- What My Mother Doesn't Know
by Sonya Sones
Sophie doesn't want to date geeky Murphy for fear of what her friends will say, but Dylan, the socially acceptable boyfriend she chooses instead, might not be all he's cracked up to be. I love this book because it's so true to life - as Jennifer Hubert said in her review on Amazon.com - "No woman will be able to read this heartfelt verse novel and not find a bit of herself in Sophie's secret, sexy thoughts." Any girl who has ever been boy crazy will see herself in Sophie's story.
- Shakespeare Bats Cleanup
by Ron Koertge
Kevin plays baseball, but when he's diagnosed with mono, he finds himself reading - and then writing - poetry to pass the time. As he writes, he discovers his own thoughts and feelings about his friends, his dad, playing baseball, and his mother's recent death. It's hard to find accessible poetry that middle school kids will actually want to read, but Ron Koertge makes it difficult not to like Kevin. The book also has a sequel entitled Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs.
- The Realm of Possibility
by David Levithan
In my opinion, even David Levithan's prose is poetry, but this book is written in verse, and it's one of my favorites. Each poem is from the point of view of a particular teenager. Some are best friends, some are halves of the same couple; all attend the same high school. What emerges as the story goes on is a portrait of this group of kids, and an understanding of what makes them tick, what motivates them, and how they feel about one another. The poems are as diverse as their speakers, and each poem is very emotional. Read this one with tissues on hand.
- Song of the Sparrow
by Lisa Ann Sandell
This may be the best historical fiction novel I have ever read. It's a retelling of the story of the Lady of Shalott, where Elaine is a teenage girl, raised by the men of the Briton army after her mother is killed. She mends the men's clothing, and heals their wounds, while pining for the love of Lancelot and trying desperately to get along with Guinevere, who treats her like a servant rather than a friend. The original story has a tragic ending, but this book takes a more uplifting approach. The language is beautiful, and the story is so engaging, I could easily have read it in one sitting. My full review from when I read this back in 2009 is available on Goodreads.
Home of the Brave
by Katherine Applegate
Kek is a Sudanese refugee whose father and brother were killed in front of him, and whose mother was left behind when he came to live with his aunt in Minnesota. This beautiful story tells of his adjustment to American life, and how he slowly carves a niche for himself in his new home. This book is amazingly well-written and really personalizes a situation that kids may have heard about on the news.
- The D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom
by Gordon Korman and Bernice Korman
It's becoming part of the weekly routine to include one book from my childhood. This week, I'm including D- Poems, because it was probably the first book I ever read that was written entirely in poetry, but which told a whole story. I can remember reading this book over and over again, late into the night, enjoying the same joke - that Jeremy signed up for poetry because he thought it was pottery. The poems that come out of his accidental semester are hilarious and get at the heart of what middle school is really like. Sadly, this book is out of print now, but it is remains a favorite of mine.