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Got Issues? Books that Tackle Topics That Matter to Preteens

These real-life novels and how-to books can help give adolescents the confidence to push through the all-too-common challenges they face as they grow older.


Cliques, Bullies, and the Friends that Help You Through It All

Friends: Stories About New Friends, Old Friends, and Unexpectedly True Friends edited by Ann M. Martin and David Levithan
This collection of essays by several notable authors shows how important - and how much work - friendships can be.

The Misfits by James Howe
Four unpopular 7th graders, cruelly taunted by classmates, band together to confront the bullies. Learn more.

Still There, Clare by Yvonne Prinz
Can a girl gain the confidence to give up her imaginary friend?

P.S. Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail No More by Ann M. Martin and Paula Danziger
Two best friends snail mail, and then email, school stories in these hip epistolary novels. Learn more (P.S.). Learn more (Snail Mail).

Tangerine by Edward Bloor
Adolescent readers will be captivated by this coming-of-age novel packed with themes of mystery and environmentalism. Learn more.

Life Changes and Dealing With Family

Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This touching story shows a girl discovering who she really is when her absent mother appears back in her life. Learn more.

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
Hattie's routine summer takes a turn when her mentally disabled uncle moves in with her family. Learn more.

Amalee by Dar Williams
Exploring themes of friendship, this novel depicts the challenges of a girl coping with her father's illness. Learn more.

Sam I Am by Ilene Cooper
It's not easy living with two different faiths, and until his parents figure it out, Sam Goodman is doing just that. 

Blister by Susan Shreve
When it feels like her family's falling apart, Alyssa reinvents her wardrobe and attitude. But can her new exterior shield her from what's truly wrong? Learn more.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Things are going great for Steven - until his 5-year-old brother is diagnosed with leukemia and the family is changed forever. Learn more.

Body Image and Wrestling With Weight Control

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
Marcy is 13, overweight, and feels like she has no friends. But when her favorite teacher gets fired, she decides it's time to take some control over her life. Learn more.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler 
Great for mature middle-schoolers, this humorous self-acceptance story also tackles issues of sex and coping with family.

No Body's Perfect by Kimberly Kirberger
Lift your adolescent's spirits with stories and words of wisdom from the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Learn more.

Perfect: A Novel by Natasha Friend
Older middle-schoolers will be moved by this story of the way a 13 year old uses bulimia to control her emotions about a family tragedy.

Slot Machine by Chris Lynch
An overweight teen gets sent to a summer camp and has to find the sport where he "fits." Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be one.

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt
This National Book Award-winning novel explores what happens when an obese 13 year old moves into town and changes the community forever. Learn more.

Prejudice, Difference, and Making Peace With Yourself

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
A sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who loves shopping, hanging out with her friends, and gossiping about the boy she has a crush on decides to wear a head scarf full-time, even if it makes her a little different from everyone else.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Two opposites join forces to create a strong and unusual friendship. Learn more.

Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park
A Korean-American girl comes to terms with her heritage and her new town through a science project in this quirky, readable novel. Learn more.

Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
When a special-needs student joins a mainstream classroom, she discovers her own extraordinary talents with the help of an inspiring teacher. Learn more.

Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi
Encourage tolerance with this tale of two boys-Israeli and Palestinian-who find themselves sharing a hospital ward, learning they're not the enemies they thought they were. Learn more.

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake
A misfit 7th grader learns to love herself with the help of an inspirational teacher.

Struggling With Schoolwork, Sports, and Making Your Mark

Out Standing in My Field by Patrick Jennings
Will Ty Cobb ever be able to live up to his namesake on the baseball field? Or even his sister in the classroom? Learn more.

My Thirteenth Winter by Samantha Abeel
Dive into an account of a teen's struggle and triumph over her learning disability. Learn more.

Nobody Was Here: Seventh Grade in the Life of Me, Penelope by Alison Pollet
Will Penelope ever stop feeling invisible in her New York City prep school? Learn more.

Taking Sides by Gary Soto
A middle-school basketball player transfers to an affluent school, but has to face his old team from the barrios on the court. Learn more.

The View From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
Told from the viewpoints of five characters, this Newbery Award-winning novel shows what happens when a diverse group of middle-schoolers form an academic Olympic team. Learn more.

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