Best Books for Eighth Graders

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The series begins with Thomas waking up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his name. He arrives in the Glade, a strange place where only boys live. They also cannot remember their names, and the Glade is surrounded by an ever-changing maze. What lies outside? Why are they there? Readers will become totally engrossed in this story and will want to keep reading the rest of the series. If children are fans of the Maze Runner movies, they’ll love to read the books, too.

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Many children have a hard time in middle school balancing school and homework, friends and family, social drama and even boy troubles. Haylie Carter struggles with this as well, and many eighth-grade readers will find this story resonates with them, too. At just 134 pages, this book is a quick read. It was also written by a young author, which can be inspiring to readers and may help them relate to the story even more. Many readers, especially girls, will appreciate this honest story about what it feels like to be 13 years old.

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Teenagers will find this book to be an original and entertaining read about a young man who loses his father to a villain and decides to use his superhero powers for revenge. The novel is an action-packed drama and has a style similar to Marvel Comics. Much of the action is character-based in a setting that features a post-apocalyptic Chicago cityscape. The detailed and descriptive writing makes it easy to stay engaged, while the illustrations provide excellent imagery that helps develop readers’ imaginations. Sanderson has taken the well-trodden superhero theme and turned it into something new and exciting.

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A dynamic heroine, Mare Barrow, is in the middle of this sizzling thriller set in a world reflecting many real-life issues such as pollution and political corruption. It’s easy to delve into the story due to the likability of the main character. Mare is a young girl with dreams, self-doubt and annoyances. A significant twist is one of the highlights of “Red Queen,” which proves to be complex and thought-provoking enough to engage young adult readers.

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Author Neal Bascomb proves to be an excellent storyteller in this thrilling, impeccably researched book. He’s a master of taking complicated histories and turning them into exciting and educational works. Kids will enjoy the detailed narrative that is both fast-paced and reflective. The book even includes black and white photos of people, buildings and artifacts that contribute to the story. There’s an effective combination of dramatic tension and context throughout the book that offers insight into military and political history.

This is an ideal book to include in homeschool study for students learning about World War II. Readers will have their eyes opened to the plight of Norway during occupation with firsthand experience that allows readers to visualize the events. Backgrounds are also provided on the different characters, allowing readers to understand each person’s perspective during the events.

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Readers won’t have a problem staying engaged in “Shadowshaper” as Daniel José Older introduces colorful and diverse characters. The story is propelled at a fast pace and includes top-shelf imagery. Sierra fights for what she wants while protecting her family and friends. She also has a strong desire to understand her family history. The book offers an educational experience to readers and includes culturally-rich content in both Spanish and English. Her powerful, internal struggle against racism and expectations will offer a unique perspective to readers relevant to society today. This urban fantasy addresses serious topics without compromising the creative storytelling.

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“Treasure Island” is a classic adventure with great writing and memorable characters. It includes many sailing terms with colorful descriptions to go along with them, but it’s the characters who bring the story to life. Children will be challenged by the antiquated language while gaining insight into the 18th century. One of the main highlights of this classic tale is the complex characters who have believable flaws and strengths, each with a likable, multi-faceted personality. The villain, Long John Silver, is complex, greedy and bloodthirsty but still manages to have compassion and nobility.

This rollicking adventure story originates some of the modern tropes and themes of pirates that continue to be celebrated today. The book encourages readers to delve into a world that includes plenty of peg legs, lively sea shanties and parrots. Although sword fights are scattered throughout the novel, the details aren’t overly graphic for young minds.

Expert Commentary

“Choosing the best books for an eighth grader comes down to a few factors. Having taught children of all types, I’ve found that understanding their learning styles and passions is a very important consideration. So, for an eighth grader who loves fantasy, a fantasy book is a great place to start and over time, they may also enjoy trying new genres like a thriller. In my experience, I have found starting out by matching a book with a child in a personalized manner works best. As they grow as a reader, you can expand their horizons and introduce new areas and topics.”