma-to-Montgomery March. Beautifully rendered and powerfully told, this trilogy lends itself to all kinds of classroom readings and activities.

Buy it: The March Series on Amazon

12. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

middle school books - The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Acevedo brings her slam poet sensibility to this emotionally vivid story about Xiomara Batista, a first-generation Dominican American teen in a religious family who “feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood.”

Buy it: The Poet X on Amazon

13. The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy

middle school books - The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy

The first of two books by Maulik Pancholy, this story follows Rahul Kapoor, a middle schooler who loves his grandpa and is crushing on a boy at school.

Buy it: The Best at It on Amazon

14. The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

The Benefits of Being an Octopus book cover--middle school books

Explore the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of seventh grader Zoey, who lives on the edges of society and tries to find her way forward.

Buy it: The Benefits of Being an Octopus on Amazon

15. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

middle school books - Monster by Walter Dean Myers

The recipient of multiple awards, this novel follows Steve, an amateur filmmaker. As a way of coping with the horrific events that entangle him, he decides to transcribe his trial into a script, just like in the movies.

Buy it: Monster on Amazon

16. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

middle school books - The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

With connections to Common Core standards, this book follows Coyote, a young woman who travels the country with her dad in an old school bus. Over the course of thousands of miles, she will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all.

Buy it: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise on Amazon

17. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

middle school books - Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. Now a ghost, Jerome watches the devastation unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Soon, Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances.

Buy it: Ghost Boys on Amazon

18. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Piecing Me Together book cover--middle school books

The recipient of multiple awards and one of our favorite middle school books, this novel is a powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it’s trying to break her.

Buy it: Piecing Me Together on Amazon

19. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Out of My Mind book cover -- middle school books

Another one of our fave middle school books! Follow 11-year-old Melody, who is not like most people. She can’t walk, she can’t talk, she can’t write, all because she has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory—she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it.

Buy it: Out of My Mind on Amazon

20. Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

Return to Sender book cover--middle school books

A timely story for middle schoolers. After Tyler’s father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of them.

Buy it: Return to Sender on Amazon

21. Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

middle school books - Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

Zenobia July is a trans girl in Arizona who is trying to adjust to a new school.

Buy it: Zenobia July on Amazon

22. In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington

middle school books - In The Key of Us by Mariama J Lockington

Another new addition to our list, this is a coming-of-age story about young love between Andi and Zora, two Black girls at a mostly white summer camp.

Buy it: In the Key of Us on Amazon

23. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

middle school books - The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

Taken from the national news headlines, this book follows two teenagers and a heinous hate crime that crosses gender and racial lines.

Buy it: The 57 Bus on Amazon

24. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water book cover - middle school books

A tale of two stories, told in alternating sections, about two 11-year-olds in Sudan—a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985.

Buy it: A Long Walk to Water on Amazon

25. Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan

middle school books - Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan

Jameela lives with her mother and father in Afghanistan. Despite the fact that there is no school in their poor, war-torn village, and Jameela lives with a birth defect that has left her with a cleft lip, she feels relatively secure, sustained by her faith and the strength of her beloved mother, Mor. And then Mor passes away. …

Buy it: Wanting Mor on Amazon

26. When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

When Scars are Shattered book cover middle school books

A graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a former Somali refugee.

Buy it: When Stars Are Scattered on Amazon

27. Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

middle school books - Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

Set against the backdrop of the segregation history of the American South, take a trip with an 11-year-old boy who is about to discover that the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem—his G’ma included.

Buy it: Clean Getaway on Amazon

28. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

middle school books - Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Grayson is caught between knowing she’s a girl and everyone believing she’s a boy. This is a beautifully written story about self-esteem and empowerment.

Buy it: Gracefully Grayson on Amazon

29. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief book cover

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books.

Buy it: The Book Thief on Amazon

30. George by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino

George knows she’s a girl, but everyone else sees her as a boy. Gino does a masterful job of taking us into what social ignorance about gender assignment feels like.

Buy it: George on Amazon

31. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

middle school books - Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Genius Willow Chance loses both parents in a car crash, but she is nonetheless able to both change her life and impact those around her.

Buy it: Counting by 7s on Amazon

32. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio - middle school books

Born with extraordinary physical deformities, Auggie finally braves going to an actual school. He is stared at and tormented, but he also finds friendship. Middle schoolers will cheer for him and also cry for him.

Buy it: Wonder on Amazon

33. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Wonder by R.J. Palacio - middle school books

Castle Crenshaw, known as Ghost, has been running ever since his father threatened him and his mother with a gun. It’s not until he starts running for the middle school track team that he begins to see what running can do for him.

Buy it: Ghost on Amazon

34. Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass

Ellen Outside The Lines by A.J. Sass - middle school books

Ellen is a neurodiverse kid with a best friend who helps her navigate through school and sometimes confusing social situations. But when new friends and opportunities come along, Ellen has a chance to learn even more about how she actually fits into the world.

Buy it: Ellen Outside the Lines on Amazon

35. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - middle school books

Ponyboy and his brothers, Darry and Sodapop, have a tough life. They know they can count on their friends—true friends who will do anything for them. Unfortunately, the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids, make them prove their loyalties after a night of fighting goes too far.

Buy it: The Outsiders on Amazon

36. Nikhil Out Loud by Maulik Pancholy

Nikhil Out Loud - middle school books

Nikhil is a 13-year-old gay Indian American boy who depends on his voice for his joy—he’s a voice actor for a popular cartoon. Then he ends up in a small Ohio town trying to put on a school musical. This is a relevant and touching story kids will love.  

Buy it: Nikhil Out Loud on Amazon

37. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander - middle school books
Basketball-loving twins Josh and Jordan find their way through isolation and conflict in this novel in verse by master poet Kwame Alexander.

Buy it: The Crossover on Amazon

38. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - middle school books

Melinda Sordino can’t tell anybody why she called the police to break up a party the summer before ninth grade. In fact, after the trauma she suffered, she can’t speak at all.

Buy it: Speak on Amazon

39. The Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis

The Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis - middle school books

Parvana is 11 when the Taliban comes to power in Afghanistan. Her father is arrested, and women are not allowed to leave the house without a male escort. Parvana must disguise herself and find work to save her family.

Buy it: The Breadwinner series on Amazon

40. Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine - middle school books

Ling Chang must find a way to survive after her father is taken away during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Buy it: Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party on Amazon

41. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper middle school books

Stella and her brother aren’t supposed to leave the house at night, but they run into much bigger problems when they stumble on a Ku Klux Klan rally. Stella fights racism within her community and learns about compassion in the process.

Buy it: Stella by Starlight on Amazon

42. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - middle school books

Woodson’s verse memoir tells the story of coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement.

Buy it: Brown Girl Dreaming on Amazon

43. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn - middle school books

Molly has concerns when her family moves into a church with a graveyard next door, but when her already-odd stepsister makes a sinister new friend, things get downright dangerous.

Buy it: Wait Till Helen Comes on Amazon

44. Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz middle school books

Gratz weaves together stories of child refugees in three different eras: Nazi Germany, 1990s Cuba, and present-day Syria.

Buy it: Refugee on Amazon

45. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt - middle school books

Jack Hurd gets a foster brother, Joseph, an eighth grader whose only dream is to be with his daughter.

Buy it: Orbiting Jupiter on Amazon

46. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor - middle school books

Nine-year-old Cassie Logan faces racial discrimination and financial hardship during the Great Depression.

Buy it: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry on Amazon

47. Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Uglies by Scott Westerfield - middle school books

Tally Youngblood lives in a dystopia in which all 16-year-olds have cosmetic surgery to make them pretty.

Buy it: Uglies on Amazon

48. We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist - middle school books

YouTuber Josh Sundquist tells the true story—with graphs!—of his failures in dating.

Buy it: We Should Hang Out Sometime on Amazon

49. Feed by M. T. Anderson

Feed by M. T. Anderson - middle school books

The Feed scrolls constantly through Titus’ brain, providing him with entertainment, advertising, and social networking. On a spring break trip to the Moon, he meets a girl who sees life differently.

Buy it: Feed on Amazon

50. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan - middle school books

Spoiled princess Esperanza moves from her family’s ranch in Mexico to a migrant camp during the Great Depression. She learns to rely on her inner strength and the support of her family.

Buy it: Esperanza Rising on Amazon

What are your favorite middle school books? Come share them in the WeAreTeachers Helpline group on Facebook.

Plus, check out 100 great writing prompts for middle school.

Want to know the best middle school books to use in your class? We love these life-changing selections that will help your students grow.