I love pairing people with books. I think about who they are, what they might enjoy, what they would put down in 5 minutes, and how fast they read. If someone is a slower reader, a book that takes a while to get in to probably isn’t the best bet. Not all of my students are big time readers – shocking, I know – so I can’t just assume they’ll dive into the same stories that have captivated me. Then there’s also the age and maturity difference. That definitely plays a factor.
These are books that I’ve personally recommended to my students lately.
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Student requested: An easy-to-follow storyline with some romance thrown in.
After a week, my non-reader student told me she’d finished this book! She’d stayed up late and even read while some of her teachers were talking. She was so invested in these characters and desperate to see how their storylines played out. That’s exactly how I’d felt when I read it earlier this year! Annabel was a model with a bright future, until that future was suddenly over. Then she meets Owen, a guy full of mystery who makes Annabel finally feel seen.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Student requested: A graphic novel that was a little bit different.
That’s a perfect way to describe this story! The illustrations are unique, compared to what I’ve read, and the story is definitely different. Nimona is a shapeshifter with a whole lot of spunk.She teams up with Lord Blackheart, a well known villain, to bring down the “heroes” and prove that they aren’t who they appear to be. A twist on the usual hero vs. villain storyline, this book will keep you on your toes!
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Student requested: An adventure book of epic proportions.
When a non-reader approaches me and says they want to read about an adventure, this is the first book I think of. This boy in particular is hard to please, gets bored easily, and doesn’t think reading can be even remotely fun. Then I put this book in his hands. He flipped through it, eyes wide at the page count, and said, “Wait…is this really a book?” YES! It has illustrations and transcripts, diagrams and even classic paragraphs. This book takes place during 2575 and a war is raging over a planet. No one is safe and no one can be trusted. You have to read it to believe it, folks.
The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Student requested: A book that was kind of like Percy Jackson.
Not only is this book LIKE Percy Jackson, but it was written by the same author and has some crossover to that beloved series. This is the story of Magnus Chase, the cousin of Percy’s girlfriend Annabeth Chase. Magnus’s storyline doesn’t stick to the Greek or Roman family line as Riordan’s previous books, but rather detours through Norse mythology. It’s got personality and grit, it’s just different enough to feel like a new story, while still feeling comfortable like you’re reading an old friend (AKA Percy).
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Student requested: A fairy tale, “but like a different fairy tale.”
That’s literally what the student said. She didn’t want Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, she wanted something new and fresh. I pointed her towards The Lunar Chronicles but she wasn’t interested. (Don’t worry, I’ll work her up to it!) So then I gently forced her towards Shannon Hale. The Books of Bayern series reads like a classic fairy tale, but it also feels new and different. It has magical elements that are really interesting to read about and characters that jump off the pages.
Do you have books that you’d recommend to middle schoolers? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy reading! – Caitlyn