The best middle grade novels for kids who love video games

Who am I?

I am a middle grade teacher who loves to read. Many of my students prefer to play video games. In fact, some of them have a real aversion to reading. Since I know reading ability is a huge factor in a student’s academic success, I’m always looking for great books to get students to put down their controllers and read. When I couldn’t find many, I was inspired to write the CROSS UPS TRILOGY. I’m confident that the books on this list will lure young gamers into their covers with gaming themes, humor, and relatable characters. 


I wrote...

Tournament Trouble

By Sylv Chiang, Connie Choi (illustrator),

Book cover of Tournament Trouble

What is my book about?

Cross Ups 1: Tournament Trouble is about Jaden, a twelve-year-old gamer who wants to prove he is the best at his favorite game, Cross Ups IV. Problem? His mom doesn’t know he plays this violent game – she’d never allow it. An invitation to compete at a tournament compels Jaden and his friends to hatch a plan to get him there. But his mom isn’t the only roadblock. Annoying siblings, bullies at school, and his best friend Cali’s family problems keep getting in the way.

The humorous, fast-paced novels in the Cross Ups Trilogy include illustrations by Connie Choi to keep reluctant readers engaged.

The books I picked & why

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Slacker

By Gordon Korman,

Book cover of Slacker

Why this book?

I love Gordon Korman’s books. Slacker is a great way to get young gamers hooked on a great author. Hard-core gamers will relate to the main character, Cameron. This kid does not even notice the fire alarm going off because he is so engrossed in his game.

When his parents tell him he has to join a school club he just makes up a fake one. Why? So he can keep gaming. Of course, things don’t go as he planned – people want to join the club and then a beaver needs to be saved. Cameron learns a lot about being a friend, a brother, and how great it feels to be part of a real-life community.


My Life as a Gamer

By Janet Tashjian, Jake Tashjian (illustrator),

Book cover of My Life as a Gamer

Why this book?

It’s always great when middle-graders find a series they like. The books in the My Life as… series are fast-paced, full of laughs, and not overwhelming. The text is large and the chapters are short, with little illustrations along the sides of the pages to explain vocabulary. The main character, Derek, doesn’t like to read, which makes him very relatable for reluctant readers. 

In My Life as a Gamer, Derek gets the chance to participate in a gaming company’s focus group and test new video games – a dream for any gamer.


Game Over, Pete Watson

By Joe Schreiber, Andy Rash (illustrator),

Book cover of Game Over, Pete Watson

Why this book?

This zany story about a gamer is packed full of laughs. Pete is looking forward to the release of a new game, but when he sells his dad’s old gaming console to afford the new game, things go really wrong, really fast. Let’s just say that was no gaming console he sold and now his dad is trapped in a video game. Pete has to save his dad, (and the world) by entering the game and winning! 

While I usually don’t like the whole getting-sucked-into-the-game trope, it totally works for this silly style of humor. Illustrations along the way don’t just break up the text, they add to the laughs.


Josh Baxter Levels Up

By Gavin Brown,

Book cover of Josh Baxter Levels Up

Why this book?

Game-obsessed kids will love Josh Baxter. While the story is realistic, his whole worldview is informed by gaming and pop culture. Josh is trying to fit in at a new school and he treats it like a video game. Each chapter ends with a video game-inspired graphic showing his level, health, and new skills unlocked. There is barely a page where he doesn’t reference a character from The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Minecraft, Pokémon, Marvel, or some other game. You can just tell the author loves video games as much as Josh does.


Last Gamer Standing

By Katie Zhao,

Book cover of Last Gamer Standing

Why this book?

It’s not easy to find a book about a female gamer. This one explores many of the same themes as the second book in my gaming series, but in a futuristic setting. It’s always interesting to see how an author envisions the future. What new technologies can we expect? What will gaming be like? 

The main character, Reyna, is a Chinese American girl taking part in an elite tournament playing virtual reality games. She hides her identity because, maybe not surprisingly, misogyny and racism are still problems in the gaming world in 2067. A great book to bring these issues to a child’s attention.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in video games, school, and bullying?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about video games, school, and bullying.

Video Games Explore 59 books about video games
School Explore 168 books about school
Bullying Explore 48 books about bullying

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Extra Lives, and The Ultimate History of Video Games if you like this list.