The more I read, the more personal quirks I find. I recently discovered that I really like diary style middle grade books. These are books written like diary entries or sometimes as letters to a deceased relative (which, to me, counts as diary entries). If you’ve been on the hunt for diary style books for tweens like I am, you’ll love the stories on this list. There’s a book written only in lists, several graphic novels, a couple of books tackling hard issues like eating disorders and foster care, and many funny and feel-good books!
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10+ Best Middle Grade Books Written as Diary Entries
Here are 10+ of the best diary style tween books:
The First Magnificient Summer
Published: May 30, 2023
It’s Tori and her siblings’ first summer with their father and his new family since he left their family over two years ago. Tori and her siblings soon realize that their father is still emotionally abusive. This heartwrenching, emotionally resonant book about dealing with difficult parents is told in intimate diary entries.
Lasagna Means I Love You
Published: February 21, 2023
11-year-old Mo has lost her Nan (and sole guardian). So, Mo’s entering the foster care system. She ends up with a well-to-do couple who seem delighted to have her. There, Mo tries recipes and even starts a website for all the family recipes she’s been collecting. But then, Mo’s world is turned upside down again. This is an achingly tender portrait of a girl searching for a family written as dated letters to her dead Nan.
Published: June 2, 2009
This book needs no introductions! Nikki Maxwell is starting eighth grade at a new school—and her very first diary is packed with hilarious stories and art. Nikki confesses all in her first diary ever: her epic battle with her mom for an iPhone, meeting her new soon-to-be BFFs Chloe and Zoey, falling for adorably sweet crush Brandon, dealing with her zany little sister Brianna’s antics—and the immediate clashes with mean girl MacKenzie, who becomes Nikki’s rival in a school-wide art competition.
Published: September 21, 2021
Nat never feels good enough for anything or anyone, but at least she has a best friend who likes her — until her best friend starts ignoring her and hanging out with a much cooler girl. Nat becomes fixated on impressing her ex-best friend back into friendship with her. But as time goes on, she starts to learn that she is enough. I really liked the illustrations in this one and the way the story is told through Nat’s diary entries. It’s also part of a graphic novel series!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Published: April 1, 2007
This is another popular series, much like Dork Diaries. It’s also been made into a movie. It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary. If your kids love this series, here are more books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
The Night Diary
Published: March 6, 2018
This is a heartbreaking middle grade book about a girl’s experience during the partition of India. Nisha is caught between her Hindu-Indian and Muslim-Indian sides. She’s also dealing with the loss of her mother. So when her country starts to split in two, her search for identity becomes even more meaningful. There’s a reason why this one is a Newbery Honor book. If your kids loved this book, here’s a list of more books like The Night Diary.
Big Apple Diaries
Published: August 17, 2021
Big Apple Diaries is Alyssa Bermudez’s graphic memoir detailing her life experiences in New York City between the 7th and 8th grades. Her middle school years also coincide with the attack on 9/11 and the book documents the impact on her and her circle. Prior to that, though, Alyssa is an average tween who attends a Catholic co-ed school, likes doodling, and has a crush on a schoolmate named Alejandro. Her parents are also divorced, so she spends time between each of their apartments in New York.
This is a much-needed personal account of 9/11 that will appeal to a younger audience. I would recommend this one to kids ages 11 and up.
Taylor Before and After
Published: February 18, 2020
In journal entries alternating between two timelines―before and after a tragic accident―Jennie Englund’s heartfelt coming-of-age story, Taylor Before and After follows the year that changes one girl’s life forever. Through everything, Taylor has her notebook, a diary of the year that one fatal accident tears her life apart. In entries alternating between the first and second semester of her eighth-grade year, she navigates joy and grief, gain and loss, hope and depression.
How can Taylor pick up the pieces of what used to be her social life? How can her house ever feel like home again after everything that’s happened? And how can she move forward if she can’t stop looking back?
Published: February 19, 2019
I liked this book about a girl in treatment for anorexia. The author does a fantastic job depicting the experience of struggling with an eating disorder and how non-linear the healing process can be. The story feels authentic and is highly insightful about the therapy process. I also liked the diary-style format.
Published: November 7, 2017
Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favorite subject: people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back? This is a cute graphic novel with more text than pictures! If you’re buying on Amazon, be sure to “Look inside” so you know what it looks like.
Annie’s Life in Lists
Published: May 29, 2018
Annie is a shy fifth-grader with a remarkable memory for people, their idiosyncrasies, and life’s moments in general. Things change for Annie after her knack for remembering seemingly leads her family to moving from Brooklyn, NY to a tiny town called Clover Gap. This a uniquely written, sweet portrayal of a young girl finding her voice and loving it. With an endearing protagonist, this book tackles coping with a move, handling the evolution of friendships, and finding home in a new place.
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
Published: August 18, 2020
Isaiah’s father has died, leaving behind Isaiah, his mom, and his younger sister, Charlie. Isaiah’s mom is so depressed she’s lost her job — and started drinking too many bottles of wine. Isaiah realizes that they need money if they’ll ever move out of the motel where they’ve had to live since being unable to pay for their home.
Thankfully, Isaiah has his father’s books of poems (even if his own words won’t come anymore), his best friend Sneaky who sells candy at school (and lets Isaiah be his business partner), and the kind people who look out for him once they realize he’s in need.
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Published: May 19, 2015
If you loved The Princess Diaries, then you’ll enjoy this prequel by the same author! It’s all about the life of Princess Mia’s long-lost half-sister Olivia.
There they are: 10+ of the best diary style books for tweens! Which of these books have you read and loved? Which ones did I miss?
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