This past semester in my Women & Lit class, we discussed women and monsters and began to wrap up the semester by reading a middle grade novel, Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. It had been a long time since I had read middle grade and while reading Pet I was reminded of just how incredible the literature is. Middle grade may seem simple, but it is full of complex books with diverse stories, interesting takes on the world and amazing authors. So, here’s some of the best middle grade books to check out; some are my personal favorites, others are what I’ve seen recommended by people who inspire me. Middle grade literature is worth the read I promise.
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
A book about a young girl named Jam, a creature emerging from a canvas, and a discovery of the world as it is, not as it is presented; this book is breathtaking, thought provoking, and one of my favorite recent reads.
- Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
This is a novel written in verse, about a young girl named Jude as she leaves all that she knew behind in Syria to move to Cincinnati, OH. It’s about identity, home, and grappling with how one fits in a new place while also still being connected to where they came from.
- Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
I absolutely adore this book, my teacher read it to our class when we were in fifth grade, and I’ve since read it again as an adult and I love it just as much. It’s about the origins of Rumpelstiltskin, and tells the tale of a twelve year old named Rump who can spin straw into gold and who is in desperate search for a new name.
- The Crossover by Kwami Alexander
Another novel in verse, The Crossover is about basketball, but also about family, identity, and growing up. Lyrical, rhythmic, and absolutely breathtaking this book is definitely worth the read.
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
A middle grade graphic novel, this book is three interwoven stories about growing up and finding one’s place in the world. This book is incredibly moving and jam packed with amazing coloring and illustrations.
- Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman
Gayle Forman’s (author of If I Stay) foray into the world of middle grade literature is packed with 80s nostalgia, LGBTQ+ themes and two kids seeking to find their way in a complicated world.
- The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
The First Rule of Punk is about 12 year old Malú’s journey to start a band, find her place and make some noise.
- The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
An absolutely magical story, The Trials of Morrigan Crow is full of quirky characters, beautiful messages about being yourself and intense suspense as Morrigan tries to find her place in the world of Nevermoor.
- Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee
A beautiful book about grappling with identity, family, race and the layers of all of that mixed together, Maizy Chen is an absolute must read.
- El Deafo by Cece Bell
An incredibly adorable and impactful graphic memoir, this book tells the story of author Cece Bell and her experiences growing up hearing impaired.
- Ghost by Jason Reynolds
A novel about both running for a sport and running from yourself, Ghost is an incredibly moving novel about trauma, finding oneself and connection.
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The start to the iconic Percy Jackson series, this book is witty, engaging, suspenseful and incredible. I loved reading this as a kid, and I love it to this day.
I hope you found a book that you want to pick up soon! Happy reading!