Tag Archives: Paranormal

21 Underhyped Middle Grade Books Worth Reading

21 Underhyped Middle Grade Books Worth Reading

21 Underhyped Middle Grade Books Worth Reading

I recently realized it’s been a while since I shared a list of the books that I loved that just didn’t seem to get the hype they deserved. Some of these middle grade books were published during the early days of Covid, when authors canceled book signings, school visits, and other bookish events. A few of these underhyped middle grade titles are from the ancient days before the pandemic changed life as we knew it. Others were published more recently– perhaps a victim of Barnes & Noble’s switch to carrying mostly paperbacks? I’m not sure what the deal is, but I am sure these books deserve more attention than they received thus far.

In any case, all of these books are ones I absolutely loved and have continued to champion in the months and years since they were published. If you haven’t read them, please use the links to add them to your reading list or shopping cart. If you have read them, please take a moment and leave a rating and/or review to help these authors out!

Note: This post contains affiliate links which don’t cost anything for you to use, but which help support my blog. Thank you for shopping with them!

21 Underhyped Middle Grade Books Worth Reading

The Firebird Song by Arnée Flores

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: One of my favorite books of the year. Unforgettable, hopeful, and beautifully told.

Published June 8, 2021 | 190 Goodreads Ratings

Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini by Betsy Uhrig

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: A reluctant reader critiques his aunt’s book, testing the stunts, discovering ghosts, and making new friends along the way. Hilarious and heartfelt.

Published September 22, 2020 | 209 Goodreads ratings.

Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: OMG. This book is hilarious and so sweet. I can’t say it any better than this clip from Goodreads: A dead body. A missing will. An evil relative. The good news is, Great Grammy has a plan. The bad news is, she’s the dead body.

Published April 20, 2021 | 221 Goodreads ratings.

Glitter Gets Everywhere by Yvette Clark

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: New friends and heartbreaking grief. New York City. Family relationships. I laughed and cried. So good.

Published May 4, 2021 | 397 Goodreads ratings.

The Other Side of Luck by Ginger Johnson

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: Lyrical prose. Friendship, grief, and magic. Gorgeous storytelling. I’m so glad I read this one.

Published August 10, 2021 | 109 Goodreads ratings.

The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe by Tricia Springstubb

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: Quirky, unforgettable characters. Friendship, birds and found family.

Published June 1, 2021 | 86 Goodreads ratings.

Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution by Sherri Winston

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: A talented violinist with a gorgeous ‘fro she calls “the wooly mammoth” faces discrimination in her music program and finds a way to speak up about it. I loved the music references and relationships in this book.

Published: September 6, 2022 | 119 Goodreads ratings.

The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: The follow-up to THE BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA. A young Mexican girl building a new life in America in the early 1900s. Beautifully written and engaging.

Release Date: September 6, 2022 | 100 Goodreads ratings.

The Vanquishers by Kalynn Bayron

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: Inspired by BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and THE WATCHMEN. Vampires were supposed to be vanquished decades ago… but it looks like they’re back. Looks fantastic.

Release Date: September 20, 2022 | 279 Goodreads ratings.

Ghostcloud by Michael Mann

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: A kidnapped boy is forced to work in a power plant. Then he discovers a ghost who may be able to help him escape. Looks fresh and fun.

Release Date: September 27, 2022 | 162 Goodreads ratings.

Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: A hopeful (and at times heartbreaking) story of a young girl who decides to build a submarine and sail it across the Chesapeake Bay.

Published April 7, 2020 | 282 Goodreads ratings.

Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: Three friends. Hundreds of rubber duckies. A town enthralled with its upcoming bratwurst competition. I laughed out loud!

Published April 14, 2020 | 269 Goodreads ratings.

Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: The cover copy calls this one “folksy” and “fresh” and it totally is! I loved the southern feel of the town and characters, and the exploration of identity and magic in this book.

Published August 4, 2020 | 399 Goodreads ratings.

The Prince of Nowhere by Rochelle Hassan

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: Anonymous letters lead a girl and a shapeshifting boy/crow on a journey to save their world in a mysterious place called Nowhere. This one totally blew me away. I loved Roda and Ignis so much.

Published: May 3, 2022 | 267 Goodreads ratings

Upstander by James Preller

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: Bullying. Secrets. An older brother’s drug use. A girl’s heartfelt quest to find her voice and speak up. A fierce, moving read that deserves way more than 55 ratings.

Published May 11, 2021 | 55 Goodreads ratings.

The Science of Being Angry by Nicole Melleby

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: Identity issues and mental health challenges. A girl’s desperate quest to understand why she’s so angry all the time and how to be herself safely. Powerful storytelling by an incredible author.

Published May 10, 2022 | 329 Goodreads ratings.

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne K. Salerni

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: Roosevelt cousins uncover family secrets in a world in which ghosts exist and can become deadly. A hauntingly perfect blend of fantasy and historical fiction. I devoured this one.

Published September 1, 2020 | 178 Goodreads ratings.

Nowhere Better Than Here by Sarah Guillory

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review to Come

What You Need to Know: A girl desperate to save her small Louisiana town torn apart by coastal flooding. Sweet southern fiction blended with bold activism. One of my favorite recent reads.

Published September 20, 2022 | 109 Goodreads ratings.

Flip Turns by Catherine Arguelles

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: A girl dealing with unwanted attention from a boy, an attack against her family’s business, and the pressure of competition on her swim team. Adventurous, family-oriented, and fun.

Published September 13, 2022 | 86 Goodreads ratings.

The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kassner

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What you need to know: I read this book earlier in the year, and can’t stop thinking about it. It’s got some spooky magic, unforgettable characters, and possibly the best exploration of grief I’ve ever seen in a novel.

Release Date: August 3, 2021 | 237 Goodreads ratings.

Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy Cavanaugh

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads | Review

What You Need to Know: A vibrant deep south setting in the Okefenokee Swamp. A family business in jeopardy. Brilliant summer friendships. One of my all-time favorite middle grade books.

Published September 5, 2017 | 242 Goodreads ratings.

What are your favorite underhyped middle grade books?

Have you read any of the underhyped middle grade books on my list? Are any of these your favorites, too? What are your favorite middle grade books that deserve a lot more hype than they received? Leave a comment and let me know!

If you’ve read any of the books on this list, please take a moment and leave a rating and/or review on Goodreads or Amazon. This really helps authors, especially authors like these, whose books have been out for a bit.

Review: Breakup From Hell by Ann Davila Cardinal

Breakup From Hell
Ann Davila Cardinal
Published January 3, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Breakup From Hell

Miguela Angeles is tired. Tired of her abuela keeping secrets, especially about her heritage. Tired of her small Vermont town and hanging out at the same places with the same friends she’s known forever. So when another boring Sunday trip to church turns into a run-in with Sam, a mysterious hottie in town on vacation, Mica seizes the opportunity to get closer to him.

It’s not long before she is under Sam’s spell and doing things she’s never done before, like winning all her martial arts sparring matches—and lying to her favorite people. The more time Mica spends with Sam, the more weird things start to happen, too. Like terrifying-visions-of-the-world-ending weird.

Mica’s gut instincts keep telling her something is off, yet Sam is the most exciting guy she’s ever met. But when Mica discovers his family’s roots, she realizes that instead of being in the typical high school relationship, she’s living in a horror novel.

She has to leave Sam, but will ending their relationship also bring an end to everything she knows and everyone she loves?

Clever, hilarious, and steeped in supernatural suspense, BREAKUP FROM HELL will keep you hooked until the last page.

My Review

This was a fun book to read. It’s got some suspense– the world may literally end if Mica and her friends can’t figure out how to stop it. But it’s also got a lot of fun banter between friends, a best friends to lovers thread, and a powerful main character with a strong connection to her mom and grandmother.

BREAKUP FROM HELL is set in a small Vermont town, which I also really liked. It feels very much like a small New England place, with a small downtown area filled with interesting shops and some surrounding farmland. I liked the way the story used the landscape at different points. It was kind of funny to see this quaint little town erupt with apocalyptic events.

I really liked the relationships between Mica and her friends, especially Zee and Rage. They were a loyal friend group with a very can-do approach to things. They stuck together and needed each other in order to piece everything together. I also loved Mica’s relationship with Abuela. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but they both loved each other so much, and ultimately wanted the best for one another. I thought Abuela’s notes on the fridge were fantastic.

All in all, I thought BREAKUP FROM HELL was a fun read, perfect for fans of paranormal books like BITTERWINE OATH by Hannah West.

Content Notes for Breakup From Hell

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Mica is Puerto Rican.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Mica learns that the boy she’s been dating has dark powers and dark spiritual connections. Some characters have supernatural abilities. Some items also have supernatural abilities. Evil creatures can’t come onto the sacred ground of a church or chapel. Mica and her friend witness an evil sacrifice.

Violent Content
Mica and her friend witness an evil sacrifice of a deer. Situations of peril. Brief battle violence. A powerful weapon vanquishes an evil character, turning them to ash.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of BREAKUP FROM HELL in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Double Life of Danny Day by Mike Thayer

The Double Life of Danny Day
Mike Thayer
Feiwel & Friends
Published June 15, 2021

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Double Life of Danny Day

My name is Danny Day, and I live every day twice.

The first time, it’s a “discard day.” It’s kind of like a practice run. At the end of the day, I go to bed, wake up, and poof everything gets reset, everything except my memory, that is.

The second time, everything is normal, just like it is for everyone else. That’s when everything counts and my actions stick. As you could probably guess, “Sticky Day” Danny is very different from “Discard Day” Danny.

When Danny’s family moves across the country, he suddenly has to use his ability for more than just slacking off and playing video games. Now he’s making new friends, fending off jerks, exposing a ring of cheaters in the lunchtime video game tournament, and taking down bullies one day at a time … or is it two days at a time?

My Review

Erg! I’m so late posting this review. I prefer to post as close to the release date as I can, but as you can see, it’s been weeks and weeks. I’m just having a hard time keeping up with things this summer. Hopefully I’m close to getting back on track, though I’ve got a few other titles I’m just really late in getting to besides this one.

So. The Double Life of Danny Day. This one started out a little rough for me– Danny isn’t really a compassionate guy at the opening of the book. He’s kind of disillusioned with his double-day ability and mostly uses it to goof off or have extra time to play video games. He’s more aloof and calculating.

Then he meets two new friends who begin to change how Danny sees things. One friend opens his eyes to the opportunity he has to make positive changes in terms of justice, and the other helps him find an opportunity that will make a big impact.

Once Danny began to have other motivations besides looking out for himself and having fun on his “discard day,” I got pretty hooked into the story. I liked the descriptions of the game that he and his friends played. I loved Freddie and her creative non-swearing and her grit and determination. I loved Zak and his deep sense of justice and his willingness to trust his friends.

This book reminded me a bit of the books about ROGER TARKINGTON AND THE MAGIC CALENDAR, and sometimes had a bit of a similar feel to it. I liked the character growth that Danny experienced and the way his relationships changed through the course of the story. I think readers who enjoyed MY LIFE AS A POTATO will also enjoy this book.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Danny is white. His best friend Zak’s dad is Black. Freddie comes from a poor family and lives with her grandmother.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Danny lives each day twice. The first time he refers to as a “discard day” because whatever happens that day doesn’t last.

Violent Content – Trigger Warning for Bullying
A bully attacks Danny and punches him more than once. Some students use an online social media profile called “Duds or Studs” to post pictures of other students (taken without their permission) edited with filters. Sometimes they’re unflattering pictures with cruel captions that encourage other kids to pile on and say awful things.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog. I received a free copy of THE DOUBLE LIFE OF DANNY DAY in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Claires by C. L. Gaber

The Claires (An Ascenders Novel)
C. L. Gaber
Big Picture Media, Inc
Published January 14, 2020

Amazon | Goodreads

About The Claires

Four beautiful girls. Quadruplets. They are not identical.
But each is named Claire.
Claire V is Clairvoyant—clear seeing with visions of the future.
Claire S is Clairsentient—clear feeling as she embraces another’s pain.
Claire A is Clairaudient—clear hearing to tap into the spirit world.
Claire C is Claircognizant—clear knowing with 100% accuracy.

Born in 1911, they first died together in 1928 at age seventeen. Two months later, they were reborn. And reborn. THE CLAIRES only live to seventeen and then they’re violently murdered. Somewhere in the world, a woman finds out she’s pregnant with quads. The Claires return to a new family as they try to break a curse that guarantees they die young.

It’s current-day Los Angeles, and once again, their seventeenth birthday is looming. Can they save themselves, clean up the streets in the name of penance, and crash their own prom?

The Claires is the first novel spin-off of the best-selling Ascenders Book Saga. Also available in paperback starting on January 14, 2020.

My Review

The thing that really drew me to this story was the idea that it’s about four sisters who are all under a curse that they’re trying to break before they turn 17 and are destined to die. It’s got great stakes and I’m a huge fan of sisterhood stories.

The writing style is a little unusual. Reading it, I felt sometimes like I was looking through a camera that kept refocusing and refocusing, zooming in and out so that I felt yanked around a little bit trying to follow what was happening. There’s an element of that that I liked– it created kind of a unique sort of conversational voice. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was taken down a notch or two.

I also felt like all of the sisters’ characters were basically the same. They have these super advanced powers and have basically lived for 200 years, so they kind of come off as superior and arrogant. Like normal mortals just aren’t worth their time, really. I could see how living so long would definitely make someone feel jaded– about high school especially! ha!– but sometimes it kept me from really investing in the characters.

Around the three-quarters mark, it seemed like the girls softened a little bit. I liked that. Their brother also has chapters and sections from his point-of-view, and I thought he was a lot more of a sympathetic character, but I didn’t really see how his story fit in with the girls.

I thought the way the book was formatted was really interesting, too. It’s broken into sections and each section has chapters and scenes in it, usually from one character’s point-of-view. Sometimes it changed narrators in the middle of a section though, which was a little confusing, since it felt out of sync with the rest of the book.

I kind of also got hung up on the fact that in a scene set in 1925, one of the girls gets excited about reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s latest book, THE GRAPES OF WRATH. I was confused because THE GRAPES OF WRATH is written by John Steinbeck and didn’t come out until 1939. I’m guessing the author meant THE GREAT GATSBY, which is by Fitzgerald and came out in 1925? It’s not a big thing, but it did seem really odd.

Anyway, on the whole, I think I was looking for a book experience more like Blue and her mother and their housemates in THE RAVEN BOYS with that close female bond and otherworldly adventure. While THE CLAIRES is a very different kind of story, it’s got that gritty dark feel to it that might appeal to fans of HOUSE OF NIGHT series by Kristin Cast and P. C. Cast.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 18 up.

Major characters are white. One of the sisters is in love with another girl.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used regularly throughout the book.

Romance/Sexual Content
Some brief but graphic descriptions of sex. Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between girl and ghosts. Kissing between two girls.

Spiritual Content
Lots of descriptions of predicting the future or knowing things through psychic means. Some descriptions of rituals once thought to bind witches. Descriptions of witches using power to harm others.

Violent Content
Several scenes show or reference graphic murders.

Drug Content
References to teens drinking alcohol.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of THE CLAIRES in exchange for my honest review.

Review: I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall
Judy Sheehan
Delacorte Press

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

When Sarah wakes up, still wearing the mango-colored monstrosity of a bridesmaid dress, she is surprised by two things: she’s far from her New York home in the Mall of America, and she’s dead. Murdered. Sarah’s mentor encourages her (and the other teen ghosts who’ve taken up residence in the mall) to let go of her past, but Sarah can’t let go, especially when she learns what happened and realizes someone she loves is still in terrible danger. Now she can’t rest in peace until her murderer has been stopped and her family saved.

The concept of this story might be a bit dark, but the playful, frank voice definitely adds some spunk to the tale. As Sarah’s tale unfolds, she relates to the reader as if recounting an adventure to her closest friends. At the mall, she’s surrounded by a colorful group of teens, each with different pasts and baggage. Sarah’s relationship with them is dynamic and challenges her to go beyond her limits. By contrast, Sarah’s relationships with her family feel a bit cliché and underdeveloped. The story centers around Sarah and her friends, kind of a contemporary teen version of the 1990s film Heart and Souls. Readers looking for a warm-and-fuzzy story about unexpected love and second chances will enjoy the humor and romance of this tale.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used with moderate frequency. One character in particular is a bit mouthy.

Romance/Sexual Content
Mouthy girl relates that she loves sex and the others (who all died as virgins) totally missed out. Not much detail about her particular experiences other than that she had a much more pleasurable experience with one boyfriend over another. She humiliates the latter about his lack of ability and he becomes angry.

Sarah shares kisses and sleeps next to a boy. At one point, she removes her clothes in front of him, but they are interrupted before much happens between them.

Spiritual Content
The central characters are all ghosts, teens who were murdered. They are strongly discouraged from trying to craft revenge or haunt their murderers and instead instructed to resolve lingering feelings from their lives and move on to be reincarnated. Or, if the person has died saving someone else, they will have the option to become and angel. Two children rule over the ghostly community, known collectively as the BOY, or Boss of You.

Both Sarah and her mother experienced a kind of premonition during their lifetimes, a warning sense that things were about to happen. Once, Sarah used her gift to save a woman’s life.

One of the boys Sarah meets has died through an assisted suicide. The other teens defends his choice and the actions of the family member who helped him.

Violent Content
One girl recounts her death at the hands of an employer whose advances she refused. It’s brief and not gory, but violent. Another girl is pushed off a bridge and crash lands on top of a car. (That’s about all the detail we get in the story, too.)

Drug Content
References to teen drinking.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen
Published April 24, 2012

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

In a world ruled by vampires, Allison Sekemoto survives by staying hidden and scavenging for food. When hunger forces her to venture outside the safety of home, she is attacked and offered a choice: to die or become what she hates most. A vampire.

Allie struggles to learn vampire ways and accept and what her new form means to the humans she has left behind. Another attack forces her to flee from the city and into the wild where she will be stalked by rabids, diseased and deadly creatures. But Allie isn’t the only one braving those wilds. In the night, she comes upon a group of humans on a quest to find a legendary city. A safe haven for humans. A city without vampires. Allie vows to protect them on their journey, but can she really succeed when the deadliest threat is her own hunger?

Kagawa sends her readers plummeting through a masterfully woven plot into a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are ruled by vampires and stalked by rabids. While heroine Allie seems cold-hearted and indifferent at the story’s opening, it is in her vampire form that she develops love for others, creating an intriguing paradox.

Language Content
No F-bombs, but other curses peppered throughout.

Sexual Content
Insinuations, but no graphic content.

Spiritual Content
Allison encounters a group who are people of faith. Precisely what they believe isn’t deeply explored, but faith is portrayed as a very admirable and positive thing, even if such optimism is hard for Allison to understand. In Kagawa’s world, vampires may be either good or evil, depending on their relationship with the living. They will either abuse and dominate or perhaps struggle to check their power and thirst and protect humans.

Lots of violence. Creatures called rabids, human and animal, viciously pursue and devour any they can capture. Some references to past torture.

Drug Content
Random guy drinks a beer.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.