Books best suited to students from Year 7 to Year 9

Wonder – R J Palacio

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things – eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside. But ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren’t stared at wherever they go. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all? 

Holes – Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats’ family has a history of bad luck, so when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre (which isn’t green and doesn’t have a lake) he is not surprised. Every day he and the other inmates are told to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, reporting anything they find. The evil warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth. 

 

The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her cartographer father once mapped. When her friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search. The world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself. 

Cogheart – Peter Bunzl

With her friends – Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox – Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realises that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart… 

Who Let the Gods Out? – Maz Evans

Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too? 

The Goldfish Boy – Lisa Thompson

A story about finding friendship when you’re lonely – and hope when all you feel is fear. Twelve-year-old Matthew is trapped in his bedroom by crippling OCD, spending most of his time staring out of his window as the inhabitants of Chestnut Close go about their business. Until the day he is the last person to see his next door neighbour’s toddler, Teddy, before he goes missing. Matthew must turn detective and unravel the mystery of Teddy’s disappearance – with the help of a brilliant cast of supporting characters. Page-turning, heartbreaking, but ultimately life-affirming, this story is perfect for fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Wonder. It is a book that will make you laugh and cry. 

Little Women – Louise May Alcott

Set against the backdrop of a country divided, the story follows the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, on their journey from childhood to adulthood. With the help of their mother, the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman – from gender roles to sibling rivalry, first love, loss and marriage.

Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest-Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!’ Treasure Island is a tale of pirates and villains, maps, treasure and shipwreck, and is perhaps the best adventure story ever written. When young Jim Hawkins finds a packet in Captain Flint’s sea chest, he could not know that the map inside it would lead him to unimaginable treasure. Shipping as cabin boy on the Hispaniola, he sails with Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett, Dr Livesey, the sinister Long John Silver and a frightening crew to Treasure Island. There, mutiny, murder and mayhem lead to a thrilling climax.

The Weight of Water – Sara Crossan

Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka; and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for; Kasienka. At home her mother’s heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat. 

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mary Lennox was horrid. Selfish and spoilt, she was sent to stay with her hunchback uncle in Yorkshire. She hated it. But when she finds the way into a secret garden and begins to tend it, a change comes over her and her life.

She meets and befriends a local boy, the talented Dickon, and comes across her sickly cousin Colin who had been kept hidden from her. Between them, the three children work astonishing magic in themselves and those around them.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

Four adventurous siblings―Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie― step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been drawing readers of all ages into a magical land with unforgettable characters for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone read, but if you would like to explore more of the Narnian realm, pick up The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quiet and contented life, with no desire to travel far from the comforts of home; then one day the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves arrive unexpectedly and enlist his services – as a burglar – on a dangerous expedition to raid the treasure-hoard of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s life is never to be the same again.

Seldom has any book been so widely read and loved as J. R.R. Tolkien’s classic tale, ‘The Hobbit’. Since its first publication in 1937 it has remained in print to delight each new generation of readers all over the world, and its hero, Bilbo Baggins, has taken his place among the ranks of the immortals of fiction.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne

Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.

The Bone Sparrow – Zana Fraillon

This is a beautiful, vivid and deeply moving story about a refugee boy who has spent his entire life living in a detention centre. This novel reminds us all of the importance of freedom, hope, and the power of a story to speak for anyone who’s ever struggled to find a safe home. Born in a refugee camp, all Subhi knows of the world is that he’s at least 19 fence diamonds high, the nice Jackets never stay long, and at night he dreams that the sea finds its way to his tent, bringing with it unusual treasures. And one day it brings him Jimmie. Carrying a notebook that she’s unable to read and wearing a sparrow made out of bone around her neck – both talismans of her family’s past and the mother she’s lost – Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence. As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie’s family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures.

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

This series follows the tragic tale of three orphans — Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire — who are investigating their parents’ mysterious death. The siblings are saddled with an evil guardian named Count Olaf, who will do whatever it takes to get his hands on the Baudelaire’s inheritance. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny must outsmart Olaf at every turn, foiling devious plans and disguises.  

Goodnight Mr. Tom – Michelle Magorian

Young Willie Beech is evacuated to the country as Britain stands on the brink of the Second World War. A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley – but his newfound happiness is shattered by a summons from his mother back in London . . . 

Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders

Five children have grown up – war will change their lives forever. Cyril is off to fight, Anthea is at art college, Robert is a Cambridge scholar and Jane is at high school. The Lamb is the grown-up age of 11, and he has a little sister, Edith, in tow. The sand fairy has become a creature of stories … until he suddenly reappears. The siblings are pleased to have something to take their minds off the war, but this time the Psammead is here for a reason, and his magic might have a more serious purpose. Before this last adventure ends, all will be changed, and the two younger children will have seen the Great War from every possible viewpoint – factory-workers, soldiers and sailors, nurses and the people left at home, and the war’s impact will be felt right at the heart of their family. 

The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter.

Tin – Padraig Kenny

Christopher is ‘Proper’: a real boy with a real soul, orphaned in a fire. He works for an engineer, a maker of the eccentric, loyal and totally individual mechanicals who are Christopher’s best friends. But after a devastating accident, a secret is revealed and Christopher’s world is changed forever … What follows is a remarkable adventure, as Christopher discovers who he really is, and what it means to be human.

Kick – Mitch Johnson

Budi’s plan is simple. He’s going to be a star. Budi’s going to play for the greatest team on earth, instead of sweating over each stitch he sews, each football boot he makes. But one unlucky kick brings Budi’s world crashing down. Now he owes the Dragon, the most dangerous man in Jakarta. Soon it isn’t only Budi’s dreams at stake, but his life. A story about dreaming big, about hope and heroes, and never letting anything stand in your way.

Books best suited to students from Year 9 to Year 11

The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman

Pullman’s long-awaited return to the world of His Dark Materials is, at times, dark indeed. As Malcolm Polstead, 11-year-old landlord’s son, and Alice Parslow, 15-year-old pot washer, convey the baby Lyra Belacqua down a flooded river in Malcolm’s canoe, the threats in their wake are fierce and frightening. 

Things a Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls

Nicholls’ compelling narrative follows Evelyn, groomed for marriage over study; May, the free- thinking daughter of a Quaker; and Nell, the tough, capable mainstay of her poor family. All of them will fight for the right to vote, but, as the spectre of war grows ever closer, what will they sacrifice – and what will be taken from them? An unforgettable historical novel. 

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

A standout debut, this US novel is the Black Lives Matter-inspired story of Starr Carter, whose friend Khalil is shot dead by a police officer as she watches – and whose divided life is jolted out of kilter in the fallout. Full of evocative detail and wry humour, with a charismatic narrator, it reads like a canonical text.

Satellite – Nick Lake

Leo was born in space, living all his life on space station Moon 2 with fellow space-children Libra and Orion. Now, at 15, he is almost due to go to Earth for the first time, but more awaits him there than his grandfather’s ranch and the experiences he has been promising himself.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down. 

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

A plane crashes on an uninhabited island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. 

In this, his first novel, William Golding gave the traditional adventure story an ironic, devastating twist. The boys’ delicate sense of order fades, and their childish fears are transformed into something deeper and more primitive. Their games take on a horrible significance, and before long the well-behaved party of schoolboys has turned into a tribe of faceless, murderous savages. 

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much. 

1984 – George Orwell

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress… 

Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

It’s 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it’s Sarah’s first day of school as one of the first black students at previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda are supposed to despise each other. But the more time they spend together, the less their differences matter. And both girls start to feel something they’ve never felt before. Something they’re determined to ignore. 

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. Wade Watts finds the first clue and starts a race for the Egg.

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years.

Orange Boy – Patrice Lawrence

Sixteen-year-old Marlon has made his mum a promise – he’ll never follow his big brother, Andre, down the wrong path. So far, it’s been easy, but when a date ends in tragedy, Marlon finds himself hunted. They’re after the mysterious Mr Orange, and they’re going to use Marlon to get to him. Marlon’s out of choices – can he become the person he never wanted to be, to protect everyone he loves?

The Bombs that Brought Us Together – Brain Conaghan

Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes forever.

Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town’s rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There’s a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

Narrated against the backdrop of a ruthless regime determined to beat its enemies in the race to the moon, MAGGOT MOON is the stunning new novel from award-winning author Sally Gardner. When his best friend Hector is suddenly taken away, dyslexic hero Standish Treadwell realises that it is up to him, his grandfather and a small band of rebels to confront and defeat the ever-present oppressive forces of the Motherland.

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets. Then Todd Hewitt unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible. And now he’s going to have to run…

The Book Theif – Markus Zusak

It is 1939. In Nazi Germany, the country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier – and will become busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed forever when she picks up a single object, abandoned in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, and this is her first act of book thievery. So begins Liesel’s love affair with books and words, and soon she is stealing from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library . . . wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times, and when Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, nothing will ever be the same again.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

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External Recommendations

Mr. Stink – David Walliams (Year 7 to 9)

Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…”

It all starts when Chloe makes friends with Mr Stink, the local tramp. Yes, he smells a bit. But when it looks like he might be driven out of town, Chloe decides to hide him in the garden shed.

Now Chloe’s got to make sure no one finds out her secret. And speaking of secrets, there just might be more to Mr Stink than meets the eye… or the nose.

Simon vs The Homo-Sapians Agenda (Year 9 to 11)

Straight people should have to come out too. And the more awkward it is, the better.

Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is – and what he’s looking for.

But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated.

Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal . . .
It’s a freaking huge awesome deal.

Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon (Year 9-11)

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone? 

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini (Year 9 to 11)

Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.