Middle School to Young Adult Books

Theme: Physical Challenges

Antsy Does Time - (ISBN: 0525478256)

by Neal Shüsterman

Antsy’s classmate, Gunnar, believes (or does he?) he is dying of a rare incurable disease, having been diagnosed by an online doctor. Antsy’s life, and also Gunnar’s, spins out of control when Antsy gives Gunnar an IOU offering him one month of his own life. Other classmates want to join in and also start donating periods of healthy time. Gunnar’s “disease” turns out to be a mere cover up for problems his father is having. All will be revealed in the pages of this riveting book.

Deenie - (ISBN: 978-0385739856)

by Judy Blume

Deenie does not really think she can face wearing a back brace for four years to correct her recently diagnosed scoliosis. What personal qualities rally to help her cope? Might any of these qualities help with other problems teens face?

Med Head: My Knock-down, Drag-out, Drugged-up Battle with My Brain - (ISBN: 978-0316076173)

by James Patterson

Cory has the support of his family to help him deal with his Tourette’s syndrome, but their ideas and techniques do not seem to be enough. Additionally, the drugs prescribed to help with his obsessive-compulsive disorder wreak another kind of havoc on his body and his ability to function independently. As with many true-life stories, there is no easy answer or fairly tale ending to his condition and the effects of its radical treatment. Think of other stories you know that lack fairy tale endings. Which kind of ending do you think is better?

Rats Saw God - (ISBN: 978-1416938972)

by Rob Thomas

At first, Steve York tries to use humor to deal with typical teenage problems, but having his parents split up and losing his difficult girlfriend send him over the brink into doing drugs and almost dropping out. His last chance, a 100-page essay about his life, forces him to confront some of his problems and figure out how to make it through difficult adolescent times. Teens will enjoy this book’s refreshing take on difficulties typical of their age. Try writing your own stories about yourself.

Shayla's Double Brown Baby Blues - (ISBN: 978-0689856709)

by Lori Aurelia Williams

Shayla’s new stepmother and new baby sister send her searching for friends, rather than her dysfunctional family, to help her. But her friends turn out to have their own problems. Shayla must mature enough to depend solely on herself. Beautiful, lyrical writing makes the presentation of Shayla’s tough life a bit easier to take.

Do Hard Things - (ISBN: 978-1601421128)

by Alex and Brett Harris

Gandhi: His Life, His Struggles, His Words - (ISBN: 978-1-59270-094-3 )

by Elisabeth de Lambilly

The Schwa Was Here - (ISBN: 978-0142405772)

by Neil Shüsterman

When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune - (ISBN: 978-0689856709)

by Lori Aurelia Williams

Activities for this Theme

Make some chicken soup for a sick friend


Visit an elderly friend or relative, and ask to look through their picture albums together.


Read the inspirational story of a young man whose father deliberately injected him with AIDS as an infant.


View the ABC news story about the same AIDS case


Volunteer as a Candy Striper or other assistant at a community agency to provide help and comfort to those who are ill.