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"But All My Friends Are Reading It!" Dramatic Books for Middle Schoolers

The parent of a twelve-year-old girl recently asked me about the age appropriateness of a certain teen series that her daughter was interested in reading. After checking Common Sense Media ratings and considering the content of the popular book and television series, the parent was concerned that her pre-teen was not quite ready for that kind of racy material.

The parent asked for guidance on other books that would satisfy her daughter's craving for drama, gossip, and middle-school-style chick lit, without introducing her to mature content too soon. The collaborative Children's Room brain helped find the books listed below to satisfy the drama-craving, growing-up-too-quickly pre-teen girl.

Even if you would not consider some of these books great works of literature, consider that children need encouragement to read for fun. I cringe at Junie B. Jones and her sassy behavior, but I also know young readers love that same sassiness. I all but refused to hand my own stepdaughter the Pretty Little Liars series, but I am happy that she is asking me for book suggestions. My advice is to use your best judgement since you are the person who knows your child best. Consult resources like Common Sense Media, read book reviews, or come visit your friendly neighborhood library, and we will help you and your child find her next favorite book.


Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Amazon Says: A novel full of heart, humor, and charm from Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer! When twelve-year-old Foster and her mother land in the tiny town of Culpepper, they don' more...
Amazon Says: A novel full of heart, humor, and charm from Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer! When twelve-year-old Foster and her mother land in the tiny town of Culpepper, they don't know what to expect. But folks quickly warm to the woman with the great voice and the girl who can bake like nobody's business. Soon Foster - who dreams of having her own cooking show one day - lands herself a gig baking for the local coffee shop, and gets herself some much-needed help in overcoming her biggest challenge - learning to read . . . just as Foster and Mama start to feel at ease, their past catches up to them. Thanks to the folks in Culpepper, though Foster and her mama find the strength to put their troubles behind them for good. less...
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Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart
Amazon Says: When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she's in trouble. She's not exactly welcomed with open arm more...
Amazon Says: When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she's in trouble. She's not exactly welcomed with open arms. One group of girls in particular is used to being the best, the brightest, and the prettiest on the team, and when Sasha shows her skills in the arena, the girls' claws come out. Sasha is determined to prove that she belongs at Canterwood. Will she rise to the occasion and make the advanced riding team by the end of her first semester? Or will the pressure send Sasha packing? less...
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Amazon Says: Welcome to the Wonderful World of Hypnotism! Molly Moon has spent her entire life in a miserable orphanage run by the hairy, snaggletoothed Miss Adderson. But when she finds a more...
Amazon Says: Welcome to the Wonderful World of Hypnotism! Molly Moon has spent her entire life in a miserable orphanage run by the hairy, snaggletoothed Miss Adderson. But when she finds a mysterious book, Molly discovers an extraordinary talent -- she can hypnotize anyone! Accompanied by Petula the pug, Molly hypnotizes her way to New York and Broadway stardom. But hot on her trail is the sinister professor, who is determined to use Molly to stage the crime of a century . . . less...
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Avalon High by Meg Cabot
Amazon Says: Avalon High seems like a typical high school, attended by typical students: There's Lance, the jock. Jennifer, the cheerleader. And Will, senior class president, quarterback, more...
Amazon Says: Avalon High seems like a typical high school, attended by typical students: There's Lance, the jock. Jennifer, the cheerleader. And Will, senior class president, quarterback, and all-around good guy. But not everybody at Avalon High is who they appear to be ... not even, as new student Ellie is about to discover, herself. What part does she play in the drama that is unfolding? What if the bizarre chain of events and coincidences she has pieced together means -- as with the court of King Arthur -- tragedy is fast approaching Avalon High? Worst of all, what if there's nothing she can do about it? less...
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The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake
Amazon Says: Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher with a birthmark on her face and makes some discoveries about how to love who more...
Amazon Says: Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher with a birthmark on her face and makes some discoveries about how to love who she is and what she looks like. less...
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The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick
Amazon Says: The book club is about to get a makeover.... Even if Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma's already read every book in exist more...
Amazon Says: The book club is about to get a makeover.... Even if Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma's already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care, the new book club is scheduled to meet every month. But what begins as a mom-imposed ritual of reading Little Women soon helps four unlikely friends navigate the drama of middle school. From stolen journals, to secret crushes, to a fashion-fiasco first dance, the girls are up to their Wellie boots in drama. They can't help but wonder: What would Jo March do? Acclaimed author Heather Vogel Frederick will delight daughters of all ages in a novel about the fabulousness of fiction, family, and friendship. less...
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Shug by Jenny Han
Amazon Says: SHUG is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she's about to become your new best friend. Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is be more...
Amazon Says: SHUG is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she's about to become your new best friend. Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there's nothing worse than being twelve. She's too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there's not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren't acting so dear anymore -- especially Mark, the boy she's known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there's just no figuring out today? less...
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Amazon Says: This companion novel to THE BOY PROJECT is the perfect "next step" for fans of DORK DIARIES. Tabitha "Tabbi" Reddy believes in signs. Like fortune cookies. Magic 8-Balls. Sho more...
Amazon Says: This companion novel to THE BOY PROJECT is the perfect "next step" for fans of DORK DIARIES. Tabitha "Tabbi" Reddy believes in signs. Like fortune cookies. Magic 8-Balls. Shooting stars. And this year, she hopes, looking for the right signs will lead her to the right boy! Inspired by her BFF, Kara (star of THE BOY PROJECT), Tabbi starts her own "project" in the hopes of finding a cute crush. With the help of a math lesson on probability, Tabbi tries to predict who the right boy for her might be! Where is she most likely to meet him? What is he most likely to look like? Full of fun illustrations, hilarious equations, and lessons in cupcake-baking, life, love, and friendship, this book has a 100% probability of awesomeness. A perfect "next step" for fans of DORK DIARIES. less...
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Amazon Says: “Oh, fishsticks, tartar, and a side of fries!” Runaway ferrets, former BFF drama-trauma, and one GIGANTIC (and very, very public) belly flop. No doubt about it, Callie Bo more...
Amazon Says: “Oh, fishsticks, tartar, and a side of fries!” Runaway ferrets, former BFF drama-trauma, and one GIGANTIC (and very, very public) belly flop. No doubt about it, Callie Boone’s summer is CRUMMY. The only things keeping her afloat are dive practice with her dad and a top-secret Olympic dream. Then a boy named Hoot—who is NOT her boyfriend!—moves in next door and turns her world upside down and right-side up. Just when things start looking up, real disaster strikes and Callie feels like she’s stuck at the top of the high diving board with no way down. What if she can’t fix all the things that need fixing? She’ll just have to try! With a little luck, a solid plan, and a whole lot of teamwork, she just might make it through. After all, she’s Callie Boone! After All, You're Callie Boone is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year. less...
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11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
Amazon Says: This hilarious novel from award-winning author Wendy Mass is now available in paperback! It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited---after all, 11 is so different more...
Amazon Says: This hilarious novel from award-winning author Wendy Mass is now available in paperback! It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited---after all, 11 is so different from 10. But from the start, everything goes wrong. The worst part of it all is that she and her best friend, Leo, with whom she's shared every birthday, are on the outs and this will be the first birthday they haven't shared together. When Amanda turns in for the night, glad to have her birthday behind her, she wakes up happy for a new day. Or is it? Her birthday seems to be repeating iself. What is going on?! And how can she fix it? Only time, friendship, and a little luck will tell. . . less...
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Amazon Says: Stealth Freakies \stelth freekees\ 1: A feeling that comes before dread, ie, when you just feel a little sick, before you realize that anything is wrong, or that your whole li more...
Amazon Says: Stealth Freakies \stelth freekees\ 1: A feeling that comes before dread, ie, when you just feel a little sick, before you realize that anything is wrong, or that your whole life is about to change, or something else equally bad. less...
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The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Amazon Says: At eleven, Gilly is nobody's real kid. If only she could find her beautiful mother, Courtney, and live with her instead of in the ugly foster home where she has just been plac more...
Amazon Says: At eleven, Gilly is nobody's real kid. If only she could find her beautiful mother, Courtney, and live with her instead of in the ugly foster home where she has just been placed! How could she, the great Gilly Hopkins, known throughout the county for her brilliance and unmanageability, be expected to tolerate Maime Trotter, the fat, nearly illiterate widow who is now her guardian? Or for that matter, the freaky seven-year-old boy and the shrunken blind black man who are also considered part of the bizarre "family"? Even cool Miss Harris, her teacher, is a shock to her.Gutsy Gilly is both poignant and comic as, behind her best barracuda smile, she schemes against them and everyone else who tries to be friendly. The reader will cheer for her as she copes with the longings and terrors of always being a foster child.Katherine Paterson, winner of the 1978 Newbery Medal for Bridge to Terabithia and of the 1977 National Book Award for The Master Puppeteer, again reaches across boundaries with her wit, compassion, and love, and here creates an immensely engaging story about a child's desperate search for a place to call home. less...
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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Amazon Says: Stargirl. 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 more...
Amazon Says: Stargirl. 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. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. 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. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love. less...
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Amazon Says: Seventh grade was supposed to be fun, but Tori is having major drama with her BFF, Sienna. Sienna changed a lot over the summer—on the first day of school she’s tan, confi more...
Amazon Says: Seventh grade was supposed to be fun, but Tori is having major drama with her BFF, Sienna. Sienna changed a lot over the summer—on the first day of school she’s tan, confident, and full of stories about her new dreamy boyfriend. Tori knows that she’s totally making this guy up. So Tori invents her own fake boyfriend, who is better than Sienna’s in every way. Things are going great—unless you count the whole lying-to-your-best-friend thing—until everyone insists Tori and Sienna bring their boyfriends to the back-to-school dance. less...
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Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Amazon Says: A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where more...
Amazon Says: A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known. Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee. less...
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