I’ve got a pretty good eye for teenage boy reading material. Ya know, the safe kind that you’re thrilled for your kid to be reading. While I haven’t taught English to middle school boys since 2006-2008, I was much more recently a youth minister to kids ages 12-18. Currently, I am currently a literacy specialist that spends a LOT of time with books!
I swung by our local library and spoke with a librarian to get their favorite books for middle school boys. I hope you find these reviews helpful.
Not all middle school boys are reading SUPER fluently, so I also included the Lexile level.
Want more raising-a-reader material? Check out this post about that time I color-coded my kids’ home library – and it’s never been messy again! PS – my kids are 7, 4, and 1, and they use the library every day.
Choosing Just Right Books for Middle School Boys
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but middle school boys are sort of all over the map in terms of their maturity. Some middle school boys are roughly as mature as their female counterparts, and others are still babies!
A child’s reading level, measured here by their Lexile level, complicates matters even further. Almost all books (including every book below) has an easy to find Lexile level.
Lexile scores measure the complexity of a sentence. Your child’s reading or ELAR teacher will have this information, so send an email and find out. There are also lots of charts available that correlate grade level to Lexile score.
Some 7th grade boys will have the maturity level of an upper elementary school student with the reading capabilities of a high school senior. Conversely, there are plenty of kids who are socially mature and ready for heavier topics but still struggling to read on grade level.
Kids who are socially and academically asynchronous in their development have a hard time choosing books.
That’s why some of these books that I’ve chosen may seem babyish to some and just right to others. Middle school boys are like that! At the other end of the spectrum, some books like the Hunger Games may be too violent or dark for more sensitive kids. You know your child best, so hopefully these reviews will point you in the right direction.
Hint: If you need help motivating a middle schooler to read, check out this excellent post from Imagination Soup!
The Hunger Games Series
Author: Suzanne Collins
Oh boy. These books are violent and disturbing. But boys who aren’t terribly sensitive will do just fine with them, and they’re incredible page turners, too. Go ahead and read it yourself or watch the movie before making your decision.
It’s worth nothing that the reading level, as measured by the Lexile score above, is pretty easy. While the themes are better for really mature kids, the reading level is just fine for upper elementary kids who are reading on level.
The Harry Potter Series
Author: J.K. Rowling
These books aren’t terribly hard, either. And while the series gets progressively darker thematically, most middle school boys will do just fine.
I love this series as a way to get reluctant middle school boys reading. It also helps that there are movies, because that can sometimes inspire kids to give books a solid chance, rather than giving up after the first couple of pages.
The Lord of the Rings Series
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings is an incredible trilogy, and many middle school and high school boys are obsessed with this series, especially on screen.
It’s not the best choice for reluctant readers, though. Tolkien can get a bit long winded in descriptions of places and creating beautiful imagery. This is a great choice for boys who already are hooked on reading, and likely have already seen the movies.
The Spy School Series
Author: Stuart Gibbs
If your kid is a bit of a nerd, this is the book for him! The protagonist is a male middle school student who desperately wants to join the CIA. He thinks he doesn’t stand a chance.
He then gets invited to a science-y magnet school that turns out to be a feeder into the CIA. It’s a great book for awkward middle school boys who need to know that someday, somehow, they’ll find their place in this world if they just stay true to themselves.
The Secret’s of Shakespeare’s Grave
Author: Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave
Here’s a great choice for 6th and 7th graders who need something light and fun, with a healthy dose of history and culture, too!
In the reviews I’ve read, plenty of parents are excited about this book because it’s well written enough to be an entertaining read-aloud, but also the adventure elements hold the attention of middle schoolers.
The Missing Series
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
This book is not difficult for middle schoolers to read, but the content is spot on for the middle grades. The main characters are in the 7th grade.
An airplane lands in the middle of nowhere, and the only passengers on board are 36 babies. They are all adopted in time, and happily oblivious to their unusual beginning in life. Years later, they begin to receive ominous letters that cause them to begin learning more about their pasts.
Bud, Not Buddy
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Here is another Newbery Award winner. Adults will love this book as much as children, because the writing and the themes present in the story are so beautiful.
Children will understand it to be a grand adventure, as Bud makes his way from his home in Flint, Michigan during the Great Depression to find his father.
The Lightning Thief
Author: Percy Jackson
The Lightning Thief (and the rest of the Percy Jackson series) are delightfully easy reads and perfect for getting reluctant kids to read. It’s just super high entertainment value with a low demand on middle grade readers.
It brings Greek mythology to life for kids, and it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for years. It’s been adapted into a movie and a series on Disney+.
Author: Sylvia Waugh
This little book is about a 12 year old girl named Nesta who is living in England, so it’s possible your middle school boy may be turned off by a female lead.
However, it’s still a really fun science fiction story, with themes about family and loyalty. Nesta learns that her whole family are actually aliens, and MUST return to their alien planet. She doesn’t want to go!
Autumn is absolutely my favorite season. Here are 8 wonderful fall books for children.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Author: Lemony Snicket
This is a dark comedy about three children who encounter all sorts of unlucky things. The characters are 14, 12, and a baby.
The text is slightly more difficult than some of the other books here, so I think it would be perfect for a gifted 6th or 7th grade reader with a wicked sense of humor.
Author: Jon Scieszka
Astronuts is a wonderful book for struggling middle school readers. The Lexile level is on the lower end of the middle grades range, and it’s also a graphic novel, which aids comprehension.
There’s humor, action and adventure in this save-the-planet story, but the target audience is probably 6th grade and below.
Author: Louis Sachar
This is the perfect book for middle school boys who are reading below grade level because it hits age appropriate themes with easily digestible sentences.
This book received a Newbery Medal and has been loved by middle school boys for years. It’s part mystery and part adventure. The main character, Stanley, gets sent to a character building camp where he’s required to dig holes all day. But the warden is forcing the boys to dig holes for punishment; he’s actually looking for something. But what?!
More book content: the best chapter books for 2nd grade girls.
Author: Christopher Paolini
Eragon is a fantasy tale about a 15 year old farm boy who discovers a blue stone. When the “stone” hatches into a dragon, the story takes a wild turn.
The book is written for roughly 7th-9th grade. However, the text itself is fairly easy to read, making it a great choice for fantasy lovers who are still developing reading skills.
Author: Brian Paulsen
Many of us have wonderful memories of reading Hatchet. Brian’s Winter is another book in the Hatchet series.
The text is written at more of a high school level, so if you’ve got an advanced reader who loves survival stories, this whole series is a great choice.
Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia is a classic children’s book. There’s some element of fantasy, but it’s more about gender non-conformity (in an old-fashioned sense), bullying, and family relationships.
This is mainly a book about friendship, and it’s great for all ages. It’s a Newberry award winner.
Still got a kid reading picture books? Us, too! Here are our 15 favorite picture books. Hopefully there are some you haven’t read yet.
Author: R.J. Palacio
This is an absolutely incredible story about a boy named Auggie, a 10 year old boy who has a craniofacial abnormality. It’s a story about kindness.
The book tells Auggie’s story as he moves from being homeschooled to attending public school for the first time.
The Chronicles of Narnia
Author: C.S. Lewis
I like the Chronicles of Narnia books for middle school boys that are a bit below grade level in reading and also still engaged in younger content.
There are Christian themes and allegory woven throughout the stories. Many 12 and 13 year olds will still enjoy it. It’s a fantasy novel with some violence, but most families will find the good outweighs the bad.
Zane and the Hurricane
Author: Rodman Philbrick
This book is about a boy and his dog that become trapped in the horrors of Katrina, the hurricane that hit Louisiana. It’s a story of heroism and courage, and it will also give kids insight into one of the worst failure’s in our nation’s history.
While drugs are alluded to, it’s never in a positive way. No bad language or sexual themes are present.
I hope these books for middle school boys get you started on a grand adventure together. There’s nothing wrong with reading to your early teenager if they’ll let you! In fact, I’d call it a huge victory. Good luck, everyone!