By: Alexis Gomez

Books that hit the marks of both powerful and entertaining can be tricky to find for evolving middle school readers. This list of our Top Ten books for 7-8th graders includes notable hit books and new gems that will have readers immersed and pondering important issues.

1. Amal Unbound

By: Aisha Saeed

Book cover Amal Unbound Amal’s dreams of being a teacher are put on hold when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings instead of going to school in rural Pakistan. Then, after a run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

2. The Maze Runner

By: James Dashner

Book cover The Maze Runner When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.

3. New Kid

By: Jerry Craft

Book cover New Kid Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. This graphic novel will captivate students who may be reluctant to read!

4. We Dream of Space

By: Erin Entrada Kelly

Book cover We Dream of Space Cash, Fitch, and Bird Nelson Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the Nelson Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher. When the fated day of the Challenger launch arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.

5. The Hunger Games

By: Suzanne Collins

Book cover The Hunger Games In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games, she realizes she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

6. The Town with No Mirrors

By: Christina Collins

Book cover The Town with no Mirrors Zailey has never seen her own face. She’s never seen her reflection, or a photo of herself, or even a drawing. In the community of Gladder Hill, cameras and mirrors are forbidden. You’re not supposed to even think about what other people look like, or what you look like. But Zailey does. When Zailey suddenly finds herself beyond the gates of her town, she has a chance to see if what she’s been taught about the outside world is true.

7. The Hate U Give

By: Angie Thomas

Book cover The Hate U Game Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. When Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer, she is the only person who knows what really happened. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

8. The Serpent King

By: Jeff Zentner

Book cover The Serpent King Dill isn’t the most popular kid at his rural Tennessee high school. After his father became a hated figure in a public scandal that spread throughout their small, Bible belt town, Dill became a target. Fortunately, his two fellow best friends, Travis and Lydia, have his back. But before Dill can graduate and move on, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.

9. We Are Not Free

By: Traci Chee

Book cover We Are Not Free A tight-knit group of young Nisei’s, second-generation Japanese American citizens, lives are forever changed when they and their families are taken from their homes in Japantown, San Francisco and placed in an internment camp during World War II. In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.

10. The Outsiders

By: S.E. Hinton

Book cover The Outsiders No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night someone takes things too far.