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Updated by Jen Blair on Dec 05, 2023
Headline for Book Pen Pals - Middle School - Spring 2020
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Book Pen Pals - Middle School - Spring 2020

I love books that are written in different formats: letters (epistolary), diaries, emails, text messages, scrapbooks. Multiple perspectives, fewer words on the page - these are just the ticket for reading distraction right now.

A 52-Hertz Whale by Bill Sommer

A 52-Hertz Whale - Bill Sommer and Natalie Haney Tilghman

From the publisher:
Reveals, through emails from various people, the growing connection between sixteen-year-old James, who is obsessed with the fate of a juvenile humpback whale he adopted, and Darren, a would-be filmmaker who once did community service in James's Special Education classroom.

The Agony House by Cherie Priest

The Agony House - Cherie Priest and illustrated by Tara O'Connor

I loved how this mystery was scary (but not too scary for me) and told the story through prose and through graphic novel format.

From the publisher:
Denise Farber, her mom, and her stepfather are moving back to New Orleans, into the Argonne house, which is over 100 years old, and really showing its age, but which her mother plans to turn into a bed-and-breakfast--but old houses have histories, and sometimes ghosts, and a mysterious old comic book that Denise finds in the attic may hold the answer to a crime and the terrifying things that keep happening in what she thinks of as the "Agony" house.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Book of A Thousand Days - Shannon Hale

This is one of my most favorite books of all time. So good that I finished it at midnight and then turned to page one, so I could read it all over again. Princesses, mistaken identity, cruel parents...Yes, please.

From the publisher:
Fifteen-year-old Dashti, sworn to obey her sixteen-year-old mistress, the Lady Saren, shares Saren's years of punishment locked in a tower, then brings her safely to the lands of her true love, where both must hide who they are as they work as kitchen maids.

Breakout by Kate Messner

Breakout - Kate Messner

Told through a variety of media, including newspaper articles, texts, and emails, this is the story of one girl's whose summer plans are disrupted, but maybe will make her a better person.

From the publisher:
Nora Tucker is looking forward to summer vacation in Wolf Creek--two months of swimming, popsicles, and brushing up on her journalism skills for the school paper. But when two inmates break out of the town's maximum security prison, everything changes. Doors are locked, helicopters fly over the woods, and police patrol the school grounds. Worst of all, everyone is on edge, and fear brings out the worst in some people Nora has known her whole life. Even if the inmates are caught, she worries that home might never feel the same.

Don't Check Out This Book! by Kate Klise

Don't Check Out This Book! - Kate Klise; illustrate by M. Sarah Klise

From the publisher:
When Appleton Elementary's new school board president, Ivana Beprawpa, uses her position to line her own pockets, student sleuths Sara and May, supported by passionate librarian Rita B. Danjerous, seek the truth. Told through letters, memos, and text messages.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #1)

Georgia Nicolson Diaries - Louise Rennison

Nothing makes me happier than re-reading the journals of Georgia Nicolson. Funny, charming, and real, even the glossary is worth a read.

From the publisher:
In her outrageously funny and angst-filled diaries British teen, Georgia Nicolson, deals with the Elderly Mad (aka "parents"), tries to prevent her Scottish wildcat Angus from eating Mr. Next Door's poodles, organizes emergency meetings with her friends, the Ace Gang, and does everything within her power to finally get off the rack of romance and into the cakeshop of love once and for all.

House Arrest (House Arrest, #1) by K.A. Holt

House Arrest - K.A. Holt

From the publisher:
Timothy is a good kid who did a bad thing. Now he's under house arrest for a whole year. He has to check in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, keep a journal, and stay out of trouble. But when he must take drastic measures to help his struggling family, staying out of trouble proves more difficult than Timothy ever thought it would be.

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman

Illuminae Files series - Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

One of my favorite sci-fi reads of all time. All three books look really long, but the story is told through government documents, text messages, and illustrations so they actually read very quickly. Like Battlestar Galactica, only snarkier.

From the publisher:
The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship's artificial intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all.

Letters to the Lost (Letters to the Lost, #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

From the publisher:
Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world famous photojournalist--even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. When Declan finds a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist the urge to write back. Soon, he is sharing his pain with a perfect stranger. When real life interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster - Walter Dean Myers

A classic. It's just so darn good. If you're already read it? Worth a re-read.

From the publisher:
While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken.

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

The Night Diary - Veera Hiranandani

From the publisher:
Shy twelve-year-old Nisha, forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India, tries to find her voice and make sense of the world falling apart around her by writing to her deceased Muslim mother in the pages of her diary.

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan

To Night Owl From Dogfish - Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

I just loved every second of this story. Like a modern-day Parent Trap. Poignant and funny. This book is all the things.

From the publisher:
Unhappy about being sent to the same summer camp after their fathers start dating, Bett and Avery, eleven, eventually begin scheming to get the couple back together after a break-up. Told entirely through emails.

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

P.S. I Miss You - Jen Petro-Roy

From the publisher:
Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister, Cilla, away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. Forbidden from speaking to Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters.

Evie could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn't writing back, and it's time for Evie to take matters into her own hands.

Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks by Kate Klise

Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks - Kate Klise; illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

The series that started it all for me. I love how they incorporate letters, newspaper articles and random pictures to tell this mystery. The. Best.

From the publisher:
When the principal asks a fifth-grader to write a letter regarding the purchase of a new drinking fountain for their school, he finds that all sorts of chaos results.

Soon the fountain project takes on a life of its own, one chronicled in letters, postcards, memos, transcripts, and official documents. The school board president is up in arms. So is Dee Eel, of the water-supply company. A scandal is brewing, and Mr. Sam N.'s fifth grade class is turning up a host of hilarious secrets buried deep beneath the fountain.

Same Sun Here by Silas House

Same Sun Here - Silas House and Neela Vaswani

From the publisher:
A twelve-year-old Indian immigrant in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner's son become pen pals, and eventually best friends, through a series of revealing letters exploring such topics as environmental activism, immigration, and racism.

TBH, This Is So Awkward (TBH #1) by Lisa Greenwald

TBH, This is So Awkward - Lisa Greenwald

From the publisher:
Told entirely in text messages, emails, and notes, best friends Prianka, Gabby, and Cecily find their friendship tested by busily planning a spring fair, bullying, and boys.

The Year of Secret Assignments (Ashbury/Brookfield, #2)

The Year of Secret Assignments - Jaclyn Moriarty

From the publisher:
When an English assignment forces snobby Ashbury students Lydia, Emily, and Cassie to exchange letters with low-life Brookfield guys, Lydia and Emily are surprised to find their Brookfield pen pals so kind and civilized. But after Cassies cross-town correspondent threatens her, the friends plan a series of madcap missions designed to teach this malevolent male a lesson he wont forget.