100 books like Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai

By Debbi Michiko Florence,

Here are 100 books that Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai fans have personally recommended if you like Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Chance to Fly

Wanda Luthman Author Of Gloria and the Unicorn

From my list on kids with disabilities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and I currently work as a High School Guidance Counselor for the past 25 years. I love kids and I love helping them to understand and love themselves and helping them to love and accept others as well. These books, even though the target audience is young (0-11 years old), older kids and adults can learn something from them as well. Sometimes a simple message is more powerful than a bunch of words.

Wanda's book list on kids with disabilities

Wanda Luthman Why did Wanda love this book?

This book is about a girl in a wheelchair who is cast in the middle school play. I love this book because it helps us understand the challenges of being in a wheelchair as well as all the challenges that go along with being a middle schooler. It addresses all those identity issues that occur during that age with the added challenge of being in a wheelchair.

By Ali Stroker,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Chance to Fly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A heartfelt middle-grade novel about a theater-loving girl who uses a wheelchair for mobility and her quest to defy expectations-and gravity-from Tony award-winning actress Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz

Thirteen-year-old Nat Beacon loves a lot of things: her dog Warbucks, her best friend Chloe, and competing on her wheelchair racing team, the Zoomers, to name a few. But there's one thing she's absolutely OBSESSED with: MUSICALS! From Hamilton to Les Mis, there's not a cast album she hasn't memorized and belted along to. She's never actually been in a musical though, or even seen an actor who uses a wheelchair…


Book cover of Drama

S.M. Stevens Author Of Bit Players, Has-Been Actors and Other Posers

From my list on for tweens, teens and young adults who love theater.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teenager, I didn’t have the lack of inhibition or abundant self-confidence to excel in high school drama. Like Sadie in Bit Players, I finally wowed the directors at my senior year audition, only to learn the lead was promised in advance to someone else. I recovered and stayed involved in theater: cast, crew, and front-of-house jobs for a summer theater program; the box office for Cornell’s MFA program; and supporting my kids’ drama activities. Performing in a show is different from any other experience. If you’ve been in a show, you know this. If you haven’t, read on to enter the magical world of theatre.

S.M.'s book list on for tweens, teens and young adults who love theater

S.M. Stevens Why did S.M. love this book?

This graphic novel skews younger than the others on this list. It’s a heart-warming, slice-of-middle-school-life that revolves around the school’s musical theater production, from auditions and rehearsals, set-building and costumes, to opening night, the 3-show run, and even the cast party. It invokes the highs and lows of a production, including the inevitable malfunctioning props and inter-cast issues. I love this story’s emphasis on how fun it is to work on sets, costumes, lights, and sound, and how important stage crew is to the production.

Theatre Quotient: High. The bulk of the plot revolves around the show.

By Raina Telgemeier,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Drama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Raina Telgemeier, the author of the award-winning SMILE, brings us
her next full-colour graphic novel . . . DRAMA!

Callie loves theatre. And while she would totally try out for her
middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she's a terrible
singer. Instead she's the set designer for the stage crew,
and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway
on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know
much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members
are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage
AND offstage drama that…


Book cover of The Next Great Jane

Jennifer Richard Jacobson Author Of Crashing in Love

From my list on middle grade about first love.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I was an avid reader of romance when I was a tween, the middle grade novels I wrote prior to Crashing in Love were about more “serious” topics. Yet, much of the mail I received from kids had pressing questions about the future of potential love interests. That’s when I realized that I’d been guilty (like many) of considering romance to be “light” fiction. What could be more important, more serious, than discovering ourselves while making genuine connections with others? Those letters changed my mind. Learning to love is essential and not to be taken lightly at all.

Jennifer's book list on middle grade about first love

Jennifer Richard Jacobson Why did Jennifer love this book?

Who can resist a heroine who climbs a tree barefoot (in growing winds) and leaps to an attic window to hear one of her favorite authors speak? Not me! I’m a big Jane Austen fan and K.L. Going was able to capture the spirit and wit of her work in this wonderfully layered and romantic tale. (No worries if you or middle grade students you know are not familiar with Austen—the story stands on its own.)  

Just like in my book, the story is set in Maine and the protagonist’s parents are divorced. There are multiple loves stories in this book, and I adored every one of them. I cried big happy tears in the end. I bet you will too.

By K.L. Going,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Next Great Jane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

From award-winning author K. L. Going comes a happily-ever-after story of a girl who discovers the true secret to all good writing--through an unlikely friendship, some well-intentioned matchmaking, and little bit of science.

Jane Brannen wants nothing more than to become a famous author like Jane Austen--she just needs to figure out the key to literary success! Her chance to uncover the secret arrives when bestselling author J. E. Fairfax visits her tiny town of Whickett Harbor. Unfortunately, a hurricane rolls in and Jane gets stuck with the author's snobbish son, Devon, instead. But when the skies clear, Jane realizes…


Book cover of Redwood and Ponytail

Jennifer Richard Jacobson Author Of Crashing in Love

From my list on middle grade about first love.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I was an avid reader of romance when I was a tween, the middle grade novels I wrote prior to Crashing in Love were about more “serious” topics. Yet, much of the mail I received from kids had pressing questions about the future of potential love interests. That’s when I realized that I’d been guilty (like many) of considering romance to be “light” fiction. What could be more important, more serious, than discovering ourselves while making genuine connections with others? Those letters changed my mind. Learning to love is essential and not to be taken lightly at all.

Jennifer's book list on middle grade about first love

Jennifer Richard Jacobson Why did Jennifer love this book?

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this heartfelt novel in verse about Tam (Redwood) and Kate (Ponytail) who fall in like while finding their authentic selves. Kate (like Peyton in my book) is a perfectionist—she’s got her list of boxes to check. But then Tam comes along, and Kate is set on an invigorating path of discovery. K.A. Holt’s brilliant poetry dazzles as she shares two journeys that are often joyful, satisfying introspective, and completely engrossing.

By K.A. Holt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Redwood and Ponytail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

2020 Odyssey Honor Award
2020 Rainbow Booklist Title
NCTE 2020 Notable Poetry Book
ALSC Notable Children's Recordings

Kate and Tam meet, and both of their worlds tip sideways. At first, Tam figures Kate is your stereotypical cheerleader; Kate sees Tam as another tall jock. And the more they keep running into each other, the more they surprise each other. Beneath Kate's sleek ponytail and perfect facade, Tam sees a goofy, sensitive, lonely girl. And Tam's so much more than a volleyball player, Kate realizes: She's everything Kate wishes she could be. It's complicated. Except it's not. When Kate and Tam…


Book cover of Deposing Nathan

Heather DiAngelis Author Of Speech and Debacles

From my list on queer YA exploring mental health.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve struggled with mental health for most of my life, as have family members and friends I love. It’s extremely important to me that we normalize discussions of mental health so that we can find the best solutions. Anxiety and depression have been major themes in all of the young adult novels I’ve written; it’s my little way of furthering these conversations with the people who need them. I hope you’ll find these suggestions relatable, enjoyable, and question-inducing!

Heather's book list on queer YA exploring mental health

Heather DiAngelis Why did Heather love this book?

Deposing Nathan was everything I'd dreamed it would be—deep, torturous, intense, and beautiful. Zack Smedley’s poignant and relevant storytelling hooked me from the first line to the unexpected twist and through the surprising ending. In this powerful story, Nate has been called to deliver a sworn statement against his ex-boyfriend Cam. What first seemed like a simple premise brought me back to my days of questioning sexuality, religion, family expectations, and familial commitment, and it unearthed memories of the struggles of finding myself as a teenager and navigating complex emotions. 

By Zack Smedley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deposing Nathan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nate never imagined that he would be attacked by his best friend, Cam.

Now, Nate is being called to deliver a sworn statement that will get Cam convicted. The problem is, the real story isn't that easy or convenient - just like Nate and Cam's friendship. Cam challenged Nate on every level from the day the boys met. He pushed him to break the rules, to dream, and to accept himself. But Nate - armed with a fierce moral code and conflicted by his own beliefs - started to push back. With each push, Nate and Cam moved closer to…


Book cover of You in Five Acts

S.M. Stevens Author Of Bit Players, Has-Been Actors and Other Posers

From my list on for tweens, teens and young adults who love theater.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teenager, I didn’t have the lack of inhibition or abundant self-confidence to excel in high school drama. Like Sadie in Bit Players, I finally wowed the directors at my senior year audition, only to learn the lead was promised in advance to someone else. I recovered and stayed involved in theater: cast, crew, and front-of-house jobs for a summer theater program; the box office for Cornell’s MFA program; and supporting my kids’ drama activities. Performing in a show is different from any other experience. If you’ve been in a show, you know this. If you haven’t, read on to enter the magical world of theatre.

S.M.'s book list on for tweens, teens and young adults who love theater

S.M. Stevens Why did S.M. love this book?

I like the grittiness and real-life issues addressed in this story. The pressures and joys of being students at an elite performing arts high school are described through the eyes of five friends: two actors, one writer/director, and two dancers. Aspirations, disintegrating friendships, budding romances, vengeance, and addiction interweave as the students forge ahead to the career-making (or breaking) Senior Showcase. Tragedy enfolds the friends in a dark ending as the dangers of the outside world pierce their high school bubble. 

Theatre Quotient: Medium. Plot is split between dance and theater, and the show gets minimal pages.

By Una LaMarche,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You in Five Acts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's always been you - you know that, right? At a prestigious New York City performing arts school, five friends connect over one dream of stardom. But for Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan, and Dave, that dream falters under the pressure of second semester, senior year. Ambitions shift and change, new emotions rush to the surface, and a sense of urgency pulses among them: Their time together is running out. Diego hopes to get out of the friend zone. Liv wants to escape, losing herself in fantasies of the new guy. Ethan conspires to turn his muse into his girlfriend. Dave…


Book cover of Taking Up Space

Jenn Bishop Author Of Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up

From my list on middle school basketball books that show there’s more to life than the game.

Why am I passionate about this?

Despite playing precisely one year of competitive basketball myself, as a gangly sixth grader in the 1990s forced to play without her (desperately needed) glasses and capable of only granny-style free throws, I fell in love with the sport later in life as a superfan of my local college basketball team, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. I’m forever interested in players as human beings, and the way forces from their off-court life affect the game and vice versa.  

Jenn's book list on middle school basketball books that show there’s more to life than the game

Jenn Bishop Why did Jenn love this book?

Body image issues affect so many of us, and it can feel particularly acute in the middle school years, when our bodies are undergoing so much change. Though it’s been decades, I palpably remember how strange my growth spurt felt from the inside and how it changed my confidence.

In Alyson Gerber’s excellent book, Sarah is used to excelling on the basketball court, but when the shots stop falling, she’s quick to blame her changing physique and takes matters into her own hands to rectify things by drastically altering her eating habits.

Gerber handles this material with empathy and compassion, never talking down to the reader or getting preachy. Whatever your gender (body image issues are hardly limited to girls), there’s so much to relate to in this story.

By Alyson Gerber,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Taking Up Space as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

From beloved author Alyson Gerber comes another realistic contemporary novel perfect for fans of Judy Blume. 

Sarah loves basketball more than anything. Crushing it on the court makes her feel like she matters. And it's the only thing that helps her ignore how much it hurts when her mom forgets to feed her.
But lately Sarah can't even play basketball right. She's slower now and missing shots she should be able to make. Her body doesn't feel like it's her own anymore. She's worried that changing herself back to how she used to be is the only way she can…


Book cover of The Great Greene Heist

Stacy Nockowitz Author Of The Prince of Steel Pier

From my list on mobsters, schemers, and thieves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a middle school librarian, former language arts teacher, and middle grade author. I have a passion for all things literary, especially as they relate to kids in grades 5-8. I also grew up in New Jersey, so I come by my fascination with the Mob as a result of proximity. What I enjoy most about books about criminals is the moral gray area that some criminals exist in. They’re doing bad things—robbing banks, selling stolen goods, killing peoplebut their hearts are pulling them in another direction. Middle school kids also feel that tug of moral dilemmas, figuring out what is just and unjust, and I love to help them wrestle with those ideas.

Stacy's book list on mobsters, schemers, and thieves

Stacy Nockowitz Why did Stacy love this book?

Who doesn’t love a middle school con artist with a heart of gold? Jackson Greene thinks he’s out of the scam business forever, until he believes that the fix is in on the next student council election. The only way he can take down the school bully and student council president candidate, Keith Sinclair, is to pull off the biggest con the school has ever seen. The diverse cast of characters makes this book feel like Ocean’s 11 for tweens. Each kid has his or her own “specialty” and Jackson is the guy who brings them all together. The book also reminded me of the Kiki Strike series, but in a more realistic setting. Could anything like The Great Greene Heist really happen in a middle school? Well, no, but the book is just a great time from beginning to end.

By Varian Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Greene Heist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Saving the school -- one con at a time. (And in paperback!)

"A political heist page-turner set in middle school? Is that even possible? Varian Johnson shows us how it's done." - Gordon Korman, author of SWINDLE "Do yourself a favor and start reading immediately." - Rebecca Stead, author of WHEN YOU REACH ME Jackson Greene swears he's given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he's running for Student Council president, against Jackson's former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it -- but he knows Keith has "connections" to the principal, which…


Book cover of Jada Jones: Rock Star

Laurie Calkhoven Author Of Roosevelt Banks and the Attic of Doom

From my list on laugh-out-loud chapters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a former book publishing professional turned full-time children’s book author. I’ve never swallowed a frog, battled imaginary bears, or had a slime war with ghosts like my character, Roosevelt Banks, but I have written more than fifty books for children. These range from beginning readers (You Should Meet Misty Copeland) and chapter books (Roosevelt Banks, Good-Kid-in-Training) to middle grade historical novels (Daniel at the Siege of Boston, 1775).

Laurie's book list on laugh-out-loud chapters

Laurie Calkhoven Why did Laurie love this book?

With pockets full of rocks and a purple-dragon T-shirt, science-loving Jada Jones makes her debut in this early chapter book series. When her best friend moves away, school is the last place Jada wants to be, until her teacher announces a project about rocks and minerals. The only problem—she’s in a group with two BFF’s who don’t seem to like her or her ideas. Readers will love reading about Jada’s journey to new friendships and becoming a fourth-grade rock star—setting her up for new challenges in subsequent titles. I love the fact that Lyons created a science-loving girl.

By Kelly Starling Lyons, Vanessa Brantley-Newton (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Jada Jones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Fans of Princess Posey and Ivy and Bean will enjoy engaging with science-loving Jada Jones in this easy-to-read chapter book.

When Jada Jones's best friend moves away, school feels like the last place she wants to be. She'd much rather wander outside looking for cool rocks to add to her collection, since finding rocks is much easier than finding friends. So when Jada's teacher announces a class project on rocks and minerals, Jada finally feels like she's in her element. The only problem: one of her teammates doesn't seem to like any of Jada's ideas. She doesn't seem to like…


Book cover of Hush, Hush

Rachael Loper Author Of Anathema's Curse

From my list on to pull your soul into another realm.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing fantasy since I was a very young child. My need to escape a world that I viewed with fear was satiated by writing worlds that gave me control over how I could create and master them. I would read books that I adored but wanted to implement changes to better fit my own personal feelings and perception. For example, unicorns were terrifying creatures in my head, so I gave them fire-covered horns and eyes of flames. Nothing in the world felt pure or safe to me, so I write in a way that gives a dark twist to any and all mythological creatures and magical realms.

Rachael's book list on to pull your soul into another realm

Rachael Loper Why did Rachael love this book?

Bad boy meets broken girl. Need I say more?

Patch is a fallen angel who has a bully romance type personality. Something about his sudden fierce care for Nora makes me almost wish I’d suffered the trials within this love story. This is the series that really opened the doors for me to love and adore fantasy characters over humans.

By Becca Fitzpatrick,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Hush, Hush as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A powerful YA romance about the forbidden love between a girl and a fallen angel, perfect for fans of the Twilight series!

Romance was not part of Nora Grey's plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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