Books with sympathetic, funny and edgy characters have been proven to stimulate older readers'interest in pursuing books, as they often gravitate towards main characters dealing with real-life issues. Books like Rumble Fish and Slam may catch boys'attention as they follow young men dealing with harsh realities and difficult choices, while Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Make Lemonade may entice girls with questions that they have asked about themselves.

Sounder by William H. Armstrong (6–8)
Set in the South, this Newbery Award winner tells the story of Sounder, a courageous dog who finds his way back to his family after they all deal with tragic events in life.
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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (grades 6-9)
Margaret has a special relationship with God and always turns to him in times of need. But when she moves to New Jersey, Margaret begins to wonder if it's weird for her to speak to God without a priest or rabbi to mediate. This is a heartfelt book on the companionship that teenagers seek and the growing pains that kids face.

Slam by Walter Dean Myers (grades 7–9)
A Coretta Scott King Award winner, Slam is the brave coming of age tale of high school basketball player Greg "Slam" Harris. Slam is sure he can become a professional ball player, but he comes to doubt his abilities when faced with the reality of his struggles off the court.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (grades 7–9)
This is the story of a girl who dreams of going to college but whose family is too poor for her to do so. She ends up getting a babysitting job for a young mother and later on befriends her. Both girls learn a lot from each other about what they can accomplish in life.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (grades 7–9)
Stargirl is different from all of the other kids at school, but that is what makes her special. One boy sees Stargirl as interesting and ends up dating her, only to find himself asking her to change in order to be accepted by their schoolmates. Will Stargirl give up her identity to please her boyfriend?

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (grades 7-9+)
Two outcast students find their way to one another in this heartwarming tale of friendship and acceptance. Sarah has the scars of a childhood burn, and Eric is the fattest kid in school. But soon Eric joins the swim team, and the exercise forces him to lose weight. Will Eric and Sarah's friendship last if he becomes slim?

Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton (grades 7-9+)
A young troublemaker named Marty must decide whether or not he's going to follow a more positive path or continue to be a lonely delinquent.