Efrén Divided by Ernesto CisnerosStarring: Efrén Nava, whose biggest worry is the school election until the day his mom (and personal hero) is deported from their California home to Mexico.
What happens: Efrén has to grow up fast, taking care of his five-year-old twin siblings while his dad works an extra job and searches for a way to reunite their family.
Why you might like it: Whether you find it familiar or eye-opening, Efrén’s story is heartwrenching, heartwarming, and memorable.
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy ColbertWhat it’s about: Easygoing surfer Alberta and her dads are the only black people in their cozy little California neighborhood...until black goth girl Edie moves in across the street, complicating Alberta’s social life and encouraging her to ask questions about their town’s past.
Read it for: authentic, relatable characters; an intriguing historical mystery; the bewildering ups and downs of middle school friendship.
Try this next: Varian Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance or Lisa Moore Ramée’s A Good Kind of Trouble.
Rick by Alex GinoWhat if: you suddenly realized that your longtime best friend was actually a bully?
What happens: After hanging out with his sci-fi-loving grandpa and joining his school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, 6th-grader Rick starts to understand himself better, leading him to face the uncomfortable truth about his best friend, Jeff.
Book buzz: This companion book to author Alex Gino’s George features some of the same characters, as well as a similarly hopeful story about speaking up and being yourself.
We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada KellyThe setting: Delaware, January 1986, where three very different siblings confront their own problems as they look forward to the launch of the space shuttle Challenger.
What happens: As their parents’ fighting gets worse and tragedy strikes the Challenger, Cash, Bird, and Fitch have to depend on each other like never before.
Why you might like it: Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly uses each kid’s point of view to give you a moving, up-close look at one family during a specific moment in time.
Twilight Hauntings by Angie SageIn a world... where Enchanters and Enchantment are illegal, orphan Alex is on the run, chased by terrifying Hauntings, with no clue about her identity besides a set of enchanted cards and no company besides her foster brother Louie and their pet pokkle.
What’s inside: thrilling action, offbeat humor, and a twisty plot, all set within an inviting, complex fantasy world.
Series alert: This is Book One of Enchanter’s Child, a new series from the author of the popular Septimus Heap books.
Better You Than Me by Jessica BrodyStarring: Ruby Rivera, an ultra-famous TV star who longs to be a typical 7th-grader, and Skylar, a middle school misfit who idolizes Ruby and her glamorous life.
What happens: A magic prop from Ruby's show causes the girls to switch bodies, giving each a chance to live her dream…and begin to wonder if it's what she really wants.
Why you might like it: Ruby and Skylar take turns narrating, making this feel-good fantasy a breeze to read.
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay EagarWelcome to: New Mexico, where Carol and her family are visiting Grandpa Serge to help him move into assisted living.
What happens: At first, Carol thinks Serge’s impossible stories are due to his dementia. Yet as she learns more about the Mexican side of her family -- and as she begins seeing supposedly magical bees -- Carol comes to understand both herself and Serge’s stories in a different way.
You might also like: Laura Resau's The Lightning Queen, another captivating tale that spans generations.
Making Friends by Kristen GudsnukWhat it’s about: After a doodle of her favorite anime character springs off the page and into life, awkward 7th-grader Dany realizes that the sketchbook she inherited from her grandma can make drawings real, giving Dany the chance to create a perfect best friend.
For fans of: the friendship-focused, slice-of-life graphic novels by Terri Libenson, Kayla Miller, and Svetlana Chmakova.
Series alert: Dany and her magical notebook return in a sequel, Back to the Drawing Board.
Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann HayduWhat it’s about: Moving to an old house offers an unexpected escape for 11-year-old Silly and her sisters: each of the house’s closets leads to a different alternate world. It’s a relief to get away from their unpredictable alcoholic mother, but will the lure of new realities drive the sisters apart?
Is it for you? If you can handle the pain and sadness of the sisters’ situation, you’ll also get to delve into the spellbinding magic they discover and the hopeful connection they share.
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert MurdockWhat it's about: Since life in his medieval French village is grim and lonely for Boy, an orphan with a hump on his back, he signs on as servant to a shady traveler named Secondus, and soon finds himself on a dangerous (and possibly magical) journey to collect seven holy relics.
Try this next: Avi's Crispin: The Cross of Lead for another unlikely friendship between misfits, or Adam Gidwitz's The Inquisitor's Tale for another blend of fantasy, faith, and gritty history.
Contact your librarian for more books for ages 10-13!