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Middle Grade Books Featuring Neurodiverse Characters

These books for kids ages 9-12 celebrate the everyday lives and unique strengths of kids on the spectrum. For younger kids (ages 3-9), browse this list: Picture Books Featuring Characters with Autism or Asperger’s.

A Whole New Ballgame

A Whole New Ballgame

By: Phil Bildner
Illustrated by: Tim Probert
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn't believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects. Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other ― and find ways to make a difference ― in the classroom and on the court.

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Does My Shirts

By: Gennifer Choldenko
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Moose's family moves to Alcatraz so his father can work as a guard and his sister Natalie (who has autism) can attend a special school in San Francisco, Moose has to leave his friends and his winning baseball team behind. Moose just wants to protect Natalie, live up to his parent's expectations, and stay out of trouble, but on Alcatraz, trouble is never very far away.

Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical

By: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A story told entirely from the point of view of Jason, an autistic boy who is a creative-writing whiz and deft explainer of literary devices, but markedly at a loss in social interactions with “neurotypicals” both at school and at home. He is most comfortable in an online writing forum called Storyboard, where his stories kindle an e-mail-based friendship with a girl. The author describes Jason’s attempts to interpret body language and social expectations, and ultimately how Jason moves through his failures and triumphs with the same depth of courage and confusion of any boy his age.

Autism, the Invisible Cord: A Sibling's Diary

Autism, the Invisible Cord: A Sibling's Diary

By: Barbara S. Cain
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

"Ezra looks like any other sixth grader with faded jeans, turned around cap and a mess of chestnut curls. You see, my brother is like any other eleven-year-old except when he isn't." This story follows 14-year-old Jenny as she describes her day-to-day life with her younger autistic brother, Ezra. Ezra can be both her best friend as well as her biggest obstacle to living a normal life, and Jenny often finds herself stuck worrying about her younger brother. Through taking care of Ezra and a very special school project, Jenny ends up learning about her own character and strengths, and a way to shine despite everything else.

Can You See Me?

Can You See Me?

By: Libby Scott, Rebecca Westcott
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Tally is smart, compassionate, and she has a superpower: autism. Inspired by young coauthor Libby Scott's own experiences with autism, this is an honest and moving middle-school story of friends, family, and finding one's place.

Counting by 7s

Counting by 7s

By: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Willow Chance is a 12-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. Willow is also an outsider, a girl possibly somewhere on the autism/Asperger's spectrum (although that is never stated). Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. This story is about her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

By: Lauren Tarshis
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Intellectually gifted but socially aloof from her seventh-grade peers, Emma-Jean is nonetheless happy with her life. She has positive relationships with several adults, a number of interests to pursue, and the memory of her late father to inspire her. Her life changes after a chance encounter with a classmate leads her to become a problem-solver without realizing the ripple effect that her actions will have. Readers will be intrigued by Emma-Jean's insightful observations and her adult-level vocabulary.

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!

By: Sarah Kapit
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Vivy Cohen, an 11-year-old with autism, won't let anything stop her from playing baseball — not when she has a major-league star as her pen pal. This novel-in-letters captures Vivy's growing sense of her own capabilities. It's a satisfying baseball story that never minimizes the challenges of autism but celebrates skill, determination, and love for the game.

In Two Worlds

In Two Worlds

By: Ido Kedar
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Seven-year-old Anthony has autism. He flaps his hands. He makes strange noises. He can’t speak or otherwise communicate his thoughts. Treatments, therapies, and theories about his condition define his daily existence. Yet Anthony isn’t improving much. This debut work of fiction sheds light on the inner and outer lives of children with nonspeaking autism, and on their two worlds — and how they navigate their way through the multitude of theories about autism that have affected the lives of many children and their families. As one of the few works of fiction written by a person with non-speaking autism, it offers readers an insider’s point-of-view into autism and life in silence, with warmth, humor, and sharp intellect.

Just My Luck

Just My Luck

By: Cammie McGovern
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn't found a new best friend at school. He's still not a great bike rider — even though his brother George, who's autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad's recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom's advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time, but Benny doesn't know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life seems to have thrown their way.

Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse

By: Susan Vaught
Genre: Mystery, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When the cops show up at Jesse’s house and arrest her dad, she figures out in a hurry that he’s the #1 suspect in the missing library fund money case. But when a tornado strikes her small town, Jesse must use all of her skills to save her and those around her. This mystery will have you rooting for Jesse and her trusty Pomeranian, Sam-Sam.

Mockingbird

Mockingbird

By: Kathryn Erskine
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

From inside Caitlin's head, readers see the very personal aftermath of a middle school shooting that took the life of the older brother she adored. Caitlin is a bright fifth grader and a gifted artist. She also has Asperger Syndrome, and her brother, Devon, was the one who helped her interpret the world. A compassionate school counselor works with her, trying to teach her the social skills that are so difficult for her. Through her own efforts and her therapy sessions, she begins to come to terms with her loss and makes her first, tentative steps toward friendship. (Winner of the National Book Award)

P.K. Pinkerton and the Case of the Deadly Desperados

P.K. Pinkerton and the Case of the Deadly Desperados

By: Caroline Lawrence
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The year is 1862, and 12-year-old P.K. “Pinky” Pinkerton is on the run from Whittlin’ Walt and his gang of ruthless desperados. P.K. is determined to hold on to Ma’s last priceless possession: the deed to a large amount of land and silver mines in the Nevada Mountains. P.K. will have to be both clever and cunning to evade the band of outlaws. All this is seen through the eyes of P.K., a half-Lakota kid with Asperger Syndrome, which makes him chronically unable to interpret the intentions of people around him.

Paws

By: Kate Foster
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Everything is changing for 11-year-old Alex and, as an autistic person, change can be terrifying. With the first day of high school only a couple of months away, Alex is sure that having a friend by his side will help. So, he’s devised a plan – impress the kids at school by winning a trophy at the PAWS Dog Show with his trusty sidekick, Kevin.

Planet Earth Is Blue

Planet Earth Is Blue

By: Nicole Panteleakos
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A powerful story about the extraordinary mind of a young nonverbal girl with autism, her passion for space exploration, and the bond between sisters.

Rain Reign

Rain Reign

By: Ann M. Martin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein). Not everyone understands Rose's obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different — not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father. When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Though Rose's story is often heartbreaking, her matter-of-fact narration provides moments of humor. Readers will empathize with Rose, who finds strength and empowerment through her unique way of looking at the world.

Remember Dippy

Remember Dippy

By: Shirley Reva Vernick
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

During a summer vacation at his aunt's house, Johnny is made responsible for taking care of his older cousin Remember, who has autism. Remember is a gawky awkward kid with some pretty strange habits, like repeating back almost everything Johnny says and spending hours glued to the weather channel. Johnny's premonitions of disaster appear at first to come to fruition, but when the two boys save a bully from drowning, salvage the pizzeria guy's romance, and share girl troubles, Johnny ends up having the summer of his life.

Rogue

Rogue

By: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hard for her to make friends. She wishes she could be like her hero Rogue — a misunderstood X-Men mutant who used to hurt anyone she touched until she learned how to control her special power. When Chad moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is complicated and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power. The story celebrates everyone’s ability to discover and use whatever it is that makes them different.

Rules

Rules

By: Cynthia Lord
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal? (2007 Newbery Honor Book)

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am

By: Harry Mazer, Peter Lerangis
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ben's decision to join the military affects his entire family members, including his brother, who has autism and who announces that he, too, wishes to enlist. (Schneider Family Award winner)

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

By: Sally J. Pla
Illustrated by: Steve Wolfhard
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Nobody knows comics trivia like Stanley knows comics trivia. It’s what he takes comfort in when the world around him gets to be too much. And after he faints during a safety assembly, Stanley takes his love of comics up a level by inventing his own imaginary superhero, named John Lockdown, to help him through. Help is what he needs, because Stanley’s entered Trivia Quest — a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt — to prove he can tackle his worries, score VIP passes to Comic Fest, and win back his ex-best friend. See our interview with the author, Sally J. Pla 

Superstar

Superstar

By: Mandy Davis
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This uplifting story follows space-obsessed Lester Musselbaum as he experiences the challenges of his first days of public school: making friends, facing bullies, finding his "thing," and accidentally learning of his autism-spectrum diagnosis. A touching peek into the life of a sensitive autism-spectrum boy facing the everydayness of elementary school.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By: Mark Haddon
Genre: Mystery, Fiction
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone, a teenager with Asperger's, is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child's quirks. In this story, Christopher sets out to solve the mysterious death of a neighborhood dog.

The London Eye Mystery

The London Eye Mystery

By: Siobhan Dowd
Genre: Mystery, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ted and Kat watched their cousin Salim board the London Eye, but after half an hour it landed and everyone trooped off — except Salim. Ted and his older sister, Kat, become sleuthing partners and follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. Ultimately it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery.

The Real Boy

The Real Boy

By: Anne Ursu
Illustrated by: Erin McGuire
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Oscar knows he’s different. He can’t remember where he comes from, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of magical herbs and their uses, and he just does not understand human interaction. As the apprentice to Caleb, the last magician in the magic-steeped Barrow, Oscar's job is to collect the herbs, prepare the charms and tinctures, do his chores, and avoid trouble. That changes when a mysterious destructive force arrives and it is up to Oscar and his friend Callie to protect the Barrow and its inhabitants.

The Someday Birds

The Someday Birds

By: Sally J. Pla
Illustrated by: Julie McLaughlin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. This story is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis. See our interview with the author, Sally J. Pla 

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