Bullying has become a common theme in middle school books today. Every school has bullies, so it makes sense to include them in realistic fiction books. From this list, boys will especially like Scar Island and Revenge of the Star Survivors. Girls will especially like The Thing About Jellyfish.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Betty Glengarry is the worst bully you can imagine. She targets Annabelle and her brothers everyday while walking to school through Wolf Hollow. Her bullying and lying get out of hand when she throws a rock intended to hit a German man, but instead hits a classmate. Betty blames it on a poor WWI veteran, Toby. When Betty goes missing Toby is blamed, but Annabelle knows the truth.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Auggie is a boy with a severe facial deformity. His parents have sheltered him, but decide to send him to school for 5thgrade. Told in alternating perspectives, we learn how different people react to Auggie’s deformity, and ultimately hope that we will be the one who looks beyond what we see to what’s on the inside.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Suzy learns that her former best friend, Franny, has drowned on vacation. As she tries to come to terms with her death, we learn through flashbacks how the friendship fell apart in middle school. When Franny began to see that Suzy was a little odd, she became one of her bullies. Beautiful, poetic writing.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
10-year-old Ha has lived in South Vietnam her whole life. Her world is shattered when the Communist north wins the Vietnam War. Rather than live under Communist rule, her family flees to the United States. Speaking no English, in the highly racial south, she and her brother are subjected to ridicule from classmates. Written in verse.
Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart
A group of juvenile delinquents are sent to a reformatory on a desolate rock island. When a freak accident leaves all the adults dead, the boys decide to hole up in the prison rather than tell authorities. With a hurricane brewing and supplies running out, the boys start to get desperate, and the bully kid takes over. Modern take on Lord of the Flies.
Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Virgil is a shy boy who secretly likes Valencia who is deaf. Chet gets no praise from his dad and he takes out his frustration by being a bully. When Virgil and Chet run into each other in the woods, Chet throws Virgil’s guinea pig into a well. Virgil goes after it and gets stuck. Luckily he has two friends who put two and two together and help rescue him.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally is always misunderstood. She can’t seem to do anything right and she’s always in trouble. Anyone different, including the science geek, are relentlessly bullied. When the teacher goes on maternity leave, the substitute teacher figures out that Ally’s behavior is a result of dyslexia. Once she is diagnosed, she begins to feel better about herself.
Revenge of the Star Survivors by Michael Merschal
Clark Sherman is obsessed with his favorite show Star Survivors. He likes to pretend that real life is like the show. When he moves to a new town and new school, the bullies waste no time. Even the administrators are against him. Luckily, he finds a kid who has managed to fly under the bully’s radar and he reluctantly agrees to help Sherman.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
This one is a graphic novel similar to those by Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson. Peppi is a new student with a set of rules for school survival. On the first day, it all goes wrong and she finds herself in an awkward position. She bumps into a boy and the kids start teasing her. To save her reputation, she is rude to the boy, but deep down inside she knows it’s wrong.