Welcome to the 2023 RMG middle school Summer Reading Guide! It’s finally here! As with our past guides, this guide features 25 books perfect for kids ages 8 and up. I’ve shared everything you need to know about the guide in the video below.
But basically, for those who can’t watch:
- There are 5 categories and 25 books on the online list
- I’ve read all 25 books from cover to cover and 100% recommend them
- The books are published between August 2022 and July 2023 — although about 90% of the list is 2023 books
- We’ve made a printable this year with extra features like audiobook recommendations, 5 teen recommendations, an interview with Lisa Greenwald, and more!
Get the gorgeous printable when you sign up to our mailing list — it’s FREE!
Now, onto the list!
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2023 Middle School Summer Reading List for Kids
Here are the 25 books I recommend for middle schoolers this summer:
Draw Me a Story
Graphic novels are all the rage right now. Hand these books to text-intimidated readers or kids who can’t get enough of the format.
Play Like a Girl
When she’s mocked for wanting to play with her town’s boys’ football team, Misty determines she’ll sign up for the team. But the training process is rigorous, and playing football is physically challenging—especially with boys. Brightly colored illustrations guide readers through this exhilarating sports graphic novel as Misty proves herself.
Sixth grade is off to a rocky start for Rex. His district moved most of his elementary school to another middle school, his best friend ditches him for the popular crew, and his blurry vision means he has to get clunky new glasses–the only kind his family can afford. This sweet graphic novel for fans of Telgemeier is an ode to middle school, family, and finding your people.
1970s Indiana. Judi’s high school announces that they’re starting a girls’ basketball team because of the Title IX ruling. Unfortunately, although several girls sign up, there’s barely any funding. With scrappy strategies like DIY jerseys and neighborhood canvassing for game attendance, can Judi and the team make it work? A fantastic graphic novel about equality and basketball in the 1970s.
After a bold style statement on picture day, Viv becomes her classmates’ go-to consultant on all things style, life advice, and more. But she gets so caught up in being an influencer that her close circle starts to suffer. A funny but thoughtful start to a new graphic novel series for fans of the Click Series.
Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair
Brothers Lincoln and Hudson Dupré are constantly pretending to be on one adventure or another–and destroying their home in the process. Until their parents get an experienced babysitter who wrangles both boys using unconventional methods–much to their dismay. Their plot to get rid of her yields unexpected results. This hilarious graphic novel-prose hybrid shows the brothers’ imaginations in panels and the real story as plain text with illustrations.
A Different Kind of Summer
The kids in this category aren’t having the typical carefree summer, but they all have the life-changing summer they need to grow into their true selves.
It’s Boba Time for Pearl Li
Although her parents would rather she be coding away the summer, Pearl prefers making crocheted dolls and drinking boba with her friends. When she discovers that her favorite tea place is struggling financially, Pearl decides she’ll secretly sell her dolls to raise money. But running a business is tough. This heartwarming debut is the perfect summer book.
When an elite league coach poaches Alex, she hopes it will mean better opportunities. But when she starts, she’s disturbed by her coach’s unkind and misogynistic practices. This fast-paced sports story features a smart girl with too many responsibilities for her age, plenty of heart for soccer, and the will to stand up to an adult bully.
A First Time for Everything
Dan Santat documents his end-of-middle-school school trip to Europe. As he and some classmates visit Germany, France, Switzerland, and England, Dan is swept up in many, many firsts (first Fanta, first kiss, first bike heist), making for a life-changing trip. A relatable graphic novel about growing up, wading through the awkward tween years, and finding one’s voice.
Ginny Off the Map
Ginny’s summer is thrown off when her dad gets a surprise redeployment in the middle of their family’s moving to another city. Then, her geography camp gets canceled. Her sister seems to be making new friends, but no one appears to like Ginny–even when she starts her own geography camp. This sweet, unique young middle grade book made my heart grow and ache for Ginny and her family as they navigated a season of change. Features illustrations and a new geography fact in each chapter.
The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn
Maudie is a sweet, autistic girl spending the summer with her dad. When her dad’s home is razed in a California wildfire, they move to the small beach town where her father grew up. Throughout the summer, as Maudie makes new friends, starts learning to surf, and enters a surfing contest, a secret tugs at her–one her mother has asked her to keep from her dad. Despite tackling serious issues like physical abuse and autism acceptance, this triumphant story feels infused with the lightness of summer as a girl discovers that she’s braver than she ever thought.
These are the books I hugged after reading. The ones that made me smile hard and cry a little. The ones you see when you look up “full of heart” in the dictionary.
Absolutely, Positively Natty
Reeling from the impact of her mother’s depression on their family, Natty decides she’s going to be “Good Vibes Only.” She even starts a pep rally club in her cheerless new town. But her pursuit of positivity wears on her friendships and her–until the facade starts to crumble. An insightful exploration of toxic positivity and how kids can manage tough situations instead.
The First Magnificient Summer
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.
My Not-So-Great-French Escape
Rylan is working as a farm hand in France to reconnect with his used-to-be best friend, Wilder. But the trip is complicated when Rylan’s mom tells him that his estranged father lives in France and wants to reconnect with him. This funny, emotional book is unique and relatable all at once.
Half Moon Summer
Drew and Mia were born on the same day, but their lives have taken different paths. When Mia returns to the town where Drew still lives, both kids start training for a half-marathon together for different reasons. Mia, to solve her family’s housing issues; Drew, for his dad, who’s received a crushing diagnosis. Written in alternating verse and prose chapters, this book is incredibly moving.
Lasagna Means I Love You
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. An achingly tender portrait of a girl searching for a family.
The kids in this category are unforgettable. Funny, fierce, daring, brave, and unafraid to take responsibility for their mistakes.
Simon Sort of Says
After surviving a school shooting, Simon and his parents (one a priest, the other a mortician) move to a town in America’s National Quiet Zone with no internet or TV. As Simon tries to stay under the radar, new friends, a new mission, and a warm community draw him out in this funny, quirky, and moving release about science and PTSD.
The Unofficial Lola Bay Fan Club
After her plan to start an official Lola Bay fan club is usurped by some mean girls, sixth-grader Iris befriends eighth-grader Dana who’s starting an “unofficial” fan club. But soon, Dana’s actions (like hacking into a website, using Iris’s parents’ credit card to buy tour tickets) begin to unsettle Iris. A chilling look at the power of celebrity fandom and toxic friendships.
The Greatest Kid in the World
Zeke tries to be a good kid, but most days, he can’t resist pulling a great prank or instigating his classmates into mayhem. So, imagine his shock when he gets an invitation to join The Greatest Kid in the World contest. As a camera follows him and his family for days, Zeke gains a new perspective on life and what it means to be a “great” kid. Surprisingly profound and ridiculously funny.
The Lost Year
It’s 2020, and Matthew is sick of being inside with the pandemic raging outside. While reluctantly helping his great-grandmother sort through her belongings, he finds a picture of two girls. As she shares her experience during the Ukrainian famine, the story alternates between three narrators: Matthew, Helena, and Mila. A powerful, unforgettable account of historical events.
Three Strike Summer
After losing their land, Gloria and her family move to California to find work and eventually start picking peaches on a farm. There, Gloria quickly discovers a boys’ baseball team (no girls allowed!) and is ready to do what it takes to join the team. At the same time, ripples of discontent with working wages lead to organizing that puts Gloria and her family in a precarious position. Utterly immersive.
A friendship strained by jealousy, a book of connecting short stories, and a girl connecting the dots about a mystery–these stories are all about connection.
Honey and Me
Honey is Mila’s best friend. She loves the warmth of Honey’s boisterous family and wants to spend every moment with them. That is, until Honey transfers to her school and suddenly, everyone seems to like Honey more than they do Mila. This sweet slice-of-life story grew on me with every chapter. Mila and Honey are both Orthodox Jews, so this book includes many details about the religion.
No Matter the Distance
Penny is a middle schooler with mild-moderate cystic fibrosis who forms a strong connection with a dolphin she finds in the creek behind their house. When a marine biologist finds out that the dolphin is also sick, they’ll need Penny to help them treat the animal and return it home. This beautiful verse novel about living with cystic fibrosis is honest and heartrending.
The Rhythm of Time
When Rahim’s friend Kasia gifts him her newest invention, he has no idea that it’s a time travel device. Rahim ends up in 1997 meeting his father as a tween before he became the strict dad he is. Can Kasia get him back in time for dinner–and before his actions change the future? Hand this funny, suspense-filled sci-fi release to fans of time travel stories.
You Are Here: Connecting Flights
In this collection of interconnected short stories, 12 Asian-American kids at the international terminal of a major airport deal with microaggressions, disdain, and outright racism. This is one of my favorite books of the year, and I’m as surprised as you are that it’s an anthology! Moving, inspiring, and eye-opening.
What Happened to Rachel Riley?
When she sets out to investigate the fall of fellow student Rachel Riley from popular girl to middle school pariah, new student Anna Hunt discovers a shocking story. Told in podcast episodes, emails, texts, and more, this is a zinger of a book. If you haven’t already read this inventive, immersive, and important book about sexual harassment–run, don’t walk!
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There they are: 25 great middle school books on the summer reading guide! Thank you so much for reading and supporting Reading Middle Grade!
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Thanks for the great middle school book suggestions, Afoma!! Your website is awesome. It’s good to see someone thinking about all those amazing middle school readers. I just sent this out to my Twitter followers on @PurdyBooks.