Courage by Barbara BinnsWhat it's about: Middle-schooler T'Shawn's excitement about his new position on the local diving team is dampened by the return of his brother, Lamont, who's been in prison. T'Shawn's not sure he can trust Lamont any more...much less forgive him.
Is it for you? If you like honest, all-too-realistic stories, Courage might be the book for you -- sports and family are far from the only things T'Shawn is dealing with.
Try this next: David Barclay Moore's The Stars Beneath Our Feet.
24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti BowlingWelcome to: Nowhere, Arizona, a sad, boring town where nothing ever happens...until the day that five kids -- including dirtbike racer Rossi, brainy Gus, and obnoxious bully Bo -- venture into the Dead Frenchman Mine in search of legendary gold.
What's inside: a vivid setting and touches of humor, as well as cave-ins, bat guano, mountain lion encounters, and unexpected friendships forged in shared danger.
Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish by Pablo CartayaStarring: 14-year-old Marcus Vega, six feet tall and already sporting a mustache.
What happens: After Marcus punches a bully who insulted his brother, their mom takes them both to visit family in Puerto Rico, where Marcus begins searching for his long-absent father.
Why you might like it: Whether or not you're familiar with Puerto Rico, you'll feel like you're there with Marcus as he explores the music, food, places, and people of the island.
Sheets by Brenna ThummlerFeaturing: Wendell, a sheet-wearing ghost who can't leave the human world behind; and Marjorie, who's grieving for her mom while also going to school, running the family laundromat, and taking care of her dad and brother.
What happens: Marjorie catches Wendell in the laundromat (hey, it's full of sheets!), and both lonely characters find the friendship they need.
Art alert: Soft pastels and spectral blue-grays add to the wistful, haunting atmosphere in this graphic novel.
Nightbooks by J.A. WhiteWhat it's about: Alex is on his way to destroy his notebooks full of horror stories when he suddenly finds himself inside one: he's held captive by a fearsome witch who demands that he tell her a terrifying tale every night.
Reviewers say: "Readers who prefer their magic dark will be spellbound" (Booklist).
Try this next: For books with a similar feel but a more hair-raising edge, try Tom McNeal's Far Far Away or Adam Gidwitz's Grimm series.
School of the Dead by AviWhat it's about: After his Uncle Charlie's death, seventh-grader Tony is comforted by appearances from Charlie's ghost -- after all, the two of them shared an interest in the supernatural. Less comforting is Tony's new school, where students go missing, spirits haunt secret passageways, and no one is what they seem.
Is it for you? Pairing a suspenseful plot with otherworldly chills, School of the Dead is just creepy enough to satisfy fans of mystery and horror alike.
Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing HahnWhat it's about: They say that Old Auntie roams the woods with her man-eating razorback hog, Bloody Bones. They say that every 50 years, she kidnaps another girl. They say lots of things, but Daniel doesn't believe them -- not until his sister starts talking to her doll and claiming that a voice is calling her name.
Why you might like it: Told in the style of a classic ghost story, Took is perfect for reading under the covers with a flashlight.
Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica MillerFeaturing: shy, faint-hearted Elizabeth, who's uneasy about moving into Witheringe House, her father's uncanny childhood home; and her unusual friend Zenobia, who's obsessed with finding spirits inside the East Wing.
What's inside: living wallpaper, a magical book, an overgrown hedge maze, and a bone-chilling family secret.
Is it for you? If you can't get enough billowing fog and simmering suspense, you won't want to miss this gothic mystery.
Olive and the Backstage Ghost by Michelle SchustermanStarring: Olive Priess, whose dreams of singing onstage are squelched by her overbearing mom.
What happens: Olive discovers Maudeville, an otherworldly old theater where she's given a chance to shine. Yet as Olive grows closer to her eccentric castmates and she learns about the theater's history, she begins to suspect that their opening night might be her last.
Who it's for: theater kids, as well as readers who like their mysteries well-paced and only slightly spooky.
Thornhill by Pam SmyWhat it is: an eerie, captivating blend of words and art that pulls you into the lives of two girls who lived decades apart.
What happens: In 1982, mute orphan Mary plans her revenge on the bullies at the Thornhill Institute for Children, while in 2017, lonely Ella sees a girl wandering the grounds of the abandoned Institute. Then Ella finds Mary's diaries, and their stories collide.
For fans of: the layered storytelling of Brian Selznick or Ransom Riggs.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 10-13!
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