12 Inclusive YA Books Your Middle Schooler Won't Be Able to Put Down

The middle school years can be pretty intense for your child. They’re just not that little person who needed you for every little thing anymore. While we’re feeling a bit of a tug at our hearts, our kiddos are starting to understand (and appreciate) their independence. During the middle school years, our children are discovering who they are as individuals, but also forming opinions about the world around them. It’s a lot to digest. Your child may already have an array of classic books to consult as they’re growing up, but if you’re looking to offer some diversity to their at-home library and their world view, we have the perfect list of inclusive young adult books they won’t want to put down.

There are so many new voices that we need to hear from, and your middle schooler will only benefit from learning about different life-experiences. A diversity of authors, characters and stories in your child’s reading can mirror the communities and society in which we live. This will not only give your child a chance to experience new perspectives in life, but they’ll likely become more empathetic to the differences that they’ll encounter as they grow. Another reason why kids need diverse and inclusive books? They might recognize themselves in some of these stories — knowing that they matter, really matters.

Let’s face it: pre-teens and teens are not always forthcoming about the ups and downs of their lives, but using a book is a great way to spark conversations about topics like discrimination, sexuality, mental health, politics, disabilities, and more. Your child will appreciate being able to express their feelings and opinions in terms of the character in the book — at least initially — instead of having to discuss their own situation.

For fiction, we highly recommend checking out New York Times bestselling author Sharon Draper’s emotional and stirring upcoming release, Out of My Heart, which tells the story of Melody Brooks, a differently-abled kid who heads to summer camp and finds out how strong and brave she really is. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn, is a funny but also poignant tale of Kimi who visits her grandparents in Japan. She’s glad to escape her family back home, but then discovers what’s truly important in life. There’s also the important story about Black boyhood and manhood, Angie Thomas’ Concrete Rose, whose story takes place 17 years before her bestselling book (adapted into a movie of the same name), The Hate U Give. In the honest and unforgettable graphic memoir, Hey Kiddo, author Jarrett Krosoczka recalls growing up with a drug-addicted mother and a missing father. We think there’s a lot for your kids to love here.

Looking for more reading recommendations for middle schoolers and older? Actress and activist Angelina Jolie recently took to Instagram to share what two of her high-school-aged daughters are currently reading. Zahara, 16, is reading Toni Morrison’s classic, The Bluest Eye, while Shiloh, 15, is reading the modern, magical realist title, The Dark Lady, by Akala.

If you can’t decide which book to get for your teen, how about getting a couple that they can read over the next few months? Although middle school and high school workloads are heavy, and your child is probably reading a few school-required titles already, books that allow a bit of an escape from their everyday school lessons are usually a welcomed distraction. And a chance to unwind.

Some of these books are by first-time authors, but some of the authors have other titles that your middle schooler will probably love as well. Make sure to check them out, and be sure to take a look at some of our other book lists for more suggestions.

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