8 Contemporary Middle Grade Books to Look Out For in 2022

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Aurora Lydia Dominguez

Staff Writer

Aurora Lydia Dominguez is a journalist, high school teacher and college professor based in Hollywood, Florida. A journalist at heart, she worked for places like The Miami Herald and J-14 Magazine as a reporter and editor before going from the newsroom to the classroom. Aurora's passions include reading a book on Saturday mornings with her cat Luna, time with her husband Seb and pop rock shows. You can email her at

From crushes to discovering ourselves, there’s nothing like being a kid experiencing middle school. For me, I remember devouring books like The Baby-Sitters Club series and being inspired to have those type of friendships and that creativity to start my own club. I also recall digging into Sweet Valley Twins and their adventures. You could say middle grade books definitely kept me entertained and inspired me when I was younger.

This year, in 2022, books look different. While the relationships in the stories prevail, as well as the lessons learned, there is so much more to unpack in these stories today. From diverse characters to adventurous lives, middle grade contemporaries look extremely exciting and promising this year, full of the type of tales that even adults would devour and share with their little ones. For all this, I am excited to see what 2022 middle grade books have in store.

It was extremely tough to narrow it down, but here at Book Riot, we contributors love a challenge. A big fan of middle grade and YA novels, I took on the task of picking eight middle grade books that I can’t wait to dig into this new year. I hope you also find some that you want to pick up and even share with others. Happy reading, and book buying!

the cover of Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown

Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown (January 25)

We all grow up having dreams, of being better people and of being better to others. In this book, main character Annie dreams big.

The Japanese American tween decides to follow her passion and try out for the lead in her school rendition of The King and I. She is thrilled when she gains the main part, until her jealous classmates, mostly white, start gossiping about she only got it because it’s an Asian play and the characters are mostly Asian. Devastated by this chatter, she goes on to try to be the best lead the school has ever seen, and at the same time she is determined to show her classmates that she represents much more than just her race. Differences are meant to be celebrated and learned from.

This looks like a super fun read, sure to give us the type of lessons that will stay with us long after the last page is turned.

Cover of "Maizy Chen's Last Chance" by Lisa Yee

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee (February 1)

Inspired by her own personal story as a Chinese woman in America, author Lisa Yee dives us in to the world of Maizy Chen.

Maizy is a third generation Chinese American, who recently moved with her mother to Last Chance, Minnesota, to take care of sick grandpa. Being the only Asian Americans in Last Chance is not easy, but Maizy spends her days The Golden Palace, her family’s restaurant. The more she spends time there, the more she learns about others, and she realizes her family has been keeping secrets. One day, she uncovers a racist note and notices a family heirloom has gone missing, so she decides to take matters into her own hands and learn all of the things that have been hidden from her. What will she discover about her family and herself? She’s ready to find out at all costs.

Promising deep lessons and a look at family connections and relationships, I cannot wait to pick this novel up and learn more about Maizy!

Cover image of "When the World Turned Upside Down" by K. Ibura

When the World Turned Upside Down by K. Ibura (February 1)

COVID-19 changed all our lives, and for some of us, it taught lessons of resistance and overcoming our obstacles. This book explores those themes.

For Shayla, Liam, Ai, and Ben, school closing meant a huge change in all their lives. Living in the same apartment complex, they slowly start getting used to life in quarantine, as they struggle with their home lives and live with the stress of isolation. Then, one day, they realize others in their apartment complex need help with a variety of things, so they get together to support each other.

This story promises to engage, hinting at lessons of how we are stronger together and can overcome tough times if we are there for each other.

Cover of "Golden Girl" by Reem Faruqi

Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi (February 22)

From the amazing author of Unsettled comes a new heartwarming and engaging story.

In the book, we follow Aafiyah, a 7th grader whose life happily consists of days spent with her bestie Zaina, indulging in reading Weird but True facts and also trying to understand how to deal with her personal habits. One habit she cannot seem to shake off is being attracted to pretty things and “borrowing” them, also known as kleptomania. One day, her dad is accused of a crime he did not commit, Aafiyah turns to what she’s learned from reading Weird but True facts to try to help him. Yet, she’s not prepared to deal with the biggest lesson of all, which is learning to make herself a better person at the same time that she tries to help others. And that’s not always easy.

Filled with family dynamics, lessons of picking ourselves up after a friend betrays us, and realistic elements, this poignant story promises to entertain and warm your heart.

Cover of "Join the Club, Maggie Diaz" by Nina Moreno

Join the Club, Maggie Diaz by Nina Moreno (March 1)

The author of the wonderful YA novel Don’t Date Rosa Santos comes back to us with a wonderful middle grade story that will surely entertain you.

The story follows Maggie Diaz, a determined girl who is obsessed with finding her true passion in life. While her mom works hard to get her college degree, and her friends are too busy with their own responsibilities to hang out, she really wants to find out what makes her tick. Then there’s her perfect older sister, Caro, who effortlessly seems to excel at everything. What can Maggie do to compare? So, she decides to join every club she can at school, making her realize that juggling too many things is not necessarily a good thing, and that maybe 7th grade is simply the perfect time to start figuring out who you are, sans so much stress.

Filled with beautiful illustrations by artist Courtney Lovett, this is a quick read that is as entertaining as it is full of heart.

Cover of "It's the End of the World and I'm in My Bathing Suit" by Justin A. Reynolds

It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds (April 5)

From the author of the lovely YA Early Departures comes a super witty middle grade.

In the novel, Eddie Gordon Holloway truly hates laundry. I mean, don’t we all? So, Eddie devises a plan where he will simply wear every single piece of clothing he owns during his school break. Take that, laundry! Now, he won’t have to do any of it until the very end of break.

But, he never expected his mom to find his laundry pile, especially on the day of Beach Bash, which he was really looking forward to attending. Now, he’s stuck doing the laundry while his friends are out having fun. Suddenly, while he’s working hard, the lights go out. He decides to explore what’s happening in his neighborhood, wearing only his swimsuit trunks, and bumps into a group of friends who are starting to also realize they might just be the only ones left in town! But where are their families? Where did everyone go? Are they coming back…ever? He should’ve finished the laundry!

Promising humor and heart, I cannot wait to pick this one up and find out if the main character is stuck wearing his swim trunks forever!

Cover of "Unfadeable" by Maurice Broaddus

Unfadeable by Maurice Broaddus (April 19)

This colorful tale is one I am super excited about, promising a memorable and powerful character.

Bella “Unfadeable” Fades is simply trying to not get anyone’s attention. She harbors a few secrets, one being that she lives alone, and another being that her passion is being a talented graffiti artist who decorates the walls and bridges in her Indianapolis neighborhood with unique art. All she really wants is to steer clear from social services and just enjoy her time in the Land, her neighborhood. Yet, one day she learns people in powerful places are trying to take money away from her neighborhood, and she must make the tough choice of uniting with her neighbors to fight for what’s right, which would also mean drawing attention to herself. Can she really trust them?

This realistic story promises a lot of tugging of the heart strings, and I cannot wait to dig into it!

Cover of "The Language of Seabirds" by Will Taylor

The Language of Seabirds by Will Taylor (May 17)

There is nothing like the all-encompassing, fulfilling, confusing feeling of first love. This novel sets to explore that, and everything that comes with it.

The story follows two young boys falling in love one summer. While Jeremy has been devastated over his parent’s recent divorce, he begrudgingly decides to join his father and uncle in Oregon, at a cabin by the sea. One day, while taking a walk, he is distracted by a boy running by the shore, who seems to be exactly his age. What starts as a great friendship blossoms into more, making both of them learn so much more about themselves that they ever expected to learn.

This romance promises to rekindle that first memory of your first crush, as you engage yourself in their touching story.

What other middle grade novels are you excited to read in 2022? Got any suggestions for me? Let me know on Twitter @AuroraMiami!

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