The Five Books I Re-read in Middle School

I don’t reread books anymore. I’ll reread  favorite passages at night before bed when I’m too tired to read something new, but rarely do I reread a book cover-to-cover. In middle school I was a huge re-reader, which I think is pretty typical of the age group. Life (friends, school, hormones) is crazy in middle school; you eagerly grasp onto anything familiar and comfortable.

When a child checks out the same book again and again, I’ll ask why. Sometimes the answer is that they really love the book. I’ll gently encourage them to try something new, even if it’s within the same genre or has a similar plot. Other times the child will shrug and shuffle their feet, and I know they’re checking out the same book because they need to check out a book, so it might as well be that book. I’ll stop what I’m doing and work with them one-on-one to find something they might actually attempt reading.

The other day a student arrived late to class, and I could tell immediately their day wasn’t going well. Two weeks prior, I gently encouraged the same to student to try something new. But the other day, the only thing I said when they approached the counter with the same tattered book was, “Would you like to sit on the floor next to me and read your book?” (The answer was yes.)

Here are a few books I reread in middle school over and over and over again.

The Ghost Next Door || Wylly Folk St. John

The Ghost Next Door

Sherry Alston had never been told about her dead half-sister Miranda. So when Sherry came to visit her Aunt Judith, no one could explain the odd things that started to happen. Who was the elusive friend Sherry said she saw in the garden? Was she an imaginary playmate – or could she be the ghost of Miranda who had drowned in the pond years ago? Uncanny reminders of Miranda began to turn up – a blue rose, a lost riding whip…

Lindsey and Tammy, who lived next door, decided to delve into the meaning of the apparent psychic phenomena. They soon found themselves drawn deeper and deeper into an intriguing mystery.

I’ve written about this book before, and on that post the great niece of Wylly Folk St. John left a comment. My “frenemy” in middle school was a huge horror fan, and I wasn’t. This book, which she considered lame, was my attempt at reading something cool and scary. I will never forget about the owl with the love in its eyes.

Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade  || Barthe DeClements

5th grade A fifth grade class, repelled by the overweight new student who has serious home problems, finally learns to accept her.

As a middle school kid, I was pretty convinced my parents were clueless to everything I worried about. But, looking back, my mom sure did buy me a lot of books featuring chubby girls sitting on the outer limits of social circles. I remember Elsie at one point lost so much weight that she repeatedly stared down at her feet because, for the first time in her life, she could see them. I might read this as an adult. One thing I hate about chubby-girl books from the past is that their lives are only better once they lose the weight. They get the guy, the friends, the super cute outfits. That probably wasn’t the message I needed to read at the time–or now, actually.

Miss Perfect || Jill Ross Klevin

Miss Perfect


Super athlete, straight-A student, president of her class, editor of the school newspaper — Kim excelled at everything. That’s what her father expected of her. But her friends notice that Kim doesn’t smile much anymore, and her boyfriend Brad is afraid that Kim doesn’t have time even for him.

Kim is so busy, Kim is perfect. But her achievements are beginning to demand a very high price…

A few years ago, I had a student who struggled with anxiety and perfectionism. She reminded me of myself at that age, and I spent many nights worrying about her. Thinking of her reminded me of this book, which my (again oh-so-clueless) mother bought for me. Sadly, I remember wanting to be Kim and thinking that if she had just been a little bit tougher, she could have handled all her commitments. Oh, Teenage-Jules.

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit || Paula Danziger


Marcy’s life is a mess. Her parents don’t understand her, she feels like a fat blimp with no friends, and her favorite teacher just got fired. Ms. Finney wasn’t like the other teachers, and she was helping Marcy feel good about being herself.

Now that she’s gone, Marcy doesn’t know what to do. She’s always thought things would be better if she could just lose weight, but the loss of Ms. Finney sparks something inside her. She decides to join the fight to bring back her teacher, and in doing so, she discovers that her voice might matter more than she ever realized.

Once again, my “clueless” mom gave me a book about a chubby girl trying to fit in. You guys, maybe my mom knew more than 12-year-old me suspected! In 2006 the publishers released a 30th anniversary edition of the book. I’m going to reread it (!!) and see if it’s a good fit for the library. If it hasn’t been updated, I can always shelve it under (gulp) historical fiction.

You Shouldn’t Have to Say Good-Bye || Patricia Hermes

You Shouldn't Have to Say GoodbyeThirteen-year-old Sarah Morrow doesn’t think much of the fact that her mother winced a little when she hugged her. In fact, that first small indication of something wrong escapes the whole family. Three weeks later though there can be no escape. Sarah’s mother has been diagnosed with incurable cancer and the love this family shares becomes a desperate clinging.

But Sarah’s mother has a gift. A gift for reaffirming life. And even as she leaves that gift, another one, a letter, will help bring Sarah through the most painful and trying time she has ever had.

I adored everything about this book. I wanted to live in that house and I wanted my mom to wear that outfit. This is the first book to make me sob–maybe the only book to make me sob. It was reissued in 2008, and it’s free right now on Kindle Unlimited. I’m going to reread it (!!) and see if it’s as wonderful as I remember. I’m buying a copy for the library.

There is one other book I reread, but I think it was in high school–freshman year. I can’t remember the title! I can’t remember much of it, actually. A sister had a huge crush on her older brother’s friend, who paid very little attention to her (naturally). One Christmas he gave her a perfunctory kiss under the mistletoe. Then, plot happens. Maybe a mystery? Maybe the brother and friend go off to college? Time happened, that much I can tell you, and I think she grows up and he realizes she’s grown up. At the end of the book, it’s Christmas years later and she’s walking down the hallway in her home when she bumps into him. He kisses her and says, “I don’t think we need the mistletoe anymore.” Or something like that. Total cheese, but 13 year-old-me read that line and had to fan herself and guzzle a liter of Diet Rite.

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  1. “Total Cheese, but 13 year-old-me read that line and had to fan herself and guzzle a liter of Diet Rite.”

    I had to laugh out loud at that one (because I could totally relate).. So much of puberty’s hormonal angst in one concise sentence. You hit the ball out of the park with that line.

  2. My mom hated that I re-read books, but now that I see kids doing it as they are learning to read, I’m convinced they get something different out of it every time they read it. Better reading skills and more life experience lets the book they read in first or second be a new book when they read it in third or fourth grade.

    My favorite re-read was called “The President’s Daughter”, by Ellen Emerson White. I was fascinated with the idea of Washington DC but I was also fascinated because it was the main character’s mom who ran for, and won, the presidency. Timely, no? Except it was 30 years ago and middle school me has been waiting all this time for us to get anywhere close to that happening for real.

    I also re-read chapters 13 and 14 of “Are You There God”…those were, of course, the chapters where Margaret cream rinsed her hair and went to her first boy/girl party. Ooh la la!

    • OMG, I was just about to comment about The President’s Daughter! That’s my young teenage re-read as well. I bought it for my Kindle about six months ago, and I was surprised how much joy it brought me to re-read (she did update it slightly). There are whole passages I remember practically verbatim.

    • I know for a fact we get something out of a book every time we reread it. I should be better about it, but I’m not. There are so many books out there to read! I do encourage the boys to reread books, especially those they read that are above age level, like Harry Potter. A book like that grows with you.

      I’ve never even heard of “The President’s Daughter,” but how timely is that?! I might have to check it out and see if it’s a good buy for the library.

      The fact that you know the chapter numbers of “Are You there God, it’s Me Margaret” is so <3 <3 <3 I can't even stand it.

  3. Communication is noitacinummoc spelled backwards (from CAT).

    I reread that one, as well as THERE’S A BAT IN BUNK FIVE, the follow-up where she gets skinny and gets a boyfriend. It was good.

    I reread all my Paul Zindel books, THE HANDSOME MAN, and UP IN SETH’S ROOM (why didn’t my parents vet my books?).

    I do still reread. Chronicles of Narnia, Little House books, Jane Austen. I like to know what I’m getting into.

  4. You know I’m all about the re-read, even now. But back in the day it was all about Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy, anything by Christopher Pike (especially Remember Me and Witch), Sweet Valley High, and Babysitter’s Club. Oh the memories!

    • I don’t recognize any of those books, except Sweet Valley High, and my crazy strict immigrant dad was having none of it. I wasn’t even allowed to read Seventeen Magazine until I was SEVENTEEN, and I was like, DAD. SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS DON’T READ SEVENTEEN!

  5. I loved loved loved all Paula Danziger’s books, and I wore out You Shouldn’t Have To… And of course Judy Blume, and I also read and read Nothing’s Fair… We apparently had the same bookshelf.

    • Twins! I read “You Shouldn’t Have to” until it broke apart. What a feeling it would be to find a book I loved as much as an adult! That’d be impossible, I think.

  6. I’ve been doing a lot of rereading lately (I can’t seem to find anything new that grabs me so I’ve been reading things I KNOW I like.) I reread a lot when I was younger too and we had a couple of books in common but the one that jumps out at me the most is The Ghost Next Door (I read that for the first time at my dad’s girlfriend’s house. She had a daughter that was a few years older than me and I snuck it from her. My mom was PISSED because she would have never have let me and my overactive imagination read it.)

    Another that I read but cannot think of the title – was one about a kid who’s mom had started dating this new guy and started eating all this health food – and started making her kids eat all this health food. I wish I could think of the title. I read it aloud to my Grandma during one of my weekends with her and remember her laughing and laughing. I’d love to see my thoughts of it as an adult!

    • Yeah, my friend was super into scary stuff, even (GASP!) Ouija boards. She watched all the horror movies of the time. I was no match for her, and The Ghost Next Door was as scary as it got for me.

  7. In middle and high school I had a bookshelf next to my bed that was specifically for rereads. It was the books that I knew I could go to in order to release emotion (at least, that’s what I recognize as an adult). I even split up series so that the right books could be on that shelf! I can’t remember all of them now, but I know the last two books of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising trilogy were there (The Grey King and Silver on the Tree), and Rilla of Ingleside, the last book of the Anne of Green Gables series. The Witch of Blackbird Pond – I adored Nat even when I was way too old to have a book crush. I still reread The Westing Game periodically, but in general I don’t reread much anymore.

    • Both “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” and “The Westing Game” are on my list of books to read. I may have read the former as a child, but if I did, I can’t remember anything about it.

  8. I read rather quickly, so I enjoyed rereading books. Partly because we had a limit on how many library books we could get, so I’d HAVE to just to have something to read (along with reading all my little brother and sister’s books), and there were plenty of times I’d catch things I missed the first time. I remember rereading The Little House books until they fell apart, Chronicles of Narnia, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Ordinary Princess, The Last Unicron, The Westing Game, Anne of Green Gables, etc., The Betsy/Tacy/Tibs books …and probably many more. Its a bit sad to have only boys, they appreciate some of the books I loved, but so many I can’t share with them. I love that you get to be with kids in the library and share books with them! 🙂

  9. Have you read A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN?

    So, so good. I’m bold enough to say I think you would like it. Because it’s really good, not because I know what you’d like.

    That’s a reread, too. And sometimes a “buy as a gift” book. I bought it for my mother-in-law. She has since died, but I don’t think the book had anything to do with it.

  10. Woah. “Nothings Fair in Fifth Grade”. That cover! Elsie, staring at her feet! I must have re-read that one 100 times.

    • I’m not the only one who remembers that part where she stares at her feet! That’s what is so crazy-awesome about life. Two girls, in different countries, reading the same book and marveling over the same few lines, years and years and years later meet online and talk about it on a random Wednesday.

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