1. Crash by Jerry Spinelli
"Crash" is John's nickname, and it fits him perfectly. A cocky middle school football star, he crashes through every part of his life, on and off the field. His geeky classmate, Penn, is a common target, but Penn's unconventional way starts to affect Crash in a way he didn't expect. And when a shock at home sets his life reeling, John begins to see that crashing through people might not be in his best interest after all.
A compelling story of popularity and bullying that hooked middle school boys without exception!
2. Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney
Mitty lives an ambivalent life in New York City; he does just enough to get by in school and doesn't seem to care about much. It's not for lack of smarts--he does enjoy being in an advanced science class, but that might be more about his crush who is in class with him. If he doesn't want to get booted from that class, he's going to have to do a stellar job on his upcoming research project. He begins the project somewhat begrudgingly, but when he finds some old scabs in an old medical book things begin to get interesting. As he researches diseases online, he might have just landed in the middle of a bioterrorism plot!
I'd most recommend this book for older kids--7th and 8th graders probably--because of the content and thematic elements; it's a pretty suspenseful story! But that's why so many middle school boys loved it.
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Greg is worried about starting middle school, and documents his (mis)adventures in cartoon form for our enjoyment. Dealing with his brute of an older brother, Roderick, and his embarrassingly geeky best friend, Rowley, Greg is struggling with popularity, avoiding bullies, figuring out what to do with girls, and avoiding that nasty patch of cheese out on the playground.
This book is a brilliant tour of the realities of the middle school wasteland! The slightly irreverent humor and hand-drawn comic style of story-telling make it an easy choice for many middle school boys, who seem to identify with the truthiness of Greg's story. This is the first book in a series, and most kids who picked up the first book were likely to read them all!
Do you have "can't-miss" realistic fiction choices for middle school boys? Please share them!