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Daily Book Talk: Books for tweens - not young adults

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Initial post: Mar 28, 2012 6:38:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 28, 2012 8:44:04 AM PDT
I've noticed that the content in books marketed for young adults seems to be getting more adult. Which I think is fine for kids in the late teens. I would be hesitant about giving these books to younger teens - say between the ages of 12 through 14.

What do y'all think? Are all YA books appropriate for all teens? Or do you think there should be different criteria for the younger ones?

Posted on Mar 28, 2012 8:31:02 AM PDT
There is different critera for younger readers. The Middle School age brackett is gaining more steam, and I've seen a few more books I'd call "tween". I think it's good to have a broad base. Some younger teens are ready to move onto more adult themes, some aren't.

A couple of recs for readers in the tween or middle school reading range:

Stephanie Burgis' Kat, Incorrigible fits here. The MC is 12, the youngest sister, and she uses her magic to try to save her eldest sister from being married off. No real violence. Some romance, but not with the MC, just superficially with the elder sisters.

Kate Milford's The Boneshaker - MC is 13; this one does have serious themes (has a Something Wicked This Way Comes vibe) but I would def classify it as Mid School (although I loved it too - one of my favorite reads from last year).

Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan - Mid School/YA; I think it bridges the two ages. It is set in the beginning of WWI (although in an alternate universe that is similar to our history, but allows for more fantastical steampunk creations), so there are some scenes of war. I would have been ready to read this in 5th grade (I was reading the Hobbit then as I recall).

Arthur Slade's The Hunchback Assignments - another Mid School read; it's a steampunk adventure; there is some violence, but not on par with The Hunger Games.

I'd call the Percy Jackson series Middle School, too.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 28, 2012 10:44:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 28, 2012 10:45:35 AM PDT
Great suggestions! One of them is going to be sent to 12 year old nephew. He's hard to find books for because he reads at a high school level but he has the maturity level appropriate to his age.

He loves science fiction, creatures, weird inventions, sword and sorcery, fighting, etc. Excluding the first, which do you think would make the best choice for him?

Posted on Mar 28, 2012 11:31:40 AM PDT
The BOneshaker has a girl as the lead, but it's not in any way a "girly" book. There is less action, more uncovering mysterious happenings and using her brain to save the day. I do rec it for boys, but if he is more into sci fi and fighting, he might not like this one as much.

Arthur Slade is fun, but it's a really quick read, however, there are 2 other books in the series out now, so he would have a few books to read. There are plenty of weird creations, gadgets, and lots of action.

Leviathan is a much longer and more detailed book, so if he is already reading at a high school level, I'd be tempted to go with that. It has a boy (the Austro-Hungarian prince) and a girl (disguised as a boy so she could join the British Air Service) as the 2 lead characters. There are also lots of gadgets and beasties (the Germans are the Clankers, with their steam-powered battle machines while the British/Allies are the Darwinists with biologically-enhanced creatures that do the work of airships, etc). The world-building here is really good.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 28, 2012 4:53:03 PM PDT

*scampers off to use the 1-click crack pipe!*

Posted on Mar 28, 2012 11:16:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 28, 2012 11:17:27 PM PDT
Kribu says:
Margaret Peterson Haddix's Missing series (starting with Found (The Missing, Book 1) ) is middle school. I've read the first two so far (have been waiting for the price of the next ones to drop) and it's pretty decent, although reads a tiny bit too young for me (but then I'm in my thirties).

Suzanne Collins's Underland Chronicles (starting with Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) ) is again tween-suitable - although I'd personally consider it better for the 7-10-year-olds; might be a bit young for 12-year-olds but that depends on the child.

Rick Riordan's series (Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus; The Kane Chronicles) are suitable for pretty much any age from middle school to adult.

I loved Jeanne DuPrau's Ember books (starting with The City of Ember (Books of Ember) ) - very much a children's series in that it lacks bad language, has very little violence and no sex, but it kept me excited and reading.

Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant (starting with Scepter of the Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant) ) is meant for the 9+ age range and the first three books are solidly in the middle grade age range; the books do "grow up" with the main character and get a bit more YA in the second trilogy, but they're read and adored by 10-year-olds to 50-year-olds. The protagonist is a girl but it's a series boys love too; a lot of action and fighting.

For 12-year-old boys, most of what Anthony Horowitz has written would probably be suitable, for example the Alex Rider series (starting with Stormbreaker (Alex Rider) ) - the main character is a 14-year-old boy hired as a spy by the British government. Lots of suspension of disbelief needed and not always very well written (a bit too many exclamation marks for my taste), but I've read the whole series and they were definitely exciting. No "fantasy" but a lot of fighting, near-death, bad guys, gadgets and stuff.

Horowitz's Gatekeepers series (starting with The Gatekeepers #1: Raven's Gate ) is more horror/fantasy, but I've only read the first book so I don't know exactly how far it goes later on - still, the main characters are 14-year-olds and there shouldn't be anything age-inappropriate for 12-year-olds. His Groosham Grange books (starting with Groosham Grange ) are definitely middle school fantasy - I've read the first one and there was a lot there that reminded me of Harry Potter (except that Groosham Grange was written well before the first HP book, so if anyone influenced anyone, I wouldn't be surprised if Rowling had read that book).

Mark Walden's H.I.V.E. series (starting with H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education ) is another one that should be suitable for 12-year-old boys; it's again more high-tech spy stuff than fantasy, being a series about children with a talent for "villainy" in a special school, the protagonist and main point of view character is a 13-year-old boy. They're written at a somewhat higher level than most children's books and kept my interest throughout.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 3:38:52 AM PDT
Spud says:
I'm an author and aim squarly at your nephew, seriously. The Brân series, is all action and adventure. and The Family itch is comedy. I'm blowing my own trumpet, but I do believe he would laugh at the Itch.
He can contact me any time, on my e-mail to discuss the books, I will reply personally.
Jeremy Poole (
Thanks. Sorry if this is just a sales pitch, but when I read your post i thought, 'hey, that's my books.'

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 5:02:31 AM PDT
Reviewer says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 6:05:07 AM PDT
Spud and Reviewer,

I appreciate you both responding to this thread. Please remember that self-promotion is against Amazon's TOS. I would sincerely appreciate y'all deleting the references to your books but leaving the rest of your comments.

As author's of children's books I think you both can offer insights from a perspective that readers don't have. Please stick around and talk children's books with us. Just to let you know the history of the fora, they were all dying due to rampant self-promotional posts. Readers were leaving in droves and almost all that was left was a bunch of "buy my book" posts. This forum was almost dead and there is a group of us who are attempting to revive it. If you want to see what happens to a forum where self-promotional posts are allowed to flourish, see the Children Forum. Only two threads have had any activity in 2012. I really think that there is no hope of reviving this forum. Please check out this link to see what I'm talking about:

So, I again thank you for your responses and hope that you will continue to contribute to our efforts to revive this forum.


In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 6:40:12 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2012 6:44:51 AM PDT
Reviewer says:
Hi Janet - sorry, I made sure that I didnt even mention the names of my books or even my own name as I didnt want to self promote them on here - I had to put in the other comments about the type of books as otherwise my post wouldnt have made any sense. Hope that's okay. If you want me to delete the whole post let me know, I'm happy to do so. It was just my thoughts on the subject that was raised, in no way a self promotion.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 7:55:05 AM PDT
K. Rice says:
Yes I agree that books marketed to young tweens are more adult/young adult oriented. I teach fourth grade. I am mildly upset that Scholastics is pushing The Hunger Games in the book fairs when I teach in a K-4th grade building! The books are prominently displayed for the kids. What do you think they grab? Of course they grab the books aimed for young adults.Where is the responsibilty except to the almighty dollar?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 8:03:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2012 8:04:19 AM PDT
K. Rice says:
Thanks for suggestions! I am sick of the poor quality literature that I have to wade through to find things appropriate for my students! By this I mean reads with timeless messages that can be read year after year. I also would like to find fresh read alouds that will appeal to girls AND boys. Any suggestions to keep the interest of 4th graders? I am currently reading Matilda and will be needing another. I did Holes(always popular) and Poppy.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 8:40:47 AM PDT
Kribu says:
I don't really know what American 4th graders are like or what they're into (would they be around ~10-11 years old?), but out of the series I mentioned above, I think in a school setting, the Ember books by Jeanne DuPrau (four books, completed series) and perhaps the Underland Chronicles (five books, completed series, although I've only read the first one) might be fitting - they should still be exciting enough for children of that age but they're "younger" than the other series I mentioned, without anything I could think of as objectionable.

The Ember books (the second one in particular) had strong "good" messages (about helping others and accepting those who are different and needing to work for a common goal). I don't often care for books with a very strong and obvious "message", as it can come off as preachy or patronising, but in this case, it didn't bother me. Also, three of the four books have two protagonists, a 12-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, which might make them more accessible/interesting for both girls and boys.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 9:37:12 AM PDT
I agree, I think the levels of violence for "young adults" should maybe actually be geared towards the 16-19 age group? I think 7th grade is a bit young for the Hunger Games: kids killing each other and being ripped apart doesn't seem like something your typical 12 year old can digest.

Like Kindle-aholic aptly pointed out, "tween" is a good category, and I hope that this becomes it's own special branch of children's books. YA seems to encompass far to much of an age range, and I hope it eventually gets broken down more appropriately.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 9:45:21 AM PDT
Isn't that just the most addictive little button in the world? It's so small, looks so innocent, but it really needs flashing warning signs. ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 9:52:36 AM PDT
I imagine a whole huge team at Amazon actually did some research to determine color, font size and placement of that "crack button" so that it would encourage very poor impulse control and constant pushing of said button. I would say it works quite well...

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 10:36:35 AM PDT
I am currently putting together a support group for 1-click crack pipe addicts.

*Standing up with hand raised. My name is Janet and I'm an addict.*

I will be going into withdrawals soon. I just used my book gift card (that I buy myself in hopes of not using food money to buy books) to buy a breast pump for my youngest DIL. Greater love hath no Nana than to use all her book buying money for her grandchild!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 10:42:02 AM PDT
That's love right there! I feel your pain though. There are so many books out over the next couple of months that are on my must read list. Trying to budget them all is a challenge.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 10:52:37 AM PDT
Oh Janet, I heart you! Breast pumps are sooo expensive, and what a lovely woman you are to do this for your grandchild and DIL.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 12:50:48 PM PDT
Ms. P. says:
Oooh! :)

Almost anything by Kate DiCamillo, although Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread are especially good.

My third graders loved The Chronicles of Narnia books -- there's a whole level of description they can get out of those when they're being read aloud (the last time I read those aloud was before the movies came out).

Definitely read Love That Dog to them. Seriously, go get it now. For that matter, pick up ANYTHING by Sharon Creech. Her books not only have timeless messages, they're culturally relevant and deal with real, deep emotions that kids have. She doesn't write down to them at all. I dream of being able to write the way she does.

Many of Patricia Polacco's books (even though they're picture books) are AWESOME for fourth graders -- a lot of them are a little higher level, and I think are first appropriate around fourth grade, such as Pink and Say and The Butterfly

I agree with the City of Ember books. The Underlander Chronicles are also good, but even they get just a smidge dark for that age -- I personally think they're more of a home/parent read-aloud than a whole classroom, but they're not bad. There's also the obvious tie there to the Hunger Games, as it's the same author.

Another great thing to do with this age, is start going through the Newbery Medal/Honor books. There are TONS of great books on those lists, and new ones every year.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 5:02:43 PM PDT
Renn Fester says:
My tweeny daughter really enjoyed Ella Enchanted. After Tangled came out, she was really into Rapunzel, and we found The Wealding Word. It's a continuation of Rapunzel -- but very different from what we were expecting. She loved it !

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 5:38:11 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2012 5:42:16 PM PDT
Agnes says:
The thing about teen reads is that there's no real line between one that is a clean teen read and one that has the whole nine (drugs, drinking, language, etc.). They'll all be found in the same place (in the YA or teen section). I've come across a few reads that were worse than the adult books I was reading, which was a surprise. When I was a kid (and when I was a teen), my parents didn't screen my reading or tell me what I could and could not read (they saved that for movies and television). But, even though they didn't do this, I did. I would stop reading a book if it had certain things in it because I knew what I didn't want to read about. As an adult, and coming back to the aforementioned YA book I read that had practically everything in it, had I read that book as a teen I would have immediately put it down. In my opinion, not all books are appropriate, even if they are marketed at teens. Some teens are more mature than others (even if they aren't older than their peers). Some aren't. The case is different with everyone.

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende - Excellent fantasy for those transitioning into bona fide teenagedom ;) The movies do not do this book justice. Young readers can identify with the main character who is a misfit at school and discovers an amazing book, which leads him to a dying world called Fantastica. Warrior hero Atreyu might also appeal to readers looking for a heroic character. Note: if you know anyone color blind, steer them away from the hardback edition, which has print that varies from red to green (depending on where the story is taking place: Fantastica or the real world).

Dr. Franklin's Island (Readers Circle) by Ann Halam - This one is a blend of sci-fi/horror/psychological thriller (the last to a small extent) - think Island of Dr. Moreau rewrite, but for teens. For young teens interested in horror and a read that keeps you on the edge of your seat, this one is a good pick. It starts with a group of promising teens on a plane, which crashes. The few survivors think themselves alone on the island they've reached. They are wrong.

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen - I still think of this as the perfect "tween" read. It gives readers both sides to the story. I love the fact that this story has some positive messages (and it's been made into a movie, which actually does the book justice - plus, Aiden Quinn's in it).

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - What I like about this book is that kids can read it, young teens can read it, older teens can read it, and so on. This book is clean, but I think preteens/teens will like the fact that the main character is close to their own age. I also think she's an admirable character with wit and spitfire, which is a major plus.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - I read this when I was around 13 or 14. For fans of fantasy (which I was at that age and still am - some things never change), this is a great book to read. I think it's a much easer read than LOTR and predecessors. Plus, it has some things that I thought were cool and which I KNOW young teen boys will think are awesome: huge spiders. Such a neat book...and I actually liked this one more than all the rest of the series (I might have to reread those...).

Holes by Louis Sachar - This one, though perhaps aimed at a slightly younger group (very slight), would go well with a reluctant reader who is age 12-14. It has interesting twists and turns and unexpected connections (I enjoyed these) and there are so many things going on to keep a reader's interest. From the story taking place years and years before to Stanley Yelnats' dilemma in his current situation. Plus, it was made into a movie, which might be neat for them to watch afterwards.

I second the mention of Sharon Creech. I think her books are a little too mature for children, but great for preteens and "tweens." I always thought Walk Two Moons was one of her best.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 5:41:37 PM PDT
Agnes says:
I didn't see your post mentioning Ella Enchanted until after I posted (so, I second your rec for young teens). Your daughter might also like The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker. Like Ella Enchanted, it has moments of humor, a heroine to root for, and twists elements from other well-known fairytales together - the result is quite enjoyable.

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 5:54:35 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Mar 29, 2012 5:54:50 PM PDT]

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 10:41:56 PM PDT
J. Case says:
The Chronicless of Vladimir Tod Vladimir a Teenage Vampire is relatable. Not the popuar kid gets antagonized by the bullies, dogged by the Principal, but when a substitute teacher starts to question him to closely Vladimir is worried his cover is blown but a bigger problem a Vampire killer that is closing in on him. Also with no Special Vampire School to teach him how to use his powers, and how powerful he is Vladimir has to find out himself.
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Participants:  31
Total posts:  59
Initial post:  Mar 28, 2012
Latest post:  Oct 5, 2014

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