Ah, another episode of We Recommend, in which we attempt, by hook or by crook, to find the absolutely perfect book for people who write in. Got a kid in your life who needs a recommendation? Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age, reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant) information, and we'll give it a shot. And really? All the good options are in the comments, so be sure to look there!
And so we have come to this.
My older daughter has always been a voracious reader, particularly interested in fantasy (Tamora Pierce, Eoin Colfer, Warrior Cats, Guardian owls, Harry Potter, etc.) This year, however, she entered middle school and has pretty much stopped reading! Like so many tweens and teens, she spends much of her free time on the computer chatting with friends, surfing You Tube , disparaging Justin Beiber, plotting world domination… In a desperate attempt to get a book back in her hands I relented on allowing Teen Lit like Hunger Games (too gross she thought) and Twilight (god Bella is so annoying and Edward Cullen is a stalker she said). She seems lost between a world of being too old for the 7 – 12 age range books and not particularly thrilled with the teen offerings. So I am turning to you to ask if you can suggest something that can bring her back to books – short of throwing the laptop out the window, which may happen soon nonetheless…
Now this person is almost exactly the age as Diana, so that is who I went to in despair. Well, not in despair exactly. I told Diana that I thought The Clique books might work, also manga—both have a sort of teenage edge to them, but they're not as focused on being an actual teenager, and boys and all of that, as most teen stuff. Even the Clique books remind me of the old rubber-clothes Cinderella we got when the girls were tiny, where all the dolls were Polly Pockets, except for the Prince, who only got to be a cardboard cutout, commensurate with his importance.
At any rate, Diana agreed that these might work. She and I have both enjoyed the Clique books, however trashy and despicable. But with manga, I am less certain, so I asked her: what's a girl to start with? Here's what she offers:
(Image courtesy InisMagazine.ie)
Um, gee. I don't really know what to say abou this cover. All I'm doing here is relying on my girl, who is a feminist and has reliable if somewhat kooky taste. She says, "It's got girl monsters, and and it's kind of sad but also really awesome, and it has some funny parts. Also: the art's really good."
She also mentions this:
(Image courtesy Carrie Jones website)
She says that this is much better than Twilight, and has lots of pixies. Also a super cool girl character. Then she started spinning out, mentioning The Great Tree of Avalon, and a whole bunch of others. Also maybe Leviathan? It's supersmart, and not too romantic.
OK, I am going to toss it to you guys to answer in the comments. Come on, we don't want anyone throwing laptops out the window, think of the children!
19 thoughts on “We Recommend: Bring This 12-Year-Old Girl Back to Books!”
Well, first, congratulations to the daughter on her rejection of Bella. But eek, I live in fear of such a day.
When all else fails, I go to the CCBC and look at their lists–this one is for middle school: go.wisc.edu/z9tlmg, and this one is fantasy for ages 11-15: go.wisc.edu/zkh9v3.
Other thoughts: A Wrinkle in Time? Meet the Austins? The Mists of Avalon? How about anything by Lois Lowry, or maybe Philip Pullman?
Sorry, those were supposed to be links: http://go.wisc.edu/zkh9v3 and http://go.wisc.edu/z9tlmg
As always I’m going to suggest Neil Gaiman who I think of as the perfect bridge. Stardust is nice and The Graveyard Book is practically perfect. Neverwhere is also one of my all time favorites.
I’m also thinking that maybe there’s a length issue at play. She’s just wanting something a little quicker. I don’t have any superb short story recommendations but they are usually pretty easy to find and a great way to find new authors to love.
Some Cynthia Voigt, maybe? She has some fantasy-ish titles with strong female characters, as well as her marvelous real-world books–Izzy Willy-Nilly especially is wonderful.
First I want to second Neil Gaiman. Then I want to suggest Terry Pratchett’s diskworld series, but someone with older kids than me should chime in if they think it’s too old for a 12 year old. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit to reading all of Anne McCaffrey’s books in my tweens… please don’t judge me! They are easy and fluffy and the dragonrider series has just enough romance to be interesting to the tween age, I think. I also read a whole lot of Piers Anthony at that age. I don’t remember there being a young adult fantasy genre growing up… or facebook. :>)
I’m going to go out there and recommend Judy Blume books (the ones for teenagers). Deene? Not sci-fi, but maybe this tween would enjoy something really different than what she enjoyed as a kid?
Oooh, Emily, good call on the Discworld series. There are some specifically written for a YA audience and those would be great, but I would think that almost any of them would work for an eleven year old. Especially the witch books or the Death books.
Gaiman is perfect! Also, “Moon Over Manifest” by Vanderpool (steampunk!)
Actually, some of Tamora Pierce’s books are defintely for an older crowd. She may have outgrown “Squire”, etc, but other books in the Keladry world may still be right for her (like the ones that follow Alanna). Also the Circle of Friends titles by Pierce if she has not already read them. If she still liked fantasy there are some good ones out there: “Small Persons with Wings”, the Pratchett books about Tiffany Aching starting with “Wee Free Men”, particular L’Engle titles like “The Moon by Night”, the “Young Unicorns” or “Ring of Endless Light”. She could also try “Kiki Strike” (urban and cool girls with a bit of fantasy. Second the Dragonrider of Pern series by McCaffrey.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede, the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, Flora Segunda and sequel by Ysabeau Wilce, Heist Society by Ally Carter. Princess Diaries and Mediator series by Meg Cabot aren’t too romantic, and Sarah Dessen is a good fit for this age, I think. Also Nick & Nora or Dash & Lily by Cohn & Levithan.
Like the commenter above, the Pratchett books that I would recommend are the Tiffany Aching books. I think they’d be the best fit for her age.
L’Engle is also a good choice, I think.
What about Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase and the sequels? She also wrote some wonderful books of short stories, if short stories would be more appealing.
But my real brainwave? Hand her a book of Saki short stories. Some are eerie, some are funny, some are romantic (in that one’s heart aches a little for a character or two). He’s a brilliant writer.
I like some Vivian Vande Velde too..A Hidden Magic, for example. I originally bought her books for the trina Schart Hyman covers, but the books I read aren’t bad.
I remember loving The Outsiders in sixth grade. Check out Laini Taylor as well, she has a new book that’s getting a lot of press that is YA and fantasy: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I also liked her other books, fantasy too. Did someone already suggest Lois Lowry? Hmmm. That’s all I’ve got.
Terry Pratchett is ideal for that “in between” reading phase. Yes, on Tiffany Aching but really yes, to any of them. Also, Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s “Sorcery and Cecilia” series, Phillip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart books. Diana Wynne Jones.
Going in a slightly different direction since Pratchett is laugh out loud funny. At this age I loved all those “housewife humor” books (Jean Kerr, Erma Bombeck, Peg Bracken) which lead me to humorous essays in general so maybe something short and funny? David Sedaris or Amy Sedaris, The Onion, John Stewart, even Sarah Vowell?
I didn’t see anyone mention the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. At that age I was entranced by Greek Mythology, and the same happened with my own daughter. They are very well written and I love them. Also I second Megsie on The Outsiders, I LOVED that book, I must have read it 50 times, I could practically recite it by heart. Manga is very appealing to girls at that age, and I do think it good for them just to keep a book in their hands.
At that age, I really loved The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. Also The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (the book is much more excellent than the movie).
At risk of sounding like a broken record: the Kiki Strike series by Kirsten Miller.
Also, The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It’s a laugh out loud funny book.
And, it might be time for her to try some books that are not strictly written for kids (though I’d argue Princess Bride is not either). How about Jane Eyre, Huck Finn, or Sherlock Holmes?
Jill beat me to it with The Dark Is Rising series – excellently thrilling/scary, definitely without the teen trash vibe, and with enough depth to appeal to a wide age range (and thus be eminently re-readable!)
Cynthia Voigt has a similarly wide age-range. I enjoyed her realism more than her fantasy as a 12-16 year old, but that’s typical of me. Maybe this girl would love the fantasy and move to the realism. Or not.
And, I’m going to add my perennial vote to the L’Engle column. I really recommend her for almost all these posts, but that’s because there is such a wealth of material from her, and it covers a HUGE range of age-appropriateness and style, all without sacrificing her trademarks of excellent writing, interesting characters, and themes that appeal to kids and adults alike.
The only new idea I have is Elizabeth Enright. Again, I liked her more realistic books (i.e. the Melendy quartet) but she wrote some more fantasy-leaning books, like Gone-Away Lake and Thimble Summer. I think these might well fill the gap this girl is in.
There’s a wonderful short story collection I wanted to mention–Shelf Life:Stories by the Book, edited by Gary Paulsen.
In each story a book contributes heavily to the plot, and contributors include Joan Bauer, Ellen Wittlinger, MT Anderson, and Jennifer Holm.
I know when I was middle school I enjoyed reading magazines–yes, magazines aren’t books, but they can make for good reading!
Short stories are a great idea. Diana was super happy with Zombies vs. Unicorns, which is an anthology. And yes to all Tamora Pierce there ever was, though I guess I thought she’d read most of it. You guys always amaze and impress me.