Unsettled by Reem FaruqiThe setup: Middle-schooler Nurah is devastated when her family relocates to Peachtree City, Georgia, from Karachi, Pakistan. But with the help of a new friend, she begins to feel more at home.
Who it’s for: Anyone who’s ever moved to a new place and felt alone will relate to what Nurah goes through in this hopeful story told through easy-to-read poetry.
The Hidden Knife by Melissa MarrWelcome to: the Corvus School for the Artfully Inclined, where students Vicky, Algernon, and Milan discover that something is not quite right.
Is it for you? Filled with world-building, fast pacing, and suspense, this fantasy will grab readers who like the Harry Potter and Nevermoor series.
How to Become a Planet by Nicole MellebyStarring: Pluto Jean Timoney, a 12-year-old space enthusiast who's trying to manage depression on top of friendships, family changes, and middle school.
Why you should read it: Pluto’s story is an honest, gentle, and a realistic look at the way that anxiety and depression can impact a person's life.
Healer of the Water Monster by Brian YoungThe setting: New Mexico, where Nathan Todacheenie’s nali (grandmother) hosts him for the summer on their ancestral lands -- but there is more to the desert than meets the eye.
For fans of: Rebecca Roanhorse’s Race to the Sun, another fast-paced fantasy focusing on Navajo characters and legends.
Reviewers say: “Gentle, complex characters and flawed, loving human relationships lend depth to Young’s worlds-spanning novel” (Publishers Weekly).
Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn BigelowStarring: 13-year-old Melly, who sheds her shyness when playing the drums.
What happens: A trip to rock-and-roll camp turns into an emotional rollercoaster after Melly's parents announce their upcoming divorce, her friend Olivia ditches her, and she starts crushing on guitarist Adeline.
Try this next: For another inspiring read about a middle school girl who finds confidence amid confusion and change, try Victoria Jamieson's Roller Girl or Barbara Dee's Star-Crossed.
Be Prepared by Vera BrosgolExpectations: Frustrated misfit Vera hopes that she'll finally fit in among the other Russian kids at a Russian American summer camp.
Reality: From mean girls to a terrifying outhouse, camp is nothing like Vera expected.
For fans of: Raina Telgemeier, since she often writes about her own life, and this relatable graphic novel is based on the summer camp woes of author Vera Brosgol.
Camp by Kayla MillerWhat it is: This sequel to Kayla Miller’s Click takes on the same concepts of friendship and self-discovery, but places them in a new setting.
Starring: best friends Willow and Olive, who go off to summer camp together, but find that tension in their friendship forces them to make compromises.
Try this next: Many of the same themes and topics show up in Kristen Gudsnuk’s Making Friends, which is also a graphic novel.
Here in the Real World by Sara PennypackerWhat it's about: While avoiding "Meaningful Social Interaction" at rec center camp, 11-year-old dreamer Ware hides out in the crumbling abandoned church next door, turning it into the Middle Ages castle of his dreams and making friends with Jolene, the tough, practical girl who's been growing a garden on the church's land.
Read it for: short chapters, memorable characters, and a sensitive story about misfits who band together.
Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis; illustrated by Shannon Watters and Brookyln AllenWelcome to: Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, which looks like a typical Lumberjanes scout camp.
What's really happening: Cabin-mates Mal, Molly, April, Jo, and Ripley are earning their merit badges through bizarre supernatural activities such as arm-wrestling giants and battling three-eyed beasts.
Series alert: If you're hooked on this high-octane comic about "friendship to the max!", we've got good news: this collection is the 1st of many in the ongoing Lumberjanes series.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 10-13!