It's back to We Recommend, in which we attempt to match kids up with their perfect book. 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 suggestions are in the comments, so be sure to look there!
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Which is apparently somewhat less compelling (to some) than complaining about cookie coverage. But we've got some books to recommend, gosh darn it! Here we go. And parents of boys, and readers of history, we're really counting on you here:
Henry is now thirteen years old, in seventh grade and in need of a good book. He hates fantasy which seems to be the only genre out there for early teens—he has read The Hunger Games, though, and while he enjoyed them, he's never been a big Harry Potter fan. I gave him Catcher in the Rye, and he says that he likes it, but I have the feeling that he's still a bit young to truly enjoy it. He loves both novels and non-fiction—really likes anything to do with World War II. I read Austen and all the classics when I was his age, but teenage boys are a different animal, and I just don't know what to recommend! I would appreciate your and your readers' advice.
I feel I must mention here, despite our title up there, that what we're talking about here isn't really the gender divide, but the realism/fantasy divide, which is way more intense. But it doesn't really matter how/why people have their tastes, only that they do, so the real question here is: what can we offer this kid to read?
Thirteen is a funny age anyway; a 13-year-old can read just about any book, it doesn't have to be slated specifically "for teenagers." But it should also appeal. I mean, something steamy doesn't necessarily make sense (it depends on the 13-year-old). And then there's the question of what a non-fantasy loving reader has open to him?
I admit I was leaning towards biographies and histories, given the World War II penchant, but I am not sure. What I really want is to offer the kid a book he would love to read. I thought of The Book Thief, which is certainly set in World War II, but the truth is that I didn't love that book, I felt it had a certain swaggering harshness that rubs me the wrong way. So then I asked my husband, who (word has it) once was a boy himself. His take? Go with the war, but it doesn't have to be WWII. How about Hemingway? There's a lot for a boy (or anyone!) to love in Hemingway. But then I thought—eesh. I'm not sure. I thought, maybe Atonement? And then I remembered what Atonement was about. I thought about Catch-22. And then I thought, he doesn't seem to be a high humor kid, but rather a thoughtful kid. And then I thought, maybe (maybe?) Kavalier and Clay? It's WWII, it's boy. But it's maybe too magical, too fanciful, too out there. And that is how, God help me and forgive me, I came up with this:
And the truth, the terrible thing I must admit, is that this thoughtful decent-sounding kid just happens to have taste that is diametrically opposed to mine. So I don't have much to consider, it's just a whole empty space in my mind (and bookshelves).
So excellent readers, I implore you: you probably read histories, and biographies, and compelling stories of heroism and tactics. Help me out here, help this young man out here! If you've got a suggestion for him, put it in the comments.