Middle grade action and adventure books are so exciting to read. If you enjoy fast-paced stories with heart-stopping action on every page, these are the books for you. I’ve compiled 30 of the top tween adventure books, including some with a touch of mystery and sci-fi. What I’ve left out of this list are fantasy and survival novels. I’m currently working on a list of survival middle grade books which will be up next month! But as you know, fantasy isn’t my strong suit.
In the meantime though, enjoy this list. If you’d like a printable version, find out how you can access one at the end of this post.
Best Middle Grade Action and Adventure Books
Here are 30 of the best middle grade action and adventure books:
The Eye of Ra
Published: February 27, 2021
Exploring a mysterious cave in the mountains behind their house, John and his sister Sarah are shocked to discover they’ve time traveled to ancient Egypt!
Now they must work together to find a way back home from an ancient civilization of golden desert sand and a towering new pyramid, without parents to save them. The adventures abound—cobras, scorpions, a tomb robber, and more! The two kids have to trust each other, make friends who can help, and survive the challenges thrown at them . . . or be stuck in ancient Egypt forever.
Published: March 10, 2020
Sara Martinez is a hacker. She recently broke into the New York City foster care system to expose her foster parents as cheats and lawbreakers. However, instead of being hailed as a hero, Sara finds herself facing years in a juvenile detention facility and banned from using computers for the same stretch of time. Enter Mother, a British spy who not only gets Sara released from jail but also offers her a chance to make a home for herself within a secret MI6 agency.
Operating out of a base in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from various parts of the world. When they’re not attending the local boarding school, they’re honing their unique skills, such as sleight of hand, breaking and entering, observation, and explosives. All of these allow them to go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t.
Before she knows what she’s doing, Sara is heading to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team.
No one said saving the world was easy…
Related: 31 Middle-Grade Books Set in New York City
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
Published: October 15, 2019
Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s notebook. Tristan chases after it–is that a doll?–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price.
Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
The Detective’s Assistant
Published: April 7, 2015
Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt’s doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it’s the miserable Home for the Friendless.
Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate…and not just by helping out with household chores. For Kate Warne is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present.
Boots – Kate Hannigan
Published: August 3, 2021
When the Infinity Trinity hears of a Nazi spy plot that could bring danger to Chicago, Mae knows they must go to check on her beloved aunts, the daring World War II pilots Willa Brown and Janet Harmon.
Mae’s Granny Crumpler isn’t exactly thrilled about her granddaughter and her friends trying to get involved with something so dangerous—especially when she’s already worried about not hearing from Mae’s dad, who is serving in Europe and fighting for freedom on and off the battlefield.
But when Aunt Willa and Aunt Janet go missing, Mae knows that the sinister spy plot just got personal. They discover the evil Metallic Falcon has captured her aunts, and he is determined to thwart the Infinity Trinity’s ultimate quest to bring back Zenobia and all the missing superheroes safely.
With the help of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and Room Twelve, Mae, Josie, and Akiko must use all their powers and code-cracking smarts in a challenge that will take them on a high-flying loop from Chicago to Sweetwater, Texas, to a final showdown in Paris. Can the Infinity Trinity soar to new heights and complete the biggest mission of them all?
Published: June 26, 2018
Stanley Yelnats’s family has a history of bad luck, so he isn’t too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to a boys’ juvenile detention center, Camp Green Lake. But there is no lake―it has been dry for over a hundred years―and it’s hardly a camp: as punishment, the boys must each dig a hole a day, five feet deep, five feet across, in the hard earth of the dried-up lake bed. The warden claims that this pointless labor builds character, but that’s a lie. Stanley must try to dig up the truth.
In this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar weaves a narrative puzzle that tangles and untangles, until it becomes clear that the hand of fate has been at work in the lives of the characters―and their forebears―for generations. It is a darkly humorous tale of crime, punishment, and redemption.
Published: February 3, 2015
Eli Frieden has never left Serenity, New Mexico…why would he ever want to? Then one day, he bikes to the edge of the city limits and something so crazy and unexpected happens, it changes everything.
Eli convinces his friends to help him investigate further, and soon it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. The clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, connecting their ideal crime-free community to some of the greatest criminal masterminds ever known.
The kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents.
Last Gate of the Emperor
Published: May 4, 2021
From Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel David Makonnen comes an Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiopian empire. Sci-fi and fantasy combine in this epic journey to the stars.
Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime — a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family… and his only friends.
Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.
Suddenly, all the stories Yared’s uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.
Together with Besa and the Ibis — a game rival turned reluctant ally — Yared must search for his uncle… and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.
Related: Kwame Mbalia & Prince Joel Makonnen Interview (+ Giveaway!)
Cleo Porter and the Body Electric
Published: October 6, 2020
n a future forever changed by a pandemic, a girl survives in total isolation.
A woman is dying. Cleo Porter has her medicine. And no way to deliver it.
Like everyone else, twelve-year-old Cleo and her parents are sealed in an apartment without windows or doors. They never leave. They never get visitors. Their food is dropped off by drones. So they’re safe. Safe from the disease that nearly wiped humans from the earth. Safe from everything. The trade-off?
They’re alone. Thus, when they receive a package clearly meant for someone else–a package containing a substance critical for a stranger’s survival–Cleo is stuck. As a surgeon-in-training, she knows the clock is ticking. But people don’t leave their units.
Not ever. Until now.
Related: 33 Middle-Grade Books to Read in the Second Half of 2020
Katie the Catsitter
Published: January 5, 2021
Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead while her best friends are all away at camp–something that’s way out of Katie and her mom’s budget, UNLESS Katie can figure out a way to earn the money for camp herself. But when Katie gets a job catsitting for her mysterious upstairs neighbor, life get interesting. First, Madeline has 217 cats (!) and they’re not exactly . . . normal cats. Also, why is Madeline always out EXACTLY when the city’s most notorious villain commits crimes?! Is it possible that Katie’s upstairs neighbor is really a super villain? Can Katie wrangle a whole lot of wayward cats, save a best friendship (why is Beth barely writing back? And who’s this boy she keeps talking about?!), AND crack the biggest story in the city’s history? Some heroes have capes . . . Katie has cats!
Related: Middle Grade Books About Entrepreneurship
Gold Rush Girl
Published: March 10, 2020
Newbery Medalist Avi brings us mud-caked, tent-filled San Francisco in 1848 with a willful heroine who goes on an unintended — and perilous — adventure to save her brother.
Victoria Blaisdell longs for independence and adventure, and she yearns to accompany her father as he sails west in search of real gold! But it is 1848, and Tory isn’t even allowed to go to school, much less travel all the way from Rhode Island to California. Determined to take control of her own destiny, Tory stows away on the ship. Though San Francisco is frenzied and full of wild and dangerous men, Tory finds freedom and friendship there. Until one day, when Father is in the gold fields, her younger brother, Jacob, is kidnapped. And so Tory is spurred on a treacherous search for him in Rotten Row, a part of San Francisco Bay crowded with hundreds of abandoned ships. Beloved storyteller Avi is at the top of his form as he ushers us back to an extraordinary time of hope and risk, brought to life by a heroine readers will cheer for. Spot-on details and high suspense make this a vivid, absorbing historical adventure.
Published: March 6, 2012
Like many kids, Ben Ripley imagines life as a secret agent would be pretty awesome — so when he learns he’s been recruited to the C.I.A.’s top secret Academy of Espionage, it sounds too good to be true. And it is. From the moment he arrives — and ends up in the middle of an enemy attack — Ben finds Spy School is going to be far more difficult, dastardly and dangerous than he expected. Even worse, he soon discovers that he hasn’t been recruited to become a top agent; instead, he’s been brought in as bait to catch a devious double agent. Now, Ben needs a crash course in espionage so that he can catch the mole, prove his worth — and get the girl. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be a very fun — and very funny — ride.
Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls
Published: July 4, 2017
A girl discovers her boarding school is actually an elite spy-training program, and she must learn the skills of the trade in order to find her mother in this action-packed middle grade debut.
After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…
Published: January 25, 2011
Coke McDonald and his twin sister, Pepsi, think their family’s cross-country RV vacation is nothing to get excited about…until they’re chased off a cliff, locked in a burning school, and receive mysterious messages in codes and ciphers. From California to Wisconsin, it’s a race against time to find out who’s after Coke and Pep, who’s leaving the notes…and just what being a part of The Genius Files entails!
With the real-kid humor that has earned Dan Gutman millions of fans around the world, and featuring weird-but-true American tourist destinations, The Genius Files is a one-of-a-kind mix of geography and fun.
As Coke and Pep dodge nefarious villains from the Pez museum in California all the way to the Infinity Room in Wisconsin, black-and-white photographs and maps put young readers right into the action.
Kingdom of Secrets
Published: August 3, 2021
In the kingdom of Oren, Prismena longs to fly hot-air balloons, but her father insists she keep her feet on the ground. When he’s arrested for a crime he didn’t commit–and one that Prismena did–she must decide between following the rules and following her heart.
Her decision will catapult her on an adventure that challenges everything she knows about her identity, her kingdom, and even her beloved balloons.
Related: 91 Middle-Grade Books to Read in 2021
Me vs. the Multiverse: Enough About Me
Published: August 17, 2021
Saving the multiverse starts with another origami note: Make it here, pronto.
This time Meade Macon, aka Average Me, knows that parallel dimensions are real. He’s met dozens of his counterparts from other Earths. What he doesn’t know is that they’re all about to get zapped out of existence.
On Earth Zero, a rip in the multiverse is spreading to other realities and causing chaos wherever it appears. And the different versions of Meade–the Mes–are caught in the middle! Motor Me, Resist Me, and Hollywood Me just want to go back home to their own Earths. The only way to do that is to repair the rip. Once again, it’s up to Average Me! But if Average is going to fix the multiverse, he just might have to team up with his archnemesis . . . Meticulous Me.
The Nerviest Girl in the World
Published: August 18, 2020
Pearl lives on a ranch where her chores include collecting eggs and feeding ornery ostriches. She has three older brothers, who don’t coddle her at all. And she knows a thing or two about horses, too.
One day, Pearl’s brothers get cushy jobs doing stunts for this new form of entertainment called “moving pictures.” They’re the Daredevil Donnelly Brothers, a Death-Defying Cowboy Trio. Before she knows it, Pearl has stumbled into being a stunt girl herself–and dreams of becoming a star. The only problem is, her mother has no idea what she’s up to. And let’s just say she wouldn’t be too happy to find out that Pearl’s been jumping out of burning buildings in her spare time.
Related: 76 Best Middle-Grade Historical Fiction Books
Published: May 11, 2021
When trouble calls . . . it’s DOG SQUAD to the rescue!
Duke is not your average dog. Along with his crew, he fights crime and goes on claw-biting adventures helping dogs in peril in the hit streaming sensation–DOG SQUAD! Fred is a pretty average dog. He’s scrappy. He’s loveable. But he’s not brave like his heroes on Dog Squad.
Fred looks an awful lot like Duke from Dog Squad though. In fact, when Duke needs a stand-in, Fred’s the perfect choice. But the Dog Squad action doesn’t always stop on screen! When there’s danger in real life, can Fred find the courage to step up and save the day?!
It’s all paws on deck in this action-packed, middle grade adventure series just right for anyone who loves dogs–and anyone who loves to laugh!
Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter
Published: August 31, 2021
After saving her father and the world, twelve-year-old Lola Benko and her new best friends, Jin and Hannah, are a true treasure-hunting team. But after botching a huge job, they are looking to redeem themselves.
They decide to try their luck at Camp Timberwood, where teams will compete to join the legendary Task Force, a group that gets plumb assignments around the globe. When their former nemesis, Lipstick, shows up unexpectedly, she makes an offer they can’t refuse: help her find the legendary Helm of Darkness and she will help them come out on top in the competition—and be the first team in line for the Task Force.
They just have to go to the mysterious Midnight Market, where the Helm is rumored to be. But Lola, Jin, and Hannah still aren’t fully back in sync after their recent failure. Can they prove to the Task Force—and themselves—that they still have what it takes?
The Last Last Day of Summer
Published: April 2, 2019
Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.
Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas
Published: October 11, 2016
Twelve-year-old Addison Cooke just wishessomething exciting would happen to him. His aunt and uncle, both world-famous researchers, travel to the ends of the earth searching for hidden treasure, dodging dangerous robbers along the way, while Addison is stuck in school all day.
Luckily for Addison, adventure has a way of finding the Cookes. After his uncle unearths the first ancient Incan clue needed to find a vast trove of lost treasure, he is kidnapped by members of a shadowy organization intent on stealing the riches. Addison’s uncle is the bandits’ key to deciphering the ancient clues and looting the treasure . . . unless Addison and his friends can outsmart the kidnappers and crack the code first. So it’s off to South America, where the excitement, danger, gold, booby traps, and car chases are never-ending!
Published: December 3, 2019
McKenna Barney is trying to hide her worsening eyesight and has been isolating herself for the last year. But at the request of her little sister, she signs up for a commemorative mail run race in the Canadian wilderness—a race she doesn’t know if she can even see to run.
Winning would mean getting her disease—and her sister’s—national media coverage, but it would also pit McKenna and her team of eight sled dogs against racers from across the globe for three days of shifting lake ice, sudden owl attacks, snow squalls, and bitterly cold nights.
Published: March 1, 2011
Chase Masters and his father are “storm runners,” racing across the country in pursuit of hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Anywhere bad weather strikes, they are not far behind. Chase is learning more on the road than he ever would just sitting in a classroom. But when the hurricane of the century hits, he will be tested in ways he never could have imagined.
Extreme Ice Adventure (Jake Maddox Adventure)
Published: January 1, 2020
Nita and Sohail are thrilled when they win scholarships to attend the Alaska Young Explorers program. Both kids could use the prize money to help their families and set out to compete as hard as they can. But things take a turn when they’re paired up on an expedition. The two make a misstep while hiking down a glacier and find themselves in dangerous territory. Nita and Sohail will have to depend on each other and learn to work together…if they want to survive the Alaskan wilderness.
Crocodile Rescue! (Wild Survival #1)
Published: February 2, 2021
Twelve-year-old Adriana Villalobos and her older brother Feye travel the globe with their parents, the hosts of a suspenseful nature show called “Wild Survival!” The show features daring animal rescues and the work the family does at their animal sanctuary. They’ve recently gotten an offer to take the show from YouTube to a TV network, and Adriana is thrilled. So far, she’s always been behind the scenes, but now she gets to join the rest of her family onscreen. She can’t wait to bring her passion for animals to a wide audience.
Their first stop is the lush mangrove forests of Cuba, where they’re going to help rescue an injured crocodile. But things get off to a rocky start when Feye is injured in an accident partially caused by Adrianna. The status of the show is in jeopardy, and Adrianna’s parents want her back behind the scenes, or maybe even back at home.
Adrianna is determined to prove herself, and save the show-whatever it takes. Even if that means confronting the legendary Mega Croc of Cuba that’s rumored to inhabit the murky waters around their base camp.
Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray (Elements of Genius #1)
Published: July 9, 2019
“Let the official record show that, I, Nikki Tesla, did not intend to destroy the world.”There are only so many times a kid can invent an instrument of global destruction without getting grounded. So when Nikki’s death ray accidentally blows up her bedroom (if you can call a pet ferret with an itchy trigger finger an accident), she’s sent to the only place that can handle her. Genius Academy is a school for history’s greatest brains. Leo da Vinci? Charlotte Darwin? Bert Einstein? All extraordinary. Yet even among her fellow prodigies, Nikki feels like an outsider thanks to a terrible secret she can’t let anyone discover. Ever.But when her death ray is stolen, Nikki must stop worrying about fitting in and learn to play nice with her new classmates. Because it doesn’t take a genius to track a thief around the world, outwit the authorities, and keep a French fry-fanatic ferret happy. It takes all of them.
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation
Published: September 17, 2019
Charlie Thorne is a genius.
Charlie Thorne is a thief.
Charlie Thorne isn’t old enough to drive.
And now it’s up to her to save the world…
Decades ago, Albert Einstein devised an equation that could benefit all life on earth—or destroy it. Fearing what would happen if the equation fell into the wrong hands, he hid it.
But now, a diabolical group known as the Furies are closing in on its location. In desperation, a team of CIA agents drags Charlie into the hunt, needing her brilliance to find it first—even though this means placing her life in grave danger.
In a breakneck adventure that spans the globe, Charlie must crack a complex code created by Einstein himself, struggle to survive in a world where no one can be trusted, and fight to keep the last equation safe once and for all.
Published: August 31, 2010
The president’s retreat, Camp David, is one of the safest places in the United States. So why can’t the President’s son, Luke, and his friends Theo and Callie stay there without Secret Service agents constantly hovering over them, watching their every move? And yet, when an earthquake sets off a raging wildfire, causing a chain reaction that wreaks havoc at Camp David, they are suddenly on their own.
Now Luke needs a plan:
- To override the security systems
- To save those who were supposed to save him
- To get through an impassable gate
- To escape Camp David
Across the Desert
Published: October 12, 2021
Twelve-year-old Jolene spends every day she can at the library watching her favorite livestream: The Desert Aviator, where twelve-year-old “Addie Earhart” shares her adventures flying an ultralight plane over the desert. While watching this daring girl fly through the sky, Jolene can dream of what it would be like to fly with her, far away from her own troubled home life where her mother struggles with a narcotic addiction. And Addie, who is grieving the loss of her father, finds solace in her online conversations with Jolene, her biggest—and only—fan.
Then, one day, it all goes wrong: Addie’s engine abruptly stops, and Jolene watches in helpless horror as the ultralight plummets to the ground and the video goes dark. Jolene knows that Addie won’t survive long in the extreme summer desert heat. With no one to turn to for help and armed with only a hand-drawn map and a stolen cell phone, it’s up to Jolene to find a way to save the Desert Aviator. Packed with adventure and heart, Across the Desert speaks to the resilience, hope, and strength within each of us.
The Emperor’s Riddle
Published: May 2, 2017
Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.
Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together—one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.
When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.
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Many thanks to author Kate Hannigan and her recently released action-adventure girl-power book, Boots. Thank you for supporting the authors and brands who keep Reading Middle Grade running.
Wow! What an amazing line up of great books! You sure do work hard. Thanks, very much.