2020 Tween Realistic Fiction

The Magic in Changing Your Stars

Leah Henderson

After bungling his audition to play the Scarecrow in The Wiz, fifth-grader Ailey is magically transported to 1930s Harlem where he meets his own grandfather and legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

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Everything Sad Is Untrue

Daniel Nayeri

At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls "Daniel") stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much. But Khosrou's stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy...and further back to the fields near the river Aras, where rain-soaked flowers bled red like the yolk of sunset burst over everything, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan. We bounce between a school bus of kids armed with paper clip missiles and spitballs to the heroines and heroes of Khosrou's family's past, who ate pastries that made people weep and cry "Akh, Tamar!" and touched carpets woven with precious gems. Like Scheherazade in a hostile classroom, Daniel weaves a tale to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth. And it is (a true story). It is Daniel's.

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Mr. Lemoncello and the Titanium Ticket

Chris Grabenstein

Far away from his magical library, everyone's favorite game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, is building something new. Something SECRET. And he's about to let the world see it. He'll reveal that hidden deep within the Lemoncello-tastic new building is a single ticket. A titanium ticket. Four lucky boys and girls are about to win the chance to go inside the building on a spectacular scavenger hunt that will take them through bigger-than-life live-action games--towering, skyscraper-size Jenga; dizzying real-life Chutes and Ladders; death-defying games of Rush Hour; plus ball pit moats and more! Each game will get the players closer to the titanium ticket. But the real secret? Mr. Lemoncello is thinking about his legacy, and whichever player finds the ticket will be the first to win a spot in an elite group of kids who will compete in the next books to win Mr. Lemoncello's ENTIRE EMPIRE!

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Fighting Words

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-tear-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom's boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della's own wolf--her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della's world turns so far upside down, it feels like it's shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she's been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it's time to be loud. In this powerful novel that explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.

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A Place at the Table

Saadia Faruqi, Laura Shovan

A timely, accessible, and beautifully written story exploring themes of food, friendship, family and what it means to belong, featuring sixth graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl taking a South Asian cooking class taught by Sara’s mom. Sixth graders Sara and Elizabeth could not be more different. Sara is at a new school that is completely unlike the small Islamic school she used to attend. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. The girls meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher. The girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens, and they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. They make good cooking partners . . . but can they learn to trust each other enough to become true friends?

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Friendship List #4: 13 and 3/4

Lisa Greenwald

BFFs Ari and Kaylan make a new bucket list as they set out for different summer camps in the fourth and final Friendship List novel. The perfect summer read for fans of Lauren Myracle and Rachel Renee Russo’s Dork Diaries! Ari and Kaylan aren’t sure how they’re going to survive their first summer apart. No pool. No sleepovers. No emergency late night chats on the porch. So as Ari returns to Camp Silver and Kaylan heads off to comedy camp, they come up with a new list of 13 and 3/4 ways to keep their friendship strong as they tackle everything from bias to batik and moping to matchmaking. Told in alternating perspectives, the fourth book in the popular Friendship List series is sure to make readers cry, laugh, and start plotting their own friendship lists.

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The Prettiest

Brigit Young

It’s the last thing Eve Hoffmann expected to be, the only thing Sophie Kane wants to be, and something Nessa Flores-Brady knows she’ll never be . . . until a list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade. Eve is disgusted by the way her body is suddenly being objectified by everyone around her. Sophie is sick of the bullying she’s endured after being relegated to number two. And Nessa is tired of everyone else trying to tell her who she is. It’s time for a takedown. As the three girls band together, they begin to stand up not just for themselves, but for one another, too.

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Beast

Watt Key

Adam says he can’t remember where he was for the two months he went missing in a Florida swamp. That’s not true. He does remember. The truth: He was driving with his parents, and the car crashed when his father swerved to avoid colliding with a giant Sasquatch-like creature standing in the highway. Haunted by his parents’ disappearance and hounded for claiming to have seen Bigfoot, Adam sets off into the deadly wilderness on a hunt for answers as to what really happened that night. The answer he finds is more terrifying—and more fascinating—than he could have imagined.

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We Dream of Space

Erin Entrada Kelly

Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties. Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing. The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project—they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.

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What Lane?

Torrey Maldonado

"STAY IN YOUR LANE." Stephen doesn't want to hear that--he wants to have no lane. Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn't think it's his lane, but he goes. Here's the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he's not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he's living in two worlds with different rules--and he's been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . . So what'll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his--and who should be with him.

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Any Day with You

Mae Respicio

During the summer before seventh grade, Kaia, who enjoys living in Southern California, visiting the beach with her family, and creating movie make-up effects, makes a film with her friends to win a contest and hopefullly prevent her beloved great-grandtather from moving back to the Philippines.

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The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter

Aaron Reynolds

Rex Dexter is itching to have a dog. He was practically born to have one. His name is Rex, for crying out loud. It's a dog's name. Any pooch is preferable, but a chocolate Labrador is the pinnacle. The best of the best. The dream of all dreams. When Rex's B-Day for Me-Day finally arrives, his parents surprise him with a box. A box with holes. A box with holes and adorable scratchy noises coming from inside. Could it be? Yes! It has to be! A . . . a . . . Chicken? Pet poultry? How clucky. One hour and fourteen minutes later, the chicken is dead (by a steamroller), Rex is cursed (by the Grim Reaper), and wild animals are haunting Rex's room (hounding him for answers). Even his best friend Darvish is not going to believe this, and that kid believes everything. Rex's uninvited ghostly guests are a chatty, messy bunch. And they need Rex to solve their mysterious deadly departures from the Middling Falls Zoo before it happens again. But how?

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Crossing the Farak River

Michelle Aung Thin

Fourteen-year-old Hasina is forced to flee everything she knows in this gripping account of the refugee crisis in Myanmar. For Hasina and her younger brother Araf, the constant threat of Sit Tat, the Myanmar Army, is a way of life in Rakhine province--just uttering the name is enough to send chills down their spines. As Rohingyas, they know that when they hear the wop wop wop of their helicopters there is one thing to do--run, and don't stop. So when soldiers invade their village one night, and Hasina awakes to her aunt's fearful voice, followed by smoke, and then a scream, run is what they do. Hasina races deep into the Rakhine forest to hide with her cousin Ghadiya and Araf. When they emerge some days later, it is to a smouldering village. Their house is standing but where is the rest of her family? With so many Rohingyas driven out, Hasina must figure out who she can trust for help and summon the courage to fight for her family amid the escalating conflict that threatens her world and her identity.

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Wink

Rob Harrell

Surviving school with one eye open. Ross Maloy just wants to fit in. But after he is diagnosed with a rare eye cancer in Year Seven, he suddenly becomes the 'cancer kid' of his school. Now he has to deal with eye goo, weird hats, a squinty eye and - hardest of all - disappearing friends, social media bullies, and the threat of losing his eyesight ... or worse.

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American as Paneer Pie

Supriya Kelkar

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian. When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha. To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school. When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

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A Game of Fox & Squirrels

Jenn Reese

After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they've never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were... before she spoke up about their father's anger. When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called "A Game of Fox & Squirrels," Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires. But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn't prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she'd ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she'll lose far more than just a game.

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Can You See Me?

Libby Scott, Rebecca Westcott

Eleven-year-old Tally is starting sixth grade at Kingswood Academy and she really wants to fit in, which means somehow hiding her autism, hypersensitivity to touch, and true self, and trying to act "normal" like her former best friend, Layla, who is distancing herself from Tally and her fourteen-year-old sister, Nell, who is always angry with Tally for being different; but as she records her thoughts and anxieties in her coping diary, Tally begins to wonder--what is "normal" anyway?

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Summer at Meadow Wood

Amy Rebecca Tan

Vic Brown did not want to go to camp this summer. Even though it’s nice being back with her friends at Meadow Wood, Vic still can’t forget about the secret reason her mom wanted her and her brother out of the house—or how much her family is going to change. When her home life is blowing up, it can be hard to focus on campfires and canoeing. But there is something about summer and surprises that go together like blueberry pancakes and maple syrup. And soon, Vic starts to feel like—just maybe—a summer at Meadow Wood was exactly what she needed.

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The List of Things That Will Not Change

Rebecca Stead

After her parents' divorce, Bea's life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other. When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she'll finally (finally!) have what she's always wanted--a sister. Even though she's never met Jesse's daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they'll be "just like sisters anywhere." As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy.

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Rick

Alex Gino

Rick's never questioned much. He's gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff's acted like a bully and a jerk. He's let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn't given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out. But now Rick's gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school's Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that . . . understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.

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The Only Black Girls in Town

Brandy Colbert

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta's best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can't understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her. Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living. When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie's attic, they team up to figure out exactly who's behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

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The Middler

Kirsty Applebaum

Maggie lives in orderly Fennis Wick, protected from the outside world by a boundary. Her brother Jed is an eldest, revered and special, a hero who will soon go off to fight in the war. But Maggie’s just a middle child, a middler, often invisible and ignored, even by her own family. When she chances upon a wanderer girl in hiding, she decides she wants to be a hero like her brother and sets out to capture the intruder. But once Maggie peeks past the hedges of the boundary for the first time, suddenly everything she’s ever known about her isolated town gets turned on its head. . .

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One Last Shot

John David Anderson

For as long as he can remember, Malcolm has never felt like he was good enough. Not for his parents, who have always seemed at odds with each other, with Malcolm caught in between. And especially not for his dad, whose competitive drive and love for sports Malcolm has never shared. That is, until Malcolm discovers miniature golf, the one sport he actually enjoys. Maybe it’s the way in which every hole is a puzzle to be solved. Or the whimsy of the windmills and waterfalls that decorate the course. Or maybe it’s the slushies at the snack bar. But whatever the reason, something about mini golf just clicks for Malcolm. And best of all, it’s a sport his dad can’t possibly obsess over. Or so Malcolm thinks.

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