Holes by Louis Sachar
This is a fun—and funny—book, even though the subject touches on some tough stuff. Sentenced to a juvenile detention “camp” for a crime he didn’t commit, Stanley Yelnats and his fellow juvenile delinquents are forced to dig holes in the desert to build character. It doesn’t take Stanley long to figure out the Warden is looking for something, and Stanley finds himself in real danger. Boys will love this smart jigsaw puzzle of a book, told with heart and a sense of humor.
The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember)
by Jeanne DuPrau
Ember, a 200 year old city enclosed in a dome and surrounded by a dark unknown, was built to ensure that humans would continue to exist on Earth. The instructions for getting out, however, have been lost and forgotten. Two 12 year old kids, Lina and Doon, become convinced that Ember is falling apart. Time is of the essence, and they work frantically to find a way to escape the city and convince their friends and neighbors that leaving everything that is familiar to them is the only way to survive.
Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel:
13 year old Ben’s new sibling Zan isn’t exactly ordinary: a hairy, baby chimp that will be raised as part of the family in an experiment run by Ben’s father, a behavioral psychologist. Ben learns to communicate with Zan through sign language, and he develops a connection with the chimp, even though he realizes that his father views Zan as just a scientific specimen. What will happen to Zan when the experiment is over?
Unwind (Unwind Dystology) by Neal Shusterman:
Set in the future, parents or guardians can choose to have their disappointing or disobedient children unwound, which involves having every part of their bodies harvested to be “donated” to another person. Technically, this means they don’t really die. The story follows three teens whose stories intertwine when they escape on their way to having their organs harvested.
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan:
Hopefully your first introduction to this series wasn’t the movie, because in the case of The Lightning Thief, the old saying is true: these books are a thousand percent better than the movie. Funny, inventive and full of action, these books bring mythology to life in a sassy, zany way. Percy Jackson, a misfit teen, discovers he is a Half-Blood, the child of a mortal and the god Poseidon. He and his newly discovered Half-Blood friends embark on a series of quests to save the world. You will never view the Greek gods the same way after reading Rick Riordan’s descriptions of them—and you won’t forget them, either.
The Maze Runner (Book 1) by James Dashner:
The Maze Runner opens with Thomas waking up in an elevator, knowing nothing except his own name. The elevator opens to “the glade,” a completely enclosed environment that’s home to about 50 other teen boys. Some of the boys have been in “the glade” for two years, trying to find a way to escape through a maze that surrounds them. When a comatose girl arrives in the elevator with a strange note, their world begins to change.
The Schwa was Here by Neal Schusterman:
When Anthony “Antsy” and his friends meet Calvin Schwa, they are impressed and puzzled by his ability to appear and disappear before their very eyes. This isn’t a fantasy book—the “Schwa” is simply so unnoticeable that he is simply ignored and excluded to an exaggerated degree. There’s a lot of humor, and the story follows Antsy and the Schwa as their friendship is forged through schemes, their resulting punishment, and a rivalry over a girl.
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen:
Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House is scheduled to be built on top of the burrows of some endangered Floridian owls, and its up to three resourceful kids to stop the construction in time and save them. This is a funny book with an important ecological theme.
Tangerine by Edward Bloor:
7th grader Paul moves to Tangerine, Florida with his family, which includes his mean older brother Erik, a football star. As Paul adjusts to his new home, he learns some important things about himself and his family. A layered story with some mystery to it.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney:
This very funny, very relatable book is a “novel in cartoons,” and Middle School boys will love every single book in this series. The entire series is a pioneer in the genre, both in the storytelling technique and the road to publication. Diary of a Wimpy Kid was first released online in 2004, where it was read 20 million times! Kids and adults will laugh out loud as they read about Greg’s troubles with friends, family and school.
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness 1: Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver:
This is the first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. It takes place 6000 years ago and tells the story of Torak, a boy of the Wolf Clan. Evil stalks the land, and according to legend, only Torak and his best friend (a wolf) can defeat it. This is a coming of age story that highlights friendship, courage and adventure. Animal lovers will be drawn to this book—some chapters are even told through the wolf.
Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) by Suzanne Collins:
Suzanne Collins is known more for her Hunger Games series than this one, but that’s a shame because The Underland Chronicles needs to be more widely appreciated. This is a five book series about Gregor and his two-year-old sister after they fall into an amazing underground world underneath New York City. Taken in by people who have lived beneath the earth for centuries, they learn about the giant-sized talking creatures that also reside there, including bats, cockroaches, and vicious rats. Gregor just wants to get home, but a prophecy hints that he may be the “overlander” destined to save the humans from the warlike rodents. The world building in the Overlander books is amazing, and Gregor’s journeys are gripping right until the very last book, Gregor and the Code of Claw.
Stormbreaker (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz:
This is the first book of the Alex Rider series. When his guardian and uncle, Ian, is mysteriously killed, Alex discovers that his uncle was not the bank vice-president he purported to be, but rather a spy for the British government. Now the government wants Alex to take over his uncle’s mission: investigating Sayle Enterprises, the makers of a revolutionary computer called Stormbreaker.
Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan:
If the title wasn’t enough to tell you, this book is for fans of the macabre. Darren Shan and his friend Steve visit a freak show where an encounter with a vampire changes their lives forever.
Beneath by Roland Smith:
A year after Pat’s older brother Coop ran away, Pat receives a package containing a mysterious message from him. Pat follows the clues to New York City and discovers that Coop has joined the Community, a society living beneath the streets. Now it’s up to Pat to find his brother—and bring him home.
Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Scott Seegert:
Evil mastermind Vordak the Incomprehensible shares his “evilosity” with aspiring supervillains in this hilarious spoof on superheroes. His comical narration features over-the-top self-congratulation matched by supreme contempt for readers and everyone else. He even dedicates the book to himself: “To me, without whom not a single one of my glorious accomplishments would have been possible.” There’s no shortage of fart jokes, which younger boys will especially appreciate.
Big Nate: Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce:
These books are sure to appeal to fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Big Nate is an accidental mischief maker, and definitely NOT the teacher’s pet.
Spy Camp (Spy School) by Stuart Gibbs:
Middle schooler Ben Ripley was recruited by the C.I.A. as a secret agent. Or was it all a big mistake? Join him on his action-packed adventures as he navigates his new job.
The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen:
To unify a kingdom on the edge of collapse, a nobleman devises a plan to turn an orphan boy into the long-lost prince of Carthya. Sage is one of the four boys plucked from the streets, and he wants nothing to do with the throne, yet his life depends on him playing the role. He uncovers dangerous secrets as he’s brought from orphanage to estate and palace, until finally, he reveals the truth that brings Carthya once again to the edge of collapse. This is the first book in the Ascendance trilogy.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman:
This is the story of Nobody Owens, who taken in by a cemetery full of ghosts as a baby after an assassin killed his parents.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman:
Delightfully creepy and just the right amount of scary, this book is about a girl named Coraline who ventures into a world that seems like hers but is much darker. How will she escape and return home to her parents?
Wonder by R. J. Palacio:
10 year old Auggie Pullman has a facial deformity that has kept him out of school, but for his 5th grade year he’s going mainstream. The book is told through different characters, so readers see his transition through several perspectives.
Paperboy by Vince Vawter:
Set in 1959, this is an autobiographical novel about the experiences of the author—here, Little Man—when he takes over his friend’s paper route. Little Man stutters, and over the course of his adventures on the paper route he learns how to overcome this obstacle, or at least, how to not let it hold him back.
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea:
Mr. Terupt is a 5th grade teacher, and this book is story is told in alternating points of view by the students in his class.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander:
This is a story told in poems, but not just any poems—strong, engaging poems that play with language and structure and will definitely appeal to boys. The poems are told through Josh’s point of view and focus on basketball and his relationship with his twin brother and his parents.
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart:
12 year old Mark has been fighting cancer for the past seven years. He’s tired of the endless round of doctors and treatments, so he runs away with his dog Beau to climb Mount Rainier. Animal lovers will love reading about how Beau helps Mark on the journey.