Alcatraz is a 13-year-old who has been in foster care his whole life. He's had many foster parents because he breaks everything he sees. Not on purpose, usually, but he just touches something and it falls apart. On his thirteenth birthday he gets a package of sand in the mail and this is when he finds out why he's been in foster care. You see, all the countries/continents we consider part of Earth are actually the Hushlands that are ruled by evil Librarians. The Free Kingdoms are continents filling up the oceans (who needs all that water?) and they know the truth. Alcatraz' family, the Smedleys, have been infiltrating the Hushlands and fighting the Librarians for many generations. The Oculators, which Alcatraz and his grandfather Leavenworth are, fight with lenses made from different special sands. Each lens has a different power -- firebringer, torture, tracking, etc. -- and Alcatraz has to learn how to use them quickly because a Librarian has stolen his birthday sands!
The book involves infiltration of a library/castle, small British dinos, a Samoan-like anthropologist/gun expert, and a thirteen-year-old girl who is their knight.
I'm afraid the part I found most interesting is probably not meant to be the most interesting in this or the next four books (which I don't expect to read). You see, the Free Kingdoms consider guns primitive because they have so many parts and can break, when you can just swing a sword around without trouble. They think the same of elevators vs. stairs and computers vs. pencils. It's an interesting idea, but not sustainable.
The idea that Librarians rule is not supported -- he does say at the end that government, organizations, etc., don't know they're ruled, but gives no information.
I read a fair amount of YA, even at middle-grade, and I like a lot of the good stuff. I really don't know if someone in middle school would like this or not. I don't recommend it for adults, and it makes me wonder just how the last volume of Wheel of Time (heh, typed World of Tiers first) will turn out.