10 Must-Read Books for 8th Graders

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By the time kids reach the 8th grade, they tend to vary a lot in their reading ability and maturity development. Some thirteen to fourteen year olds are avid readers who are already enjoying adult novels, while others might still struggle with reading or prefer to play video games rather than sitting down with a good book. 

AT A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Books for 8th Graders

That’s why I’ve put together this varied list of book ideas for 8th graders. I’ve tried to include a wide selection of different styles, genres, and reading levels, so there should be something to suit every teen. There’s fantasy, sci-firomance, and some classics, as well as some books that will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. So, in no particular order, here are my top ten must read books for 8th graders.

The 10 Best Books for 8th Graders

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Genres: Novel, Young adult fiction
  • Grade level : 8 - 12
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The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Genre: High Fantasy; ‎Adventure
  • Reading age : 12 years and up
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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Genres: Novel, Romance novel, Young adult fiction
  • Awards: Goodreads Choice Awards Best Young Adult Fiction, Audie Award for Teens
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Genres: Novel, Science Fiction, Humour, Science fiction comedy, Humorous Fiction
  • Page count: 193 (Paperback)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Genres: Novel, Bildungsroman, Thriller, Southern Gothic, Domestic Fiction, Legal Story
  • Published: July 11, 1960
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Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Genres: Novel, Young adult fiction, Science Fiction, Romance novel, Dystopian Fiction
  • Page count: 487
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Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Genres: Romance novel, Speculative fiction
  • Page count: 192 (Hardcover)
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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • Genres: Novel, Fantasy Fiction, High fantasy
  • Reading age : 10 - 14 years
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Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Genres: Novel, Fiction
  • Original title: Nepal
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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • Genres: Historical Fiction, historical novel
  • Reading age : 12 - 17 years
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1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
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Cath has been plagued by anxiety throughout her teenage years, and now, as she heads off to college, her mental health takes another nosedive. Her identical twin sister and best friend, Wren, has abandoned her. While she’s out partying, making friends, and embracing college life, Cath’s social anxiety forces her to hide herself away. 

She spends hours writing fan fiction, and to her delight, she starts to receive recognition online for her work. But there’s no running away from her real life problems, and as much as she’d love to hide out online and work on her writing forever, she’s forced to face her fears all too often. 

As the semesters tick by, Cath is faced with a lot of challenges; Wren is hospitalized after an alcohol overdose, her estranged mother shows up out of the blue, asking for redemption, and her father is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward after suffering a bipolar episode. 

This thought provoking book is a character driven coming of age story that refuses to gloss over the challenges and hurdles that life often throws at young people.

2. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien 

The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
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Middle Earth has enjoyed living in relative peace for centuries now, but something is starting to shift. The Dark Lord Sauron is waking up from his slumber, and only one thing stands between him and his plans on ultimate domination; a powerful, mysterious, and evil ring. If Sauron gets his hands on it, the whole of Middle Earth will be plunged into darkness and destroyed forever. 

The task of protecting this powerful ring falls to some unsuspecting hobbits. Along with the help of an eclectic group of friends, they must deliver the ring to the fiery underbelly of Mount Doom, where it will be destroyed once and for all, rendering Sauron powerless. But this dangerous quest was never going to be easy. 

This classic trilogy might be a little challenging for some readers, but if your 8th grader loves epic battles involving mystical creatures and already has a love of reading, then you can’t go wrong with the Lord of The Rings trilogy. 

3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
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Hazel knows that she’s dying of cancer. Despite doctors miraculously shrinking her tumor and buying her a few extra years, there’s only one fate in her future. But when she meets the handsome and charming Augustus Waters at her children’s cancer support group, everything changes. 

She’s no longer consumed by fear, dread, and hopelessness. Now, she’s in love. This modern classic explores the heartbreaking yet electrifying journey of two teens who face real life challenges beyond imagination. It’s a true tear-jerker and an absolute must-read not only for 8th graders but for everyone who enjoys a thought-provoking and emotional read. 

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
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Arthur Dent lives a boring, average, and predictable life, until one day, out of the blue, the Earth is destroyed to make space for an intergalactic freeway. Luckily, his best friend Ford Prefect had some inside information, and he rescued Arthur right before the planet was blasted into oblivion. It turns out that Ford is a researcher for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and now the pair are about to embark on an epic adventure through space and time. 

First released in 1979, this hilarious sci-fi story is a cult classic. Any 8th grader who likes satirical humor or a good space adventure will love this book. 

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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Scout and Jem Finch live a sheltered, happy life in 1930s small-town Alabama, under the care of their father, a lawyer named Atticus Finch. They spend their days playing games with their friend Dill and spying on their strange, solitary neighbor, a mysterious man named Boo Radley. 

But their innocent small town world comes crashing down after Atticus decides to defend a black man who is wrongly accused of raping a white woman. The children must now come face to face with a dark reality of insidious racism, prejudice, and hatred that exists just below the surface of their seemingly idyllic homeland. 

This classic tale is loved by teens and adults worldwide. It’s on many a school syllabus not just because it’s a classic piece of literature but also to spark interesting and necessary discussions about segregation, racism, and the darker side of American history. 

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth 

Divergent by Veronica Roth
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Beatrice Prior lives in a dark, dystopian Chicago, where society is divided up into so called ‘virtuous’ factions. There’s Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), and Amity (the peaceful). One day each year, all the sixteen year olds in society must choose which faction they will join, but there’s a catch; they will have to devote the rest of their lives to it, and there’s no going back. 

As Beatrice’s turn to decide her faction draws near, she’s torn. On the one hand, she feels she should stay with her family, but on the other, she knows she doesn’t belong there. When the day comes to make her decision, she surprises everyone, including herself. 

What follows is a grueling initiation period, where she takes on a new name; Tris. Day after day, Tris and her fellow initiates must undergo brutal physical and mental tests that push them to their very limits. As they all struggle to accept their new identities, Tris carries a secret with her. It’s a secret she knows she can never share; if anyone ever found out, it could lead to her death. But in order to save those she loves, she might just have to. 

7. Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
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We’re all familiar with the fairy tale Cinderella, where she meets Prince Charming, they get married, and they both live happily ever after. But this edgy rework by Margaret Peterson Haddix is grounded firmly in reality, a reality where being a princess isn’t always sunshine and roses. For starters, the prince isn’t the slightest bit charming or even remotely interesting. 

And Ella quickly realizes that she’s not exactly princess material either. Acting like a “lady” is harder than it looks, and in the days leading up to their wedding, she’s having second thoughts about the whole thing. 

She doesn’t want to be married to a man she doesn’t love, and to make matters worse, there’s another boy in the palace that catching her attention much more than her supposed perfect match. 

Now, Ella must escape a life she doesn’t belong to before it’s too late.

8. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
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There’s a witch who lives in the forest just outside of town, and each year, the people of the Protectorate choose a baby and leave it for the witch as a kind of sacrifice. They hope that this annual act will keep her evil ways at bay. 

But what they don’t know is that this witch isn’t so evil, after all. Her name is Xan, and she’s gentle and kind. She rescues these absconded children and nourishes them with magical starlight. She then delivers them to loving families on the other side of the forest, where they can live happy, healthy lives. 

But one year, after receiving another child from the misguided Protectorate, Xan accidentally feeds them moonlight rather than starlight. Moonlight contains a power unlike any other, and so Xan decides to raise this baby girl, who she names Luna, herself, in order to protect her from the powerful magic she holds. Xan casts a spell to lock up Luna’s magic and keep her safe throughout her childhood. 

But as her thirteenth birthday approaches, this magic is slowly starting to return. And elsewhere, on the other side of the forest, the Protectorate is hatching a plan to kill the ‘evil’ witch once and for all. Now, Luna must protect the person who has kept her safe all these years, but will she be able to contain the power that is slowly reigniting inside of her? 

9. Sold by Patricia McCormick

Sold by Patricia McCormick
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Thirteen year old Lakshmi lives in a tiny hut with her family in the soaring Nepalese mountains. Despite being desperately poor, Lakshmi lives a happy life, full of love, wonder, and adventure. But one day, the torrential monsoon rains arrive with a vengeance, and they destroy the last of the family’s already dwindling crops. Now there’s no food to eat, and the family is thrown into desperate circumstances. 

Lakshmi’s stepfather tells her she must leave her family home and go out to work in order to save them from certain starvation. He takes her to meet a glamourous stranger who offers her a job as a maid in the big city, working for a wealthy woman. After just a few months, Lakshmi will be able to save enough money to ensure that her family is well-fed, and this nightmare will be over. 

After a long journey to India, she arrives at “Happiness House” ready to start work, but she soon discovers the terrifying truth; she’s been sold into prostitution. 

Lakshmi enters a living nightmare that seems like it will never end, until one day, she has the opportunity to reclaim her life and her family. This is a wonderfully written, powerful novel about a tough topic, but it’s handled with sensitivity and care, making it perfect for curious teen readers. 

10. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys 

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
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Growing up in 1940s Lithuania, fifteen year old Lina is like any other girl her age. She loves painting and drawing, and she and her friends talk about all the boys they’d like to kiss. But one night, her happy life is ripped apart when Soviet officers tear into her home. They separate her from her father and force Lina, her mother, and her younger brother onto a cramped and dirty train. Before they have the chance to blink, they’re heading north, where they will eventually arrive in the brutally cold conditions of remote Siberia. 

Under Stalin’s orders, she, her family, and others like them are forced to work under the most inhumane conditions, and every day is a struggle to survive. 

Lina risks her potential death to escape into her art; she documents everything that happens to them, drawing secret pictures and hoping that maybe one day, these messages will reach her father, and he’ll know they’re still alive. 

Lina’s journey is full of pain, fear, and sadness, but it’s also one of incredible love, strength, and hope. It’s a captivating read for any mature 8th grader. 

Conclusion

No matter what kind of stories your 8th grader enjoys, there’s something out there that will encourage their love of reading. Do you have any suggestions for great titles that 8th graders will enjoy? Drop a comment below! 

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