Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring BlakeWhat it's about: Twelve-year-old Ivy is reeling after her family's home is destroyed by a tornado, her treasured private sketchbook goes missing, and she starts crushing on a girl in her class. Then someone begins anonymously returning her drawings -- along with notes encouraging her to come out.
You might also like: Barbara Dee's Star-Crossed, another authentic, relatable story about a girl finding the courage to be herself.
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie ConnorStarring: seventh-grader Mason Buttle, who's big, sweaty, dyslexic, and targeted by bullies. But he's NOT lying about what happened on the day his best friend Benny died, no matter what police Lieutenant Baird thinks.
Who it's for: If you like hopeful stories that let you peek into a unique character's life, you'll enjoy spending time with Mason as he tries to make peace with his memories, as well as make friends with tiny, equally unpopular Calvin Chumsky.
Checked by Cynthia KadohataWhat it's about: Just before he's supposed to try out for a professional youth hockey team, 11-year-old Conor learns that his dog, Sinbad, needs an expensive cancer treatment. Since money is tight in Conor's family, saving Sinbad means that Conor might have to give up the sport he loves.
Who it's for: athletes, hockey fans, and readers who like bittersweet slice-of-life stories.
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story by Jennifer Roy with Ali FadhilWhat it's about: Things change quickly for 11-year-old Ali and his family in 1991, when the Gulf War hits their hometown of Basra, Iraq. Used to a life filled with soccer, video games, and comics, Ali is now faced with bombings, food shortages, and constant fear.
About the author: Though this book is written as vivid historical fiction, it's based on the real wartime experience of author Ali Fadhil, who later worked as an interpreter at Saddam Hussein's trial.
The Wishmakers by Tyler WhitesidesWhat it's about: All Ace wanted was some peanut butter, but since opening the jar released a genie instead, he has only seven days to master the art of wishmaking and save the world from an army of zombie animals.
Who it's for: Fans of Max Brallier's Last Kids on Earth books will relish the offbeat humor and supernatural action in this series opener.
Books You Might Have Missed
Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela CarterWhat it's about: With no memory of their birth parents and a long history of foster homes behind them, Flora and her little brother, Julian, find it hard to believe that they've finally been adopted by a caring family.
Why you might like it: It's both heart-wrenching and moving to follow Flora and Julian as they try to adjust and, with help from new mom Emily, confront the pain of their past.
The Pants Project by Cat ClarkeStarring: eleven-year-old Liv, who knows he's transgender but hasn't told anyone yet -- a situation that's more difficult at his new school, where they see him as a girl and require him to wear a uniform with a skirt.
Why you might like it: You'll be rooting for the likable, determined Liv as he and his moms challenge the school dress code.
Try this next: M.G. Hennessey's The Other Boy, for a different take on being a trans guy in middle school.
Bone Jack by Sara CroweWhat it's about: Ash should be proud to be leading this year's Stag Chase, an ancient ritual that persists in his modern English town. But with eerie incidents on the rise -- including his ex-best friend hiding in the woods and raving about old magic -- Ash's pride is replaced by fear that something sinister is stirring.
Who it's for: Blending fantasy, horror, and mythology, Bone Jack will captivate readers craving haunting, deeply creepy stories.
Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. FrankWhat it's about: It's 1974, and Los Angeles sixth-graders Armstrong and Charlie are both having a rough year: Armstrong is mad about being transferred into a school where he's one of only a few black kids, while white Charlie is mad that all of his friends have transferred out.
Why you might like it: Both boys take turns describing the realistic, funny, and sometimes uncomfortable events that lead to them becoming best friends.
Braced by Alyson GerberStarring: Rachel, who's starting seventh grade with awesome friends, a maybe-boyfriend, a spot as forward on the school soccer team, and a bulky spinal brace that makes her life complicated both on and off the field.
You might also like: Kwame Alexander's Booked, which also stars a middle school soccer player who's sidelined by an unexpected medical issue.
Contact your librarian for more great books for readers ages 10-13!