Book recommendations for kids who are between age groups

Inside Out made me feel a lot of things (BING BONG), and it came out before I had kids, so I imagine that Inside Out 2 is going to destroy me even more. But I’m glad kids this age can see themselves represented in this confusing time in their lives — they’re going through so many things, and it can be tough to know the best way to deal with them. When it comes to books, they might feel a little “too old” for middle grade titles, but some of the topics in YA might feel intimidating. We put together some book recommendations that we think will speak to them, and to you, if you decide to read along!

Something Like Home by Andrea Beatriz Arango 

Laura has a plan: She will live with her parents again. While staying at her aunt’s house is okay, it just isn’t the same as being in her own space.So when Laura finds a puppy, it seems like fate. If she can train the puppy to become a therapy dog, then maybe she’ll be allowed to visit her parents. Maybe the dog will help them get better and things will finally go back to the way they should be. How do you explain that you’re not where you belong, and you just want to go home?

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team — a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada’s mother is too humiliated by her twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute — she sneaks out to join him. Susan Smith is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan — and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. Will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime?

Drama by Reina Telegemeier

Callie loves theater, but she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department’s stage crew, and she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway. But she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Latki — and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. But just as Perry’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by a fairy who reveals that Perry is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: Perry must free her people from tyranny.

Salt To The Sea by Ruta Septys

Winter 1945. WWII. Four refugees. Four stories. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies, war. As thousands desperately flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. But not all promises can be kept . . .

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver

Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do: saving and healing creatures around Boston. Their home is full of dragons, squelches, and diggles. But their work must be kept secret — others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”? One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared — along with nearly all the monsters. With only a handful of clues  to guide her, Cordelia must find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is).

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Lately, Bryan’s been feeling it in all kinds of ways. He knows what’s tight for him in a good way — reading comics, drawing superheroes, and hanging out with no drama. But drama’s hard to escape where he’s from, and that gets him wound up tight. And now Bryan’s new friend Mike is challenging him to have fun in ways that are crazy risky. At first, it’s a rush following Mike, but Bryan never feels right acting wrong. Fortunately, his favorite comic heroes shed light on his dilemma, reminding him that he has the power to stand up for what he believes is right.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Last Day On Mars by Kevin Emerson

It is Earth year 2213 — but, of course, there is no Earth anymore. The human race has fled to Mars, but this was only a temporary solution while they prepared for a second trip. Liam is the son of two scientists who have been racing against time to create technology vital to humanity’s survival. Liam and his friend Phoebe will be on the last starliner to depart before Mars, like Earth before it, is destroyed. But Liam and Phoebe will make a series of profound discoveries about the nature of time and space and find out that the human race is just one of many in our universe locked in a dangerous struggle for survival.

When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

A small village on a Jamaican island; a girl who doesn’t remember the previous summer; a best friend who is no longer acting like one; a new girl who fills that hole in her heart. A summer of finding fallen mangos, creating made up games and dancing in the rain. Secrets she keeps from others…and herself. The courage to face the truth even in the toughest of storms.

Alan Cole is Not a Coward by Eric Bell

Alan Cole can’t stand up to his cruel brother, Nathan. He can’t escape the wrath of his demanding father. And he can’t let the cute boy across the cafeteria know he has a crush on him. But when Nathan discovers Alan’s secret, his older brother announces a high-stakes round of Cole vs. Cole. Each brother must complete seven nearly impossible tasks. If Alan doesn’t want to be outed, he’s got to become the most well-known kid in school, get his first kiss, and stand up to Dad. May the best Cole win.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

“Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dreadlocked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has mad beats, too. Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price.

Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies. So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. But Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. To rescue her from the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful force of all.

The Last Cuenista by Donna Barba Higuera

Petra Peña wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children — among them Petra and her family — have been chosen to journey to a new planet. Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet — and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has purged the memories of all aboard, or purged them altogether. Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for the future. 

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. The students of Mica High are enchanted. Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. 

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

The Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city running on technology no one had ever seen before. When the enigmatic architects disappeared, they left behind the Old York Cipher — a puzzle laid into the shining city, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, the puzzle has never been solved. Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment — until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the remaining Morningstarr buildings. If Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to solve the Old York Cipher. 

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

On the island, the wind, water, and trees shelter the nine children who go to sleep in their cabins with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. Only one thing changes: Each year, a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them — and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again. Today is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility is to teach Ess everything she needs to know. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will take her away forever from the only home she’s known?