First Chapter Friday: Middle School Book List PART 2

Need middle school book recommendations for First Chapter Friday? If so, you’re in the right spot! In this post, you’ll find a list of every single book I featured this past semester in my 7th grade reading classroom.

If you’re unfamiliar with First Chapter Friday, you’re also in the right place, but you might want to backtrack to a few of my other blog posts to learn more. First Chapter is as simple as it sounds (read the first chapter of a different book each Friday), but with a few tips and tricks, you can maximize this engaging strategy. For helpful advice on facilitating First Chapter Friday, check out the following blog posts:

If you’re familiar with First Chapter Friday, then you know that finding the BEST BOOKS is the most important part of it all. To help you do just that, here are all of the titles I featured last semester and how my students received each book! To find a list of what I featured last semester, head to this blog post. I hope these recommendations help you jump-start your First Chapter Friday list for the upcoming school year!

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

Genre: Dystopian

I mentioned in my first post that I had many readers who loved The Hunger Games but hadn’t dipped their feet into the rest of the dystopian genre, so I knew I had to feature Divergent. The first chapter isn’t the most dramatic, but it sets up the conflict of the main character, Tess, having to choose between the five different factions. Many of my students added this to their to-read list after this First Chapter Friday, so I’d say it was a success!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

FCF Rating: 4.5/5 – Not the most suspenseful first chapter, but an engaging choice for fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopian books.

LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds

Genre: Novel in verse; realistic fiction

Featuring Jason Reynolds for First Chapter Friday is always a guaranteed success, and Long Way Down is no exception! Written in sparse, gripping verse, the book follows Will as he rides an elevator down to seek revenge after his older brother is shot. Long Way Down is definitely more of a mature read, which is why I waited until second semester to feature it. I ended up using this book during our novel in verse literature circles a month later, and it was an instant student favorite! 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

FCF Rating: 5/5 – A gripping, instant hit. You won’t be able to keep this on your shelves.

REFUGEE by Alan Gratz

Genre: Historical fiction

Even though many of my students had been reading Alan Gratz novels all year, I decided to feature Refugee to see if I could hook some other readers. The choice still thrilled my Gratz fans, who hyped up the book even more after the First Chapter Friday reading, so it was a win-win. Because the book follows the story of three refugees during different time periods, I featured an excerpt from each character. This was a bit much, so I think next time I’ll choose one character and then briefly introduce the others after the reading. 

Refugee by Alan Gratz

FCF Rating: 5/5 – Engaging and suspenseful. You can’t go wrong with Alan Gratz!

BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA by Lauren Wolk

Genre: Historical fiction

For our next First Chapter Friday, I decided to feature some historical fiction that doesn’t feel like historical fiction. The story of a baby abandoned on a raft in the ocean, Beyond the Bright Sea is a compelling, lyrical mystery with a sprinkling of interesting history. It’s perfect if you’re short on time: Just read the intriguing page-and-a-half prologue! I actually read this during our beach-themed reading day, which was fun!

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

FCF Rating: 4.5/5 – Mysterious and cryptic, this will leave readers wanting more.

AKATA WITCH by Nnedi Okorafor

Genre: Fantasy

Fantasy is not my preferred genre, so I have to remind myself to feature it for First Chapter Friday! But Akata Witch is not your typical fantasy novel, and after reading it, I knew it would appeal to my students! The main character, Sunny, has always felt like an outsider with her albino skin, Nigerian blood, and American blood, but she soon realizes that her differences are a source of strength–and super-secret powers! The book is perfect for fantasy fans who want something fresh and different!

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

FCF Rating: 4/5 – A great pick for fantasy fans. (I feel like people either love or hate fantasy, and it never pleases almost everyone, so that’s the only reason for the less-than 5-star rating).

BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Genre: Realistic fiction

After featuring Ghost Boys earlier in the year, I knew that my students would love Black Brother, Black Brother. The book follows 12-year-old Donte, who is treated differently from his lighter-skinned twin, Trey. Black Brother, Black Brother gripped my students from the first page, and I couldn’t keep it on my shelves for the rest of the semester!

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

FCF Rating: 5/5 – One of the best First Chapter Fridays of the school year. Multiple students went on to read (and become obsessed with) this book!

HOUSE ARREST by K.A. Holt

Genre: Novel in verse; realistic fiction

If you need an engaging, accessible book to feature for First Chapter Friday, this is it! House Arrest was one of the choices for our novel in verse book club unit, so I featured it a week ahead of time to preview it and hook students. It worked…almost too well, because too many kids were interested in reading the rest of Timothy’s story of his year on house arrest! I’ll definitely keep this one in the First Chapter Friday rotation because every single student who read it loved it. 

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

FCF Rating: 5/5 – An intriguing, engaging First Chapter Friday selection to introduce your students to novels in verse.

BEFORE THE EVER AFTER by Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: Novel in verse; realistic fiction

None of my students ended up choosing Brown Girl Dreaming for their literature circles, so I was determined to sneak in some Jacqueline Woodson for First Chapter Friday. After reading her latest novel in verse, I knew it would be an instant hit, especially for the sports fans in my room. The book is about young ZJ and his relationship with his dad, a professional football player who is diagnosed with CTE. The first few chapters don’t reveal this, so the book offers the perfect opportunity to discuss students’ inferences about what’s going on with ZJ’s dad. My students loved this so much that I am planning on using this as a whole-class novel next year!

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

FCF Rating: 5/5 – Another absolute hit, perfect for facilitating a discussion on inferences and predictions.

THE CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne DuPrau

Genre: Dystopian/Adventure

When we started reading The Giver as a whole class, I decided to find another dystopian book to feature for First Chapter Friday! We were short on time this particular Friday, so I was also looking for something that was super quick. So when I saw that The City of Ember has an intriguing, mysterious page and a half section before the first chapter, I was sold. This excerpt takes readers back to the beginning of the city, when the builders tuck away secret instructions in a locked box set to open in 200 years. This taste of the mystery left my students wondering and wanting more, so it made for a quick and easy First Chapter Friday!

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

FCF Rating: 4.5/5 – An intriguing, quick book to feature if you read the section before Chapter 1. Perfect for a dystopian unit!

THE CANYON’S EDGE by Dusti Bowling

Genre: Novel in verse; realistic fiction

Even though our book club unit was finished, I was still on the novel in verse train when I picked up The Canyon’s Edge. As soon as I read it, I was completely enamored and knew I had to feature it. Written in both prose and verse, the book is a survival story like no other! The beginning of the story is not very dramatic, so I fast-forwarded to the most suspenseful part: when a roaring flash flood tears Nora & her father apart in the middle of the desert.

The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling

FCF Rating: 5/5 – A thrilling read that will leave your students craving more if you read a little snippet from the beginning of Part Two.

GHOST by Jason Reynolds

Genre: Realistic fiction

After the success of Long Way Down with First Chapter Friday and novels in verse book clubs, I knew I had to feature more Jason Reynolds. Ghost is the story of lightning-fast Castle Crenshaw, who realizes he can run when he finds himself sprinting away from his father, who is chasing after him with a loaded gun. The first chapter will have your students hooked! Ghost was checked out instantly, and I couldn’t keep the series on the shelves for the rest of the year!

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

FCF Rating: 5/5 – Do I even need to explain? Anything by Reynolds is an instant hit among middle schoolers!

IT’S TREVOR NOAH: BORN A CRIME (Adapted for young readers) by Trevor Noah

Genre: Memoir

For our last First Chapter Friday, I wanted to mix things up with a genre I hadn’t featured yet, so I landed on Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up as a biracial child during aparteid in South Africa.  I actually broke the “first chapter” rule and chose a hilarious, ridiculous excerpt from the middle of the book. Because I have the maturity level of a 7th grader and still think potty humor is hysterical, I chose to read Trevor Noah’s story about pooping on the floor of his house. You just have to read it…trust me. This excerpt made for an awkward, humorous, and unforgettable First Chapter Friday, and the book was checked out immediately!

It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

FCF Rating: 5/5 – A compelling, unique, and hilarious First Chapter Friday feature!


That’s it! Now go add these to your First Chapter Friday list so you can thank yourself later! This post contains 12 recs because we missed a couple Fridays due to time off, testing, project presentations, and end-of-the-year chaos. For more book recommendations, stay tuned to my Instagram or check out these interactive book brochures. If you’re interested in weekly recommendations every Sunday, sign up for my teacher email club HERE. 

Love the idea, but need some help implementing First Chapter Friday in your classroom? Check out the resources & blog posts below:

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