Vacation reads for 7th graders
by: Jerry Spinelli - (Laurel-Leaf Books, 2004) 186 pages.
When Stargirl — as she currently calls herself — arrives at Mica High, she is unlike anyone else. Homeschooled until she was 15, Stargirl wears pioneer dresses, sings “Happy Birthday” to students in the lunchroom while strumming a ukulele, and carries around a pet rat. At first the students stare and whisper, then assimilate her into their peer groups when they consider her entertaining. Eventually, however, everyone begins to shun her for her differences. Her boyfriend, Leo, experiences firsthand the perils of true nonconformity and finds he can’t endure the pressures of being different. Although Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl character may be an exaggeration, the essence of his story rings true and will encourage readers to give thought to tolerance and the price of popularity.
Perfect for: Kids who are different.
Find Stargirl at your local library.
by: Marie Lu - (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018) 288 pages.
After a car accident, 18-year-old Bruce Wayne has to do community service at Arkham Asylum, where he becomes fascinated by a beautiful, mysterious prisoner. Madeleine is the leader of the Nightwalkers, a gang that is killing Gotham City’s richest residents. When a riot breaks out and Madeleine escapes, Bruce and his high school friends, with the help of some cool WayneTech gadgets, must save the city. A short, fun read, this book is a YA coming-of-age follow-up to Batman’s dark origin story.
Perfect for: Kids who love comic books and superheroes.
Find Batman: Nightwalker at your local library.
The Poet X
by: Elizabeth Acevedo - (Harper Teen, 2018) 368 pages.
Ever since 15-year-old Xiomara Batista’s body began to change, she has been the target of harassment and unwanted attention in her Harlem neighborhood. At home, her devoutly religious mother is abusive and repressive. When Xiomara falls for a boy in her class, her only outlet for her explosive feelings is writing verses she chants to herself when she’s feeling unheard. Then her English teacher suggests she join the school’s slam poetry club, where she gets the chance to perform her poems. This book-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet is about finding your voice and the power of words. It’s also a hard and emotionally raw exploration of family, faith, and love.
Perfect for: Kids experiencing any stage of puberty.
Find The Poet X at your local library.
Dairy Queen series
by: Catherine Gilbert Murdock - (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007)
The hook: The books follow the high school passions and perils of D.J., a teen who has all the drama of a 90210 socialite — just swap out star-spotting in glitzy LA for football games and farm life in rural Wisconsin. You see, Darlene Joyce “D.J.” has been picking up the slack around her family’s dairy farm ever since her dad got hurt and her football-star brothers left to play college ball, which includes a daily five a.m. wake-up call to milk their 32 cows. A little on the husky side, D.J. is also a major football fan. When she decides to become a player, there’s drama, dissent, and a little dalliance with the rival team’s quarterback.
Perfect for: hardworking, athletic girls who love their families, their sports, and their lives — even when they don’t all come wrapped in a pretty package.
The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
by: Michael Scott - (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2007) 400 pages.
The hook: Twins Josh and Sophie Newman are spending the summer with their aunt and working in San Francisco while their parents are away on an archaeological dig. One day when Josh is working at his bookstore job, a black limousine pulls up and several men in overcoats step out. They kidnap the wife of the bookstore owner, an ancient metal-bound book is stolen, and Sophie and Josh must run for their lives with the bookstore owner.
A great pick for Harry Potter fans, The Alchemyst does not disappoint readers longing for another series to be excited about. The story is filled with enough battles and magic to satisfy even the most cynical teen fantasy fans. Look for the next book in the series, The Magician.
Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.
American Born Chinese
by: Gene Luen Yang - (Square Fish, 2008) 240 pages.
Told in graphic novel form, American Born Chinese juggles themes of self-image, cultural identity, peer pressure, and self-acceptance. In a series of three connected tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, a socially isolated teenager who has recently moved from San Francisco’s Chinatown to an exclusive white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock; and the Monkey King from Chinese mythology. Their stories unite into a wonderful novel that is funny and truly poignant. Gene Luen Yang’s amazing illustrations perfectly complement the narrative. Winner of the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award, American Born Chinese will resonant with all types of readers.
Perfect for: Kids who likes to learn about other cultures.
Find American Born Chinese at your local library.
CHERUB: Divine Madness
by: Robert Muchamore - (Simon Pulse, 2013) 400 pages.
Formed during WWII, CHERUB is an elite, secret sector of the British Security Service that employs minors aged 9 to 17 — mostly orphans — as intelligence officers. The 12 books in the first series are stay-up-late page-turners. Savvy, capable heroes and heroines infiltrate gangs, take down terrorists, and investigate international arms dealers, all while maintaining covers as “normal” teenagers.
Perfect for: Your high-flying daredevil, problem-solving genius of a middle-schooler.
Find Divine Madness at your local library.
by: Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams - (Scholastic, 2009) 480 pages.
Initially called the next Harry Potter, this wonderful adventure stands well enough on its own. Fourteen-year-old Will Burrows has a passion for archeological digging with his father in the abandoned train tunnels and underground shafts around their home in Highfield, England. When his father disappears, Will suspects that he may be in danger connected to some secret excavation. Tunnels reveals a subterranean culture that is hostile to “Topsoilers.” This is a superb fantasy story with danger, intrigue, and alternate worlds that will ignite your child’s imagination.
Perfect for: Kids who like mysteries.
Find Tunnels at your local library.
The Shadow Hero
by: Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by: Sonny Liew - (First Second, 2014) 176 pages.
This graphic novel tells the story of the Green Turtle, the pioneering Asian American superhero first introduced in the 1940s. Gene Luen Yang brings him back to life with this origin story that Batman and Superman fans will love. Hank Chu, the 19-year-old son of Chinese immigrant grocers, is exposed to toxic radiation and eventually lives up to his fate of becoming a World War II superhero by defending China, America’s ally, against the Japanese army.
Perfect for: Comic book fans who love a good origin story.
Find The Shadow Hero at your local library.
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
by: Kirsten Miller - (Bloomsbury, 2006) 400 pages.
Mysterious, exotic, and dangerous, 13-year-old Kiki Strike is the mastermind behind a band of fearless girl spies who discover a network of hidden tunnels beneath New York City. The first in an edgy and irreverent trilogy, this story celebrates girl power in thoroughly unexpected ways.
Perfect for: Faithful friends and gritty adventurers.
Find Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City at your local library.
Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica
by: James A. Owen - (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006) 336 pages.
The hook: When an Oxford professor is murdered in 1917 London, three young men find themselves in possession of an ancient atlas of all imaginary lands from myth and legend. They journey by ship to displace an evil king, protecting the atlas with their lives. The books in this series are full of allusions to the full literary canon of fantasy and mythology, and the end of the first story reveals the secret literary identities of the three friends.
Perfect for: Fans of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
The Ender quintet
by: Orson Scott Card - (Tor Books, 1985) 384 pages.
The hook: In a desperate attempt to win a century-long war with an alien race, Earth breeds genetically modified geniuses to train as child soldiers. Ten-year-old Ender Wiggins excels at the simulated tactical war games used in military training. But when he resists his role in saving the human race, the adults must decide how far to push him. This riveting series raises compelling questions about empathy and morality and is a good gateway to reading for pleasure, particularly for older tween boys who would rather be playing video games. Parents should note that the books contain violence, bullying, and some mild profanity.
Want to see the movie? The 2013 film starring Harrison Ford adapts the futuristic sci-fi plot of the first book to the big screen.
Perfect for: Video game lovers.