The Vine: December 5, 2012
I'm looking for book suggestions for my just-turned-thirteen niece. It's a very in-betweeny age, where her Christmas list is mostly clothes, but she still doesn't want me to cancel her American Girl magazine subscription. Though I am a embarrassingly voracious reader of children's and young-adult lit, I'm a little stymied for this age range. She has a high-school reading level, but younger interests. She does not really like things that are scary, but likes fantasy and stories set in the past.
I also have an almost-thirteen nephew and their interests are pretty much aligned (though I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be caught dead reading some of the "girlier" things on this list (sigh)), so anything that works for him would be great too. His reading level is also high and he also likes to read, though not quite as much as she does.
Here are books I've given one or both of them before that proved popular: Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Overlander series; Patricia Wrede's Sorcery & Cecelia and Talking to Dragons series; N.D. Wilson's Ashtown Burials series; The Penderwicks (and sequels); A Little Princess and The Secret Garden; Anne of Green Gables (and sequels); in other words, the Usual Suspects, both old and new. They've read and loved the Harry Potter books (obvi) and, because they are young and have not yet developed sufficient taste defenses, my niece also loves Twilight and they both like Percy Jackson and Riordan's other series. She (more than he) liked okay some of the older stuff I've given her, like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Westing Game.
The only books on which I've gotten negative feedback from my niece were Uglies and the City of Ember (though I think the latter was mostly because at the time she was scared of the dark so the books got in her head too much); she claims she liked the first book of The Hunger Games but I think she really found it too violent and generally adult in content (which I agreed with, and asked my sister what in the world, letting a 12-year-old read that, and then she told me all the fourth-graders had read it too. I am old and prudish, apparently, because my pearls got a good clutching at that). I think I tried to give both of them The Mysterious Benedict Society and I'm not sure that went over too well — though I love those books, I have yet to give them to a child who seemed at all interested.
The last book I gave her was Ruby in the Smoke by Pullman, and if she likes that I can continue with the Sally Lockhart books. But I'm looking for some fresh new ideas, new authors, and maybe stuff not everyone in their age group has also read. It would also be nice to get something set in a more contemporary/real world, anything navigating high school, like if the Sweet Valley High books were real, decent, thoughtful books instead of ones written by a computer-programmed Mad Lib enthusiast. Also anything in a graphic novel that's cool and interesting and age-appropriate would be great.
I'm also seeking advice on whether certain books I already love are good for this age group, and I know there are a bunch of parents, librarians and teachers in the Nation who I figured would have thoughts. Is she too young for His Dark Materials? Cynthia Voight's The Kingdom series? Jane Austen? Her reading level is high enough for these books on a vocabulary level, but I don't have enough experience with kids her age to know if the ideas are too sophisticated or adult, or the content otherwise lacking in interest. Is Judy Blume too dated? I loved Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, and I know they've updated it a little, but do kids still like it?
Thanks in advance, Nation,
Hello, Sars and Nation –
I have a question about books and teen-aged boys. Specifically books for teen-aged boys. And because I am an awesome procrastinator I am writing this on December 5th to ask for help with a Christmas present. Whomp whomp. (If this doesn't run before Christmas, which is totally understandable, I'd still love some help because his birthday is in early spring and I'll be running into this same issue.)
Anyway, here is the deal: I have a 15-year-old nephew whose interest in reading is fairly limited, and I would like the Nation's help in finding him some awesome books that he would like. Right now the only books he really enjoys are gory, scary sci-fi/horror books. Sadly, I know nothing about the current crop of YA horror, and I'd love some help finding fun, well-written, age-appropriate books for him. As reference, he really loved the Hunger Games series, and I know he was into the Cirque du Freak books a while back. He read Twilight because of the vampires, but I'd like to steer him towards stuff with a little more…literary merit. And a little less "you should control your girlfriend and sneak into her room and be creepy and undead" subtext. He'll read stuff with a female protagonist, but I think he enjoys male protagonists a little more.
He reads well at grade-level and a little above, but he'd have trouble with adult-level reading, so keeping suggestions YA is pretty key here. Bonus points for series or authors with multiple books in the same vein!
Right now my only real plan is to plunk myself down in the YA section of the library and read anything with a scary-looking cover until I find something that seems good. Any direction from the Nation would be greatly appreciated!
Trying To Maintain My Book Cred With Today's Youth
Tags: Ask The Readers happy hellidays popcult shut up Twilight