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10 Books About Friendship for
Tween Readers

by Kari Ness Riedel

tween friendship
Image credit: gradyreese/Getty Images

What does it mean to be a good friend? Who do I want to be friends with and who wants to be my friend? What do you do when you get in a fight with a friend?

These are universal questions that tweens wrestle with, so it’s no wonder that friendship is a very common theme in middle grade books. Stories about the power of friendships, the ups and downs of friendships, and even the loss of friendship can be found in every genre from sci-fi to historical fiction to adventure.

Some fictional friendships serve as a “mirror” for young readers and help them relate to the characters or reflect on their own relationships. Others can be a “window” into how a friend might feel and help them build empathy for peers or classmates.

Here are 10 page-turning books recommended by tween readers where friendship is a central aspect of the story.

  • Because of Mr. Terupt

    by Rob Buyea

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    Mr. Terupt is a once-in-a-lifetime teacher who sees what is unique and good about each of his students. When he suffers an accident after a snowball fight, his students are forced to come together to support their teacher. Told from alternating perspectives of seven completely different students from the class-clown to the mean-girl to the popular athlete, this book celebrates the beauty of unlikely friendships and proves that there is more to each of us than meets the eye. It’s easy to understand why this funny, hope-filled, and relatable story is beloved by so many middle grade readers.

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  • Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox

    by Michael Buckley

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    This book has so many elements that tween fantasy readers love - intergalactic robots, alien grasshoppers, battle-ready unicorns - but at its core, this is a story about friendship. When Finn's lunchbox turns into a portal to another planet, chaos ensues. He must work with his enemy, his crush, his sister, and his new robot friend to figure out how to save the world. An excellent pick for young readers who love page-turning adventures with a feel good story.

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  • Raymie Nightingale

    by Kate DiCamillo

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    Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly each have their own reason for wanting to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant. For Raymie, she knows her father will come back home if he sees her picture in the paper as the winner. When the girls first meet in baton twirling class, they are fierce competitors. But as time goes on and each one’s tender story of loss and longing unfolds, their friendship becomes the glue that helps them stick through the hardest of times. A classic tale by the beloved Kate DiCamillo that strikes the perfect balance of heart and humor.

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  • Short

    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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    Julia is a clever and observant tween who thinks the most remarkable thing about her is that she is very short for her age. When she is cast as a Munchkin in a local production of The Wizard of Oz, she grows in ways she never expected. Julia develops meaningful and important relationships with Olive — a fellow Munchkin who is an adult with dwarfism, Mrs. Chang — her “old as dirt” neighbor, and Shawn — the worldly and wise director of the play. These new friends help her discover her unique strengths and her potential to be a star in life. This story is chock full of humor, warmth, and lovable characters.

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  • Shouting at the Rain

    by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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    Delsie lives with her Grammy on the Cape year-round and can’t wait for her summer friend Brandy to arrive. But this year, Brandy would rather get a mani-pedi and talk about boys with mean-spirited Tressa than play on the beach with Delsie. As their friendship fades, Delsie finds herself spending time with Ronan, a newcomer to the Cape who also comes from an “irregular family.” They embark on an adventure to investigate an island mystery that leads them both on a journey of self-discovery and a deeper understanding of the true meaning of family and friendship. This book is perfect for fans of empathy-building stories like Fish in a Tree or Counting by 7s.

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  • The Bridge Home

    by Padma Venkatraman

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    A gripping story about two young sisters, Viji and Rukku, who leave their small village to escape their abusive father and must survive on the streets of Chennai, India. They meet two other homeless boys and a stray dog that become like family as they all work together to stay alive. This story provides a heart-wrenching yet hopeful look into the daily struggles of homeless children in many parts of the world and reminds readers that the need for friendship is universal.

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  • The Last Kids on Earth

    by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

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    After their town is hit by the monster apocalypse, video game-loving Jack and his motley crew of friends including Quint — his nerdy best friend, Dirk — the local bully, and June — his clever crush, come together to defeat one of the creepiest monsters, Blarg. This hilarious and action-packed series is told through a mix of text and illustrations, and lets young readers live out their heroic fantasies of slaying dangerous beasts to save the world.

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  • To Night Owl From Dogfish

    by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

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    Avery and Bett could not be more different. Avery is a book-obsessed introvert and a thorough planner who often lets her anxieties drive her decisions, while Bett is a free-spirited and outgoing animal-lover who usually acts without much thought of the consequences. When their dads fall in love, they are sent against their will to the same sleepaway summer camp. This hilarious book, told through a series of emails and letters, is full of unexpected adventures and follows a wonderful cast of characters that shows readers that deep friendships can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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  • Turtle Boy

    by M. Evan Wolkenstein

    Will is obsessed with turtles, but, unfortunately, that is not why the bullies at school call him “turtle boy.” He has always been self-conscious about a facial difference that makes him seem chinless, but it’s even worse now that he’s in the seventh grade. He starts to pull away from his friends and his mom, until he gets to know RJ — an older boy with an incurable disease that he meets during his bar mitzvah service project. When RJ asks Will to complete several items on his bucket list like ride a roller coaster, see his favorite band, and go to a school dance, Will is forced to face his fears and discover new things about himself. A beautiful story that tackles issues such as self-esteem, loss, and the incredible power of family and friends.

  • When You Reach Me

    by Rebecca Stead

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    Miranda and Sal have always been best friends and spend every day together exploring their New York City neighborhood. But after Sal gets punched by another kid, he suddenly stops wanting to hang out with Miranda. Miranda is feeling lost and confused as she tries to navigate life without Sal, especially when she starts receiving creepy notes from an unknown source with a prediction that someone she cares about will get hurt if she doesn’t take action. Twists and turns abound in this story which is the perfect mix of mystery, science-fiction, and realistic friendship drama. This is a must read for fans of A Wrinkle in Time.

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