Books Tweens Can’t
Stop Talking About

by Denise Schipani

Photo credit: Comstock, Stockbyte/Getty Images

Middle grade readers – technically defined as children between the ages of 8 and 12, though they often skew younger or older – may not be ready for the tougher, teen-ier themes of young adult fiction, but they’re also way past simple chapter books.

So what titles had this tween-y, between-y group racing to the library and the bookstore recently?

We asked voracious middle grade readers to take their noses out of their books for five minutes and tell us what captivated their attention, and what they’d recommend to their friends. Here’s what they had to say.

Eliza, 12, calls the Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small quartets by Tamora Pierce, “amazing, because they are about a girl trying to train as a knight.”

The Mother-Daughter Book Club Collection, a series by Heather Vogel Frederick, comprised of six books, was top among faves cited by Sky, 12. “It’s about a group of girls who aren’t all particularly friendly toward each other whose moms plan a book club for them. The books start when the girls are in sixth grade and they follow them all the way through their junior year of high school. This series is what inspired my mom and I to start our own book club. The characters are so realistic that you can picture them in your life — in your classes at school, on your basketball team, in your theater class.”

Vampiratesa series by British author Justin Somper, was a welcome find for Erick, 9, and his mom, Rita, who says, “It’s highly original, combining two things kids love, vampires and pirates. There’s a sister and brother duo and the girl kicks butt. I don’t know why it hasn’t taken off big in the U.S. yet, but it should.”

Isabelle, 11, took a familiar path from the popular Hunger Games books to Divergentby Veronica Roth. “For once,” the middle-schooler says, “a female character steps up and becomes a hero, showing that girls can be like James Bond, or Indiana Jones.”

Grace, 12, had to be restrained from grabbing Sistersthe follow up to Smile, by Raina Telgemeier, until she got a school assignment done. But the pull was strong, given how much she adored Smile, a graphic novel about a girl who loses her teeth in an accident, and has to deal with surgery and fake teeth while also navigating the sixth grade. “It’s all about her recovery,” says Grace, who can identify with the heroine’s path back to normal.

Adelaide, 9, would like all her friends to read the Warriors series, “Because it’s written from a cat’s eye view of the world, which makes it a good read for cat lovers. It can be a little violent, but it’s an amazing series that you can’t stop reading.” Adelaide also points out how fun it is that the author, Erin Hunter, makes up new words to suit her narrative. “Humans are called ‘twolegs,’” she explains.

Mira, 10, names Wendy Mass as her favorite author. “I love her book The Candymakers, because of all the friendship and the mystery. But I like all Mass’s books because she tells them from the different perspectives of each character in each chapter.”

Daniel, 11, digs James Patterson’s Middle School series, especially the latest, Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill. “The author really gets how hard middle school can be, but it’s also fun to read because it’s graphic. Rafe is like me, and I like that.”