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2021 Summer Reading List for Middle School Students

middle school novels May 19, 2021

Give me a hands up right now if you are one EXHAUSTED teacher.  Teaching through a pandemic is certainly not for the faint of heart.  Some of us “got to stay home” (don’t you just want to punch the person who phrases 100% virtual learning like this) while others had to juggle a hybrid model because doing two jobs at once is a piece-of-cake, and some of us were in-person but maintaining masks, social distancing, cleaning...all the things to keep these little darlings safe.  I’d venture to say that we are even more tired at this point in the year than we were in our first year of teaching! (Sorry first year teachers...I promise, this isn’t normal!)

As I started thinking (dreading) putting together the summer reading assignment for my students, it dawned on me:  they are dreading RECEIVING the summer reading assignment just as much as I am dreading giving it.  They are exhausted too, and who could blame them?  Many of us have never experienced anything like this, and some of us are barely making it by as adults!  It is hard to expect our students to fare any better.

Now, I am normally an advocate for at least one summer reading assignment.  Assigning a summer reading assignment this summer though, would likely only yield sub-par submissions which probably came from the cliff-notes rather than actually reading the book.  Quite frankly, I don’t blame them!  I’ve never been so ready to sleep in late, take long walks in the sun, and relax!  

For these reasons, I say, “No Summer Reading!!”  

I get it though...some of us don’t have a choice!  Our schools and districts require it regardless of our opinions.  Blah.  Well, in that case, at least make it fun for them!  In the past, I’d assign novels that would go along with the themes for the school year, but if I had to this year, it would be all about the fun of reading!  So, here are my suggestions for summer reading with some high interest novels that will be enjoyable for your students.

Option 1-

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (Buy it now through my Amazon affiliate link here:

Why students will love it-Although students might not have a similar experience of being born without arms or with tourettes syndrome like the protagonist Aven Green and her misfit friend, Connor, many can certainly relate to being bullied because of something they cannot help.  The author excels at teaching a lesson of inclusion and acceptance intertwined with humor and a light-hearted feel.  Students will follow the two friends as they uncover the mystery of Stagecoach Pass and Aven’s own adoption story.  Plus, there is a volume 2 to the story, so if students love this first book, like I suspect that they will, they have a second book waiting for them!  (We don’t have to tell them that we planned it that way!)

Option 2-

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman (Buy it now through my Amazon affiliate link here:

Why students will love it-I mean, what student doesn’t want to read about a misfit TEACHER?  Who cares that there are also misfit students, when have they ever read a story about a teacher being a burned out trainwreck?  They’ll soon find out, through all the hilarious antics between students and teacher, there is actually redemption waiting for both sets of misfits.  Luckily for students, Gordon Korman has a wide variety of other just as funny and entertaining novels to choose from when they are finished.  

Option 3-

Restart also by Gordon Korman (sorry...they’re both THAT good, I had to include 2 by the same author-buy it now through my Amazon affiliate link here:

Why students will love it- Who hasn’t ever felt like they wish they could just restart their lives at some point?  Maybe they said something so embarrassing or mean, and NO ONE can seem to forget it, for goodness sake!  Students will be able to relate to Chase (although hopefully it’s not because they fell off the roof of their house) and his desire to remake himself after his accident.  His classmates’ reactions to his return after he lost his memory from a head injury give him pause, wondering just who he was before his accident.  Since Chase has no clue, he reinvents himself into the boy he needs to be.  Perhaps our students can get the courage to do the same if they’re not on the right path.

Perhaps your students don’t want to LOL all summer long.  Option 4-

The Hunger Games Series by Suzzane Collins (Buy them now through my Amazon affiliate link here: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mocking Jay, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Complete Series

Why students will love it-The suspense and dark themes of this series is always an attention grabber for students of this age.  This series will keep their attention until the last word, allowing for more mature themes without going overboard with the darkness.  Katniss is very relatable in her lack of glamour and her ability to outwit those out to kill her.  Her very real, truthful, and authentic relationships with her family and friends makes her a character that keeps students engaged in her story.  Plus, the suspense remains through all 4 books, the 4th or which is brand new, so even if students have already read the first 3, they might not have picked up the 4th yet.  It’s very possible that students will be reading all summer long with this series. 

Option 5-

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, with Liz Welch (Buy it now through my Amazon affiliate link here:

Why students will love it-How many of us have written a letter to a “pen pal” as a school project and waited in excited expectation for a letter to return, only to be greeted by crickets. Nothing, nada, zilch.  Lousy pen pal!  Well, that is not what happened to Caitlin when she sent a letter to Martin who feels lucky to have received it.  Six years later and many letters between the two, this unlikely duo became best friends and learned so much that those letter correspondences changed the path of both their lives.  

If you’d like to receive the student handout I created to give my students for Summer Reading using these reading options and the assignments I give, I’d be happy to email it to you.  You can input your information here!



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