Has your son reached the age where it is becoming hard to find good books that he enjoys and that are age appropriate? Middle school kids, ages 11-14, need books that aren't too elementary, but yet not too advanced in subject material. This makes it tricky to find books that are captivating, especially for boys.
Many boys like action or sports related books. By the time my son got into sixth grade, he had already read every Matt Christopher, John Feinstein and Mike Lupica sports fiction book he could find. I found it hard to find authors for him that wrote on topics he would enjoy. Middle school kids are stuck in that awkward stage between "Juvenile" and "Young Adult" books. The Young Adult genre is a big leap to take on many fronts, especially the many "coming of age" books where there is a good deal of dating and sexual content. The books listed below are recommendations for young teenage boys that enjoy a good adventure full of action and unexpected plots.
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Best Action Books for Teenage Boys
Here is a compilation of recommended action-packed books to keep your son engaged in reading. Some of these are trendy, while some have been around for decades.
The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mocking Jay
All three of these books by Suzanne Collins are outstanding works of fiction and captivating for older teens and adults as well. The content is highly violent, as the whole concept of the Hunger Games is children competing by killing one another to become the victor. It sounds horrific, but it is masterfully written to be compelling, thought provoking, but not too gory.
Many adults probably remember reading this book by S.E. Hinton in junior high. Though it is on many required reading lists for school, it is fully action-packed and does not have an "academic" tone to it. About two competing gangs, the Greasers and the Socs, there is gang related violence and underage drinking and smoking. The friendship and social aspects of the book are easily identifiable with many adolescents.
Conspiracy Theory 365
This series of twelve, easy-to-read thriller books, by Gabrielle Lord, feature a fifteen year old boy trying to uncover the truth of his father's death while escaping those trying to capture him as well. These are fast paced books that would be good to purchase used, as a set. Once the first book is read, you'll need to have the second on hand.
Al Capone Does My Shirts
Written by Gennifer Choldenko, this is a funny and interesting read about a twelve year old boy living on Alcatraz Island in 1935. There are some sexual innuendos, but nothing explicit by any means.
Where the Red Fern Grows
A classic book by Wilson Rawls tells a tale about an adolescent boy living in the rural Ozarks. This is one of the greatest boy and dog books of all time. My son read it when he was eleven. At the end, he cried and said he hated this book, then he read it all over again the following week. To me, any book that makes you feel such emotion, is a powerful book worth reading.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
This series of five fantasy-filled action books, written by Rick Riordan, are based on Greek mythology. They may be more geared for the younger side of this age group, but none-the-less is a fun series to read. Twelve year old Percy learns that his father is the Greek God Poseidon and faces many epic battles. The fifth book in the series has more action and violence than the earlier ones but ithe dilemmas encountered while saving the United States are quite captivating.
Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, and Light
This science fiction series of five books by Michael Grant is based in San Perdido Beach, California, in a world where children live with no adults. Everyone mysteriously disappears after their fourteenth birthday. Classic good battling evil and touches of romance and mystery engage the readers on the older side of this age group. These are large, thick books, yet they are so intriguing, they tend to be read quickly. This series is a good choice for summertime reading when there are large blocks of time to fill.
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The Importance of Reading
Middle school is no time for kids to stop reading. It is vital for a child's cognitive development to continue reading, whether it is the local newspaper sports page, Sports Illustrated, an article in Time Magazine or an action-packed fiction book. My son's literature teacher told me the best way to increase a child's vocabulary is to have them read.
Not only is reading a good book captivating and enjoyable, it also helps introduce and retain vocabulary words. As kids get into high school, preparing for and taking the SAT and /or ACT is a major milestone. Setting the foundation for that task is reading. Grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary are just some of the sections students will find on the SAT and ACT. By reading, your student is actually preparing for this test, whether he knows it or not.
Books Make Great Gifts for Boys
Video games are fun, but books are great gifts for middle school boys. Christmas stockings are stuffed with electronic gadgets and video games, but every kid needs some down time from electronics. A book may not get the immediate smiles that a gift of a video game generates but it will provide enjoyment down the road. Books are also great gift ideas to give to relatives who want to purchase your child a gift but not at a $60 video game expense. All of the books listed here would be well received by any middle school or younger teenage boy.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on October 31, 2013:
Hi skyepath! Conspiracy Theory is a great series and you can find the set really inexpensive second hand or on ebay. My kids loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid books too--thanks for providing the link.
skyeplath on October 31, 2013:
Hi Laura, thanks for sharing this list! I came across this hub when I was looking for good books to give my son this Christmas. I think I am going to get him Conspiracy Theory 365’s bookset as per your recommendation. I am also looking forward to the release of the next book of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid! The series is good and entertaining and my kids love it a lot. Here’s the synopsis in case you and your readers are interested --- http://www.bookworld.com.au/book/diary-of-a-wimpy-... Thanks again Laura for your book recommendations!
LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on August 10, 2012:
Thank you ellaangelus, I am glad you found them helpful.
ellaangelus on August 10, 2012:
I love your book recommendations, they're all definitely worth checking out!
LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on July 18, 2012:
Thanks Robin for your comments. I agree--I read Where the Red Fern Grows as a kid and I still remember that book vividly!
Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on July 18, 2012:
Where the Red Fern Grows is my absolute favorite book for kids! My husband read it aloud to our girls and we all cried. It's one of the most memorable books from my childhood. I think a lot of these books work for teenage girls, too. It's a fantastic list!
LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on July 11, 2012:
GoodLady, I will put that on my "to do" list. Thanks for the suggestion!
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on July 11, 2012:
I do wish you had written such a Hub on books for girls so that I could know what to buy my grand daughters when they are that age. Could you write one? It is such a useful Hubs and of course it is important for children of that age to read and be absorbed by stories. Good on YOU!
LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on July 11, 2012:
I agree, the action/thriller/mystery books have always been more interesting to me too. Luckily there are a lots of books in this genre to chooose from for kids.
Natasha from Hawaii on July 10, 2012:
I think this is great advice. I've always been an avid reader, and have usually enjoyed action/adventure/sci-fi more than 'girl' books. I remember frustration with picking up books that seemed way too jeuvenile, but kids that age don't need fully adult books.