The Insiders by Mark OshiroThe set-up: At his old middle school, it wasn't a big deal for Héctor to be gay. But at his new school, kids treat him like an outsider -- and bullies see him as a target.
What happens: While looking for a hiding place, Héctor finds an impossible room where he meets Juliana and Sal, two kids from faraway places who share Héctor's need for a safe space.
Why you might like it: this relatable friendship story offers just a touch of fantasy.
The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan StroudWelcome to: flood-covered future Britain, where water monsters, cannibalistic mutants, and controlling rulers make life dangerous, especially for renegades like bank robber Scarlett McCain.
What happens: After Scarlett pulls Albert Browne from the wreckage of an accident, the new allies find themselves on the run from relentless, bowler-hatted pursuers.
Author alert: If you loved author Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series, you don't want to miss the breathless action and quick-fire banter in this new series opener.
The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne UrsuWhat it's about: Accused of ruining her brother's audition with Illyria's all-male Sorcerer's Guild, 12-year-old Marya is sent to the Dragomir Academy, a boarding school to keep unruly girls in line.
Who it's for: fantasy fans will enjoy the eerie, fascinating world of Illyria, while mystery fans will be drawn into curious Marya's discoveries about girls' magical potential -- and the Academy's hidden purpose.
Dust & Grim by Chuck WendigWhat it's about: Newly orphaned, 13-year-old cosplayer Molly Grim goes to live with her long-separated older brother Dustin, who runs their family's highly unusual business: a funeral home for monsters.
Featuring: talking wolves, a magic devourer, an unpredictable fox spirit, a chill vampire, and many other creatures (both friendly and frightening).
Why you might like it: humor, horror, and the growing bond between rival siblings drive this offbeat story.
The Line Tender by Kate AllenStarring: twelve-year-old Lucy, who inherited a fascination with sharks from her late mother, a marine biologist.
What happens: After a second tragic loss leaves Lucy devastated, her summer project -- an illustrated field guide to her coastal hometown -- becomes her lifeline.
Who it’s for: anyone looking for sensitive, honest stories about finding hope during tough times.
Each Tiny Spark by Pablo CartayaWhat it's about: Managing middle school with ADHD is tough enough, and right now Emilia's also dealing with her mom traveling for work and her dad retuning from deployment. After learning about injustices in her hometown, however, Emilia finally finds something she can focus on -- and maybe even change.
Try this next: Celia C. Pérez's Strange Birds for another story about kid activists, or Alyson Gerber's Focused for another girl's ADHD experiences.
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson with Omar MohamedWhat it is: Omar Mohamed's real-life experiences as an orphaned Somali kid in a Kenyan refugee camp, co-written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, creator of Roller Girl.
What happens: Surrounded by harsh conditions and caring neighbors, Omar studies hard, looks after his brother Hassan, and hangs on to the hope of resettlement.
Why you might like it: Honest writing and vivid art makes you feel like you're right there with Omar throughout this heartwrenching yet heartwarming story.
Tight by Torrey MaldonadoWhat it's about: All Bryan wants is a drama-free life of reading and drawing comics. But his hotheaded dad -- who's in and out of jail -- thinks he's too soft, and his best friend Mike keeps pressuring him to try risky stuff. How can Bryan know what to do when he's being pulled in different directions?
You might also like: Jason Reynolds' Ghost, Paula Chase's Dough Boys, and other authentic stories about middle school guys with complicated families and friendships.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 10-13!