Middle school is one of the toughest times in life. You deal with confusing social cliques and awkward changes. How can one read when so much else is happening? Thankfully, there are many classics that help youth make sense of their adolescence.
S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders may be set in the 1960's, but it has timeless themes of friendship, loyalty and finding your place in the world.
Ponyboy is a greaser. Working-class and parentless, he finds solace in poetry and his denim-clad, switchblade-packing friends. Ponyboy is more of a dreamer than a thug, but when he and his friend Johnny find themselves threatened by some rich kids, they act desperately with serious consequences. Forced to run, the two boys' lives are forever changed. As Ponyboy's favorite poem says, "Nothing gold can stay."
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, is one of the best survival tales ever written, capturing the excitement of Jack London's stories with a modern setting.
Brian is the lone survivor of a small plane crash. With only a hatchet at his side, he must build a shelter, hunt for food, and figure out how to contact the outside world. On top of everything, Brian also grapples with his parents' divorce.
For fans of scary stories, look no further than Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. The book is Goosebumps author R.L. Stine's favorite. Bradbury's dark tale features a mysterious carnival and a merry-go-round which can extend one's life and youth...at a price.
The Giver surpasses its "Young Adult" label, holding its own among sci-fi juggernauts like Brave New World and 1984.
Jonas lives in a wonderful society with no war or poverty. Everyone has their place and job. Chosen to work with the community's Giver, Jonas soon finds that life is much more beautiful, painful, and complicated than his elders let on. After receiving the Giver's memories and emotions, Jonas starts to question the rightness of his "perfect" world.
Despite the different settings and genres, all of these books can help teenagers cope with the difficulties of their age and they might just find themselves entertained too!