In Nikki on the Line, 13-year-old Nikki Doyle feels one step closer to her pro basketball player dreams when she gets signed on to an elite-level club team. But her mother doesn’t have enough to pay for the club, and so Nikki offers to watch her little brother after school so they can save on daycare money. Unfortunately, playing for the club isn’t nearly as easy as Nikki expects.
Keeping It Real is Paula Chase’s latest upper middle grade offering. It follows Marigold Johnson, daughter of the media moguls who own Flexx Unlimited. Marigold’s friend and crush, Justice hates their private school where both kids are part of the token number of Black kids. Marigold on the other hand tries to conform to white expectations and fit in with the kids and both she and Justice quarrel about this regularly.
Upper middle-grade books are middle-grade books for older tweens and younger teens, aged 11-14.
Often, upper middle-grade books are those loved by adults who do not typically read middle-grade. They’re also perfect for kids in their early teens who do not feel quite ready for the content in most young adult novels.
Red, White, and Whole is Rajani LaRocca’s newest middle-grade verse novel. The year is 1983 and 13-year-old Reha is caught between two cultures: her Indian family and community at home, and the all-American experience at school and with her white “school best friend.” But it’s not all rosy. Her mother doesn’t approve of Reha acting more American than Indian. She makes all of Reha’s clothes, and is upset when Reha says she would like to go to the school dance.
Reha is understandably frustrated at her mother’s lack of understanding, but she’s about to have more problems. Her mom is diagnosed with leukemia and Reha’s life is turned upside down.
14-year-old David is a quintessential middle child. His sister Bridgette is in college and the family’s academic success story. Mal, his younger brother is on the autism spectrum, although his family prefers not to use the autism label. Mal is almost non-verbal and only says the word “okay.” David has always has a large appetite and an interest in competitive eating, but after he accidentally leaves a $2000 bill on his mother’s credit card, he’s forced to join a pizza eating contest to win the grand prize of $5000.
In between finding his place in the family and trying not to ruin his internal organs by overeating, David also has to navigate the fact that his two oldest friends Cyn and HeyMan might be dating each other. Where does that leave him? As the third musketeer still, or an unwanted third wheel?
Serenity and her brother, Danny, have to move in with their grandparents after her mother’s death. Their father is nowhere to be found and the kids have to deal with their grief while adjusting to a new lifestyle — new school, new friends, new routines — with their mother’s parents. Their grandfather is a preacher and both grandparents are ardent churchgoers. The story is told from Serenity’s point of view as she tries to make sense of life through her poetry in English class.