Tween

Books on Growing Up for
Kids Ages 9 – 12

by Devon A. Corneal

Image credit: MoMo Productions/Getty Images

Oh, the woes of being a tween. They have so much coming at them — puberty, first crushes, homework, fights over chores, and awkward school dances — not to mention the intense desire for independence colliding with wanting to snuggle with your parent (so long as no one knows, of course).

Kids can use all the help they can get as they navigate this transitional time, and books that address all the complexities of their lives provide a great refuge from the confusion and frustration of middle school. Relatable, honest, funny, and wise, these books about growing up might be just the thing to sneak onto your tween’s nightstand.

  • The Best of Iggy

    by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sam Ricks

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    A strange thing happens to kids when they hit middle school. They start doing things they shouldn’t. Iggy is a perfect example. In fact, in this book, every single thing Iggy does is bad. Every. Single. Thing. You won’t necessarily find life lessons within these pages, but this readable, clever. and very, very funny book will distract even the grumpiest kid from their troubles.

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  • Shine!

    by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein

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    Piper Milly knows the people around her are special. Her parents are gifted musicians. The other students at Chumley Prep are smart and talented and driven to succeed. Everyone around her is stellar – except Piper. Or so she thinks. Perfect for the kids who haven’t yet discovered how they shine, this book is a wonderful reminder that we all have an important place in the world.

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  • The Season of Styx Malone

    by Kekla Magoon

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    Caleb Franklin does not want to be ordinary. He wants to be a whole lot more than whatever the small town of Sutton has planned for him. So when a new neighbor, the fast-talking and crazy-cool Styx Malone, hatches a plan to get a shiny new moped without spending a dime, Caleb and his brother Bobby Gene can’t wait to jump in. What they don’t realize, however, is how quickly things can go wrong.

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  • Harbor Me

    by Jacqueline Woodson

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    Six kids. One room. Zero adults. Too many problems to count. Deftly weaving together beautiful prose with honest and fiercely real issues facing kids today, Harbor Me shows us how important it is to be heard and understood.

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  • The Fourteenth Goldfish

    by Jennifer L. Holm

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    Ellie is 11 years old and likes things just the way they are. But then her goldfish dies, her babysitter quits, and her grandfather figures out how to reverse the aging process and shows up on her doorstep as a long-haired, slightly cranky, voraciously hungry teenager. That’s when Ellie realizes that things are never going to be the same.

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  • Parked

    by Danielle Svetcov

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    Jeanne Ann lives in a van. Cal lives in a magnificent house. Their friendship seems as unlikely as Jeanne Ann finding a permanent home before she starts seventh grade, but somehow these two very different kids bridge the financial divide between them to find common ground about what truly matters.

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  • Birdie and Me

    by J. M. M. Nuanez

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    Jack and her little brother Birdie have just lost their mother and the only home they’ve ever known. Their uncles offer to take them in, but they don’t know exactly how to raise a young girl and her gender fluid brother who loves fashion magazines and purple eyeshadow. Somehow though, these very different people find a way through their grief to become the family they were always meant to be.

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  • Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk!

    by Greg Howard

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    All the world’s a stage, and Mikey Pruitt is determined to be the agent to the stars. But for now, he’ll have to settle for getting his first client, Julien Vasquez, aka the soon-to-be-famous drag queen Coco Caliente, Mistress of Madness and Mayhem, into the North Charleston Middle School Talent Show. And maybe by helping Julien get into show business, Mikey can allow himself to show the world who he really is.

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  • Far Away

    by Lisa Graff

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    CJ’s mom died when she was just a few hours old, but ever since she can remember, CJ’s Aunt Nic has helped them talk. Using her psychic gifts, Aunt Nic has made sure that CJ has always had her mother’s guidance and love when she needs it. But now her mother has been pulled to the Far Away where CJ can’t reach her. In order to find her again, CJ will need a good friend and all her courage as she sets off to reconnect with the mother she’s never seen and learn some very hard truths.

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  • Bad Best Friend

    by Rachel Vail

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    Niki Ames doesn’t need to worry about being popular. She has her best friend Ava, which is why eighth grade is going to be a breeze. At least that’s how things were supposed to be. But when Ava chooses a more popular clique over her long-time bestie, Niki is left alone, wondering who her real friends are and how she’ll ever get through middle school.

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  • Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

    by Jessica Kim

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    Yumi’s family expects great things from her. That’s why they left Seoul and work long hours at the family restaurant. They want her to follow in her sister’s footsteps to college and then medical school. But Yumi secretly dreams of being a comedian, and when she’s mistakenly accepted in a summer comedy camp, she can’t resist the opportunity, even if it means disappointing her family.

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  • Wink

    by Rob Harrell

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    Middle school is tough. Eye cancer is worse. Ross Maloy has to deal with both at once. As if seventh grade weren’t bad enough, Ross spends his spare time in radiation treatments with a wise-cracking technician named Frank, instead of hanging with his friends. Surprisingly though, Ross manages to embrace his experiences with humor and courage, and “wink” at his unexpectedly crazy life.

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  • Silver Meadows Summer

    by Emma Otheguy

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    When Carolina’s father loses his job, her family must leave their home in Puerto Rico to live with her aunt and uncle in New York. Instead of spending her summer on the island, Carolina finds herself thrown into Silver Meadows camp, where nothing is familiar. As her home life changes, so does Carolina’s sense of self as she tries to cling to the things she has always loved while adapting to an entirely new world.

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  • When You Reach Me

    by Rebecca Stead

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    Set in 1979, Miranda’s story is a little bit mystery, a little bit fantasy, and a little bit old time game show kitsch. In other words, it’s unique and completely unexpected. Someone is sending Miranda strange notes that tell her to write down a true story, but Miranda doesn’t know why. And Miranda can’t ignore them because whoever is sending them can also predict the future, and if she doesn’t write her story… someone is going to die.

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  • The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

    by Stacy McAnulty

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    Ever since she was struck by lightning, Lucy Callahan has been a math genius. Like, go to college instead of high school level genius. Before she can do that, though, her grandmother insists she go to middle school for one year. While she’s there, Lucy will have to learn that there’s a lot more to life than solving equations, and that friendships can be a lot harder than calculus.

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  • When Stars Are Scattered

    by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy

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    Based on the real-life experiences of Omar Mohamed, this graphic novel tells the story of Omar’s life in a refugee camp in Kenya. Omar’s story is one of devotion, loyalty, perseverance, hope, and growing up under challenging circumstances to create a life better than the one you were handed.

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