8th grade is a tough age for finding just the right book. That's because 13-14 year-olds may not yet want to read YA fiction, but they also don't want to read middle grade books about 9 year olds. These books fall in the "upper middle grade" category, and are well-suited for 8th graders. Use this as recommended books for year round reading, or as an 8th grade summer reading list!
I've curated an eclectic and diverse of titles selection for this reading list for 8th graders so whether your middle schooler wants realistic fiction, historical reads or fantasy they are sure to find the perfect book.
More book lists for 8th graders:
MORE: Check out all our summer reading resources, like reading bingo, the great library challenge and more.
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Would you like a printable 8th grade reading list? Grab yours at the end of the post!
These coming-of-age stories will appeal to middle schoolers navigating a world of changing friendship and turbulent emotions. The quest to figure out who you are is universal to all adolescents!
GHOST (Track series) by Jason Reynolds
Ghost is the first book in a series of sports-themed novels by an excellent middle-grade author. Castle Crenshaw, nicknamed "Ghost" because of his talent for running away, is drawn into the local track team. Ghost, who lives with his hard-working single mother, isn't sure he fits in with the team. He's not the only one on the team that struggles, however, but with the help of supportive adults, the kids find their way. I enjoyed this book and appreciated the way Reynolds created complex individuals who struggle with difficult choices, even when they make the wrong decisions.
ALL SUMMER LONG by Hope Larson
In this graphic novel, 13-year-old Bina turns to music after her parents shut down screen time. She uses music to work through her emotions about how her relationships with family and friends are changing as she gets older. A brand new graphic novel perfect for summer or when your 8th graders wishes it was summer!
GOODBYE STRANGER by Rebecca Stead
I liked the narrative style of this book a lot. There are three stories told from different viewpoints of kids growing up in New York City. Bridge, who had a severe accident when she was younger, now wears a cat-ears headband to school every day. She is getting to know fellow seventh grader, Shem, whose story Stead partly tells through his letters to an absent grandfather. A third, unnamed teenage narrator, spends the day trying to avoid someone and reflecting on her complicated friendships. The stories overlap and Stead excels when it comes to telling the complex emotional and social stories of middle schoolers and how complicated their lives can seem to them.
BEAST RIDER by Tony Johnston & María Elena Fontanot de Rhoads
This is was a captivating and harrowing tale of 12-year-old Manuel's journey on "the beast" from his home in a Mexican village to the United States. Migrants refer to the northbound train as "the beast" and Manuel's journey is anything but easy and safe. He encounters violence, set-backs as well as helpful and compassionate persons. When he finally makes it across the border and reunites with his older brother he tries to settle into a new way of life, but it is difficult and he must decide where he wants his home to be.
GIRL OF THE SOUTHERN SEA by Michelle Kadarusman
In Indonesia, fourteen year old Nita wants to continue her education so she can become a writer but her family lacks the funds. Nita is determined, however. When her father falls ill, Nita takes over the food cart where he sells banana fritters to support the family. Her father, however, can't stop spending money on alcohol so Nita must assert her independence and make choices that separate herself from her father. All the while, Nita uses her talents to imagine up stories about Dewi Kadits, a Javanese princess in traditional folklore. This was a wonderful book that will take readers to a part of the world they don't frequently have the opportunity to visit in literature.
MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
My son has enjoyed James Patterson's middle grade books. True, they are not the most intellectually challenging books, but not every book an 8th grader reads needs to address existential questions. This is Patterson's first middle grade novel and he has many more for kids who want a light and funny read that still addresses all the difficulties, insecurities, ups and downs of the middle school years.
MORE: Books for 12 year olds
Fantasy and Sci-Fi
Young tees love to indulge in a little fantasy reading! Add these books to your 8th grader's reading list.
TIME TRAVELING WITH A HAMSTER by Ross Welford
In this, one of the few children's books with a British Indian protagonist, Al Chaudhury gets a letter and a hamster from his deceased father. The letter tells him to find his father's time travel machine and go back in time to avert a disaster. A fun and suspenseful read.
MORE: Time Travel Books
FROGKISSER! by Garth Nix
This is a great book for fantasy fans who want an advanced fairy tale read by don't get want the story lines bogged down in romance. Princess Anya must go on a quest to find the ingredients to a Transmorgification Reversal Lip Balm as well as escape the devious plans of her stepfather, Duke Rikard. Her talking dog, Ardent, accompanies her on her adventure, which is full of twists, turns, curious and fascinating characters and lots of laughs. It is not a retelling of any one specific fairy tale, but the book includes references to many familiar stories.
THE MARK OF THE THIEF (trilogy) by Jennifer A Nielsen
This incredibly thrilling trilogy is packed full of action and twists behind every corner. Nic and his sister are slaves in mines just outside of Ancient Rome. When Nic discovers an ancient bulla that once belonged to Julius Caesar, the bulla infuses him with a power. He becomes both a target and a pawn in a political conspiracy.
THE SHADOW CIPHER (series) by Laura Ruby
In this elaborate story, three friends band together in New York City to solve a cipher that connects their apartment building to a centuries-old mystery of how the city was conceived. This is a hefty, compelling book with stellar writing, and complex, well-rounded characters.
THE HERO AND THE CROWN (series) by Robin McKinley
McKinley has created a richly detailed fantasy world with well-developed and complex characters. Aerin, the king of Damar's daughter is feared because of her mother and her unusual red-hair. But Aerin decides not to let others decide her destiny. An extremely rewarding read.
I've purposely chosen historical novels for this 8th grade reading list which I think will appeal to kids who think they hate historical fiction!
DODGER BOY by Sarah Ellis
I loved this short novel! In 1970s Vancouver 13-year-old Charlotte is learning how navigate the life of a teenager. Her family are Quakers and practice non-violence so it is only natural for them to help out Tom Ed, a young Texan escaping the Vietnam War draft. I love the conversations Tom Ed and Charlotte have about everything from politics, civil rights, women’s lib and civil disobedience. Meanwhile, Charlotte is working on an important speech that she has to give when her best friend becomes unavailable. This is an excellent book and as you can imagine, is a conversation starter.
ECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This masterful novel is told in several parts that cross historical and cultural boundaries. A single harmonica is thread that binds three narratives about children in trouble. Friedrich dreams of being a conductor, but lives in Hitler's Germany. Mike Flannery is an orphan in Depression Era Pennsylvania and Ivy Lopez's family works as migrant laborers. Music is such an integral part of the story and so I also recommend the audiobook format which is absolutely stellar. Ages 9 and up.
HATTIE BIG SKY (series) Kirby Larson
In 1918, 16-year-old Hattie, an orphan, travels to Iowa, determined to make her recently deceased uncle's homestead in Montana her own. But, she must tame the land in a year in order to keep it as her own. The narration is coupled with short articles that Hattie writes to a newspaper about her experiences and letters she writes to her friend Charlie, who is at war in France. Hattie's life is hard and she relies on her neighbors to help her out, but there are also fellow homesteaders who are not so supportive. This is a fantastic book and a good choice for advanced readers.
THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE by Karen Cushman
In case you're new here, I love Cushman's books! Brat, who is a 13-ish year old orphaned, homeless girl is taken on as a midwife's apprentice. She proves to be a speedy learner and a hard worker but when she makes a mistake her embarrassment is such that she runs away. The resulting adventure and her eventual return is a page-turner that even kids who think they hate history will revel in. It is not a long novel and so is good for advanced readers and reluctant readers alike.
THE INQUISITOR'S TALE: OR, THE THREE MAGICAL CHILDREN AND THEIR HOLY DOG by Adam Gidwitz.
Multiple narrators describe the adventures of several children and their (potentially) holy dog. This book is an amazing mix of morality tale and puzzling mystery. Jeanne with her psychic visions, Willian, a biracial Muslim monk with superhuman skills, and Jacob, a Jewish fleeing his destroyed village who has healing powers come together for an adventure that enriches their lives, as well as the lives of the readers.
Poetry for 8th Graders
Did you think an 8th grade reading list could be complete without poetry? Think again!
TECHNICALLY, IT'S NOT MY FAULT by John Grandits
In Grandits' collection, an 11-year-old boy narrates the poems which touch on topics like pizza, sisters, school, imaginative roller coasters and all manner of humorous musings. Also check out his poems in the book, Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems, which are narrated from the perspective of a 15 year old high school girl.