Books for a 13yo who loves/hates reading.
June 13, 2011 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me some books for my 13yo daughter who hates reading bad books and isn't quite ready for anything outside of young adult fiction.

My daughter kind of likes to read. Really she likes to write (she says reading interferes with her writing). But she has found a few books (some in series) that she really enjoys. Help her find some more books that she'll enjoy just as much.

Here are some of what she's liked in the past:
The Mysterious Benedict Society,
The Twilight Sage (which she actually hated but couldn't put down),
The Hunger Games (she's 1/2 way through the second book and is hating the idea that it's going to end).
posted by saffronwoman to Media & Arts (52 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Here's my answer to a similar question from a few days ago. I'd recommend all the same books.
posted by GuyZero at 2:21 PM on June 13, 2011

If she likes Hunger Games, it's a fair bet she'd also like the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.
posted by Andrhia at 2:22 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The 21 Balloons is wonderful, although she may be either too old for it or too young. One of my favorite books.
posted by GriffX at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

At thirteen my favorite thing to read was Stephen King. Really well written and creepily fun to read. It might be a little old for her now, but maybe not?
posted by katypickle at 2:24 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Gemma Doyle trilogy, starting with A Great and Terrible Beauty, was fun for me and fun for the young lady to whom I have lent the books.
posted by adipocere at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

She might like Jonathan Lethem's Girl In Landscape.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:26 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, at 13 I read every Stephen King book our small-town library had.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2011

If she likes dystopian sci-fi in general (and not just The Hunger Games), then Feed by M.T. Anderson would be a good recommendation.
posted by johnofjack at 2:32 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

My younger sister loves a series by Cassandra Clare called The Mortal Instruments. There's four books in the series right now, and one book in a prequel series.
posted by alynnk at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lay McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series on her!
posted by goblinbox at 2:37 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
posted by mattbucher at 2:37 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I teach 7th grade and my students (almost all of them) have LOVED Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.
posted by brynna at 2:44 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (inspired the movie The Golden Compass).
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:50 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Part one of a trilogy. Very good-- very dark, but rewarding. Sometimes referred to as The Book of Never Letting Go.
posted by oflinkey at 2:55 PM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

Anything by Tamora Pierce would be perfect. Fantasy with strong girl leads.
posted by Caravantea at 3:03 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am totally charmed by the Penderwicks.
Also love
The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death and Peter Pan (darker than you remember it!)
posted by Duffington at 3:04 PM on June 13, 2011

Kicking it old school here, but what about Ray Bradbury? There's nothing about Bradbury, and in particular his "Golden Age" writings, that isnt suitable for a young reader of inquiring mind and imagination, although many of the tales are quite macabre. Besides, that'll give her an example of what a real writer can do.

Random suggestions:
The October Country, A Medicine for Melancholy (the titular tale is bit sexy but perhaps not beyond a tweens ken), Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree (that one may be a trifle juvenile), oh hell anything before 1970.
posted by elendil71 at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.
posted by doublehappy at 3:16 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she's ambivalent about her street cred, I would absolutely recommend the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. (Worst case, she can hollow out one of the Hunger Games books and hide these inside. Totally something Katniss would do.)
posted by WaspEnterprises at 3:20 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Kristen Cashore has two books set in the same universe - Graceling and Fire. She is in theory working on a third (Bitterblue). My friends who have enjoyed Hunger games have loved these books - strong female protagonists, well written, alternative universe. I've recommended them here before, and stand by them.
posted by librarianamy at 3:29 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone - We're loving the suggestions. Some of these she's tried, some she wants to and some I've recommended to her in the past.

I think we need a dedicated trip to Powell's with this list in hand.

Keep them coming - we need many to choose from, she's very picky.
posted by saffronwoman at 3:32 PM on June 13, 2011

The Prydain Chronicles. Five books, I think I read them at about 10, but still re-read them every few years as an adult - they are my very favorite books from young adulthood.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:35 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Two series I can wholeheartedly recommend:

Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men and its sequels - which have the added advantage that if she likes them, there's a whole world on books waiting for her when she's ready to move out of the YA category featuring many of the same characters.

We also really enjoyed the City of Ember and its sequels
posted by Mchelly at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

As a thirteen year old girl, I LOVED The Mists of Avalon. It's basically a fantasy novel, a retelling of the King Arthur legends, but with an emphasis on the women characters. It has plenty of magic and battles, but also plenty of awesome kick-ass ladies! It's pretty long (which I loved also belonging to the "I never want it to end!" camp), but is really engrossing and broken up into books similarly to LOTR.
posted by troublewithwolves at 4:09 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Look here for some Tamora Pierce love from just a couple days ago. She's fantastic.

I will also particularly second the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld and EVERYTHING by Lucy Maud Montgomery but particularly Anne of Green Gables. (She was Mark Twain's favorite child character! How can you go wrong? "Soon after the publication of Anne of Green Gables (1908), the elderly Mark Twain wrote to its author, L. M. Montgomery, that her character Anne was “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.”")

Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy, beginning with Sabriel, might fit the bill. These might be a little above her reading level yet.

Diana Wynn Jones. Anything. Discovered her as an adult and haven't found a bad one yet ... even reading with an adult's more critical eye.

Sorcery and Cecelia, which is a novel in letters, and great fun. If she enjoys it, the two authors have several similar books; there are more in the same series by the duo, and then Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics aim a bit older and are much-beloved old friends of mine from when I was about your daughter's age. Wrede's Mairelon the Magician and its sequel, Magician's Ward, are aimed at about your daughter's age and are great fun. They make me grin.

I thought the Gemma Doyle trilogy was weakly written and didn't really GO anywhere, though it was fun enough to keep me engaged. More of a "summer beach read" like Twilight.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:54 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

A Wrinkle in Time
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Cyberiad
posted by plinth at 5:03 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Piers Anthony's Mode series, which I have linked the first book? I discovered them at 17, but I would've enjoyed them just as much at 13.

Also, at 13 I was reading Star Trek novels like mad. Does she have any TV shows she likes that may have novels?
posted by Heretical at 5:14 PM on June 13, 2011

- Naomi Novik's Temeraire series
- Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy
- everything Pratchett ever
posted by elizardbits at 5:21 PM on June 13, 2011

They are already mentioned but I must second
-A Wrinkle in Time series
-Dragonriders of Pern, particularly the first series (Dragonflight, Dragonquest and The White Dragon) and the Harper Hall trilogy, which are fairly short (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums).
-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
posted by Glinn at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2011

I loved Erin Bow's book Plain Kate. Loved. Also Elizabeth Bunce's StarCrossed. Diana Wynne Jones. Garth Nix. Kirsten (Kristen?) Cahore. Scott Westerfeld. Justine Larbalestier. Stephen King. The Mists of Avalon. William Sleator. The Last Unicorn.

I recently enjoyed Robert Charles Wilson's WWW trilogy. Cat Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of her own Making.

In older books, at that age I enjoyed Christie, Alexandre Dumas, The Once and Future King, and -- honestly, yes, at that age -- Jane Eyre.
posted by jeather at 5:41 PM on June 13, 2011

Sharon Creech!

All of her stories take place in the same universe, which I appreciated as a tween who hated for stories I liked to end.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 6:03 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The other thread mentions John Bellairs, whose books are awesome and who deserves to be way more popular than he is. I especially recommend The Chessmen of Doom.

Also, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley is great, although it definitely has a more mythic/fairy-tale feel than a lot of YA books. I can imagine someone being put off by that, but I liked it a lot.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:27 PM on June 13, 2011

Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant. I read this around 13, and for years it was my favorite book.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 6:40 PM on June 13, 2011

Some recent great YA:
Delirium: a dystopia where love is a treatable disease
Before I Fall: Groundhog Day x Mean Girls
If I Stay: Indie rock with a touch of paranormal
When You Reach Me: exploring the limits of time travel without ever really going anywhere in seventies, single-mom Manhattan

Older stuff:
I Capture The Castle: Poor, hip, literary family moves into castle ruins, Jane Austen-y hijinks ensue
Franny and Zooey
The Leaving: The best short story collection for young people. I know it's out of print and has no pictures on Amazon, but it's only $.01 used and it has amazing stories, many of them about fierce, Katniss-y writers.
posted by acidic at 6:46 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

A lot of the books by Andre Norton (sci-fi) are also wonderful for teens. Favorites include: Moon of Three Rings, Forerunner Foray, The Zero Stone, Uncharted Stars. Woman was an awesome writer.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 6:57 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also posted these in the recent thread:
Sold (young girl sold into slavery)
Daniel Half Human (set in Nazi Germany during WWII)
Life as We Knew It (girl and family living through the end of the world)
posted by guster4lovers at 7:37 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Jane Eyre," the first book I ever read. I read it when I was 12 and loved it. Also, "Summer of my German Soldier" and "Gone with the Wind." All very romantic and exciting. My very punk and cynical 13 year-old self loved these books. BTW, I just read the "Hunger Games" trilogy and loved every moment.
posted by fifilaru at 7:42 PM on June 13, 2011

My 13 year old daughter also loves to write: poetry, short stories, sharing her observations about life on Facebook, etc. Over the past year she read a lot of the popular dystopian fiction - Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Uglies were among her favorites. But recently she's turned toward realistic fiction - especially if it has a narrative style. While some of these stories have deeply disturbing issues, I don't suppose they're any more disturbing than something like Unwind.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
. . . and once in a while sneak in something lighter and funnier like Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (even though it too has some heartbreaking moments).
posted by kbar1 at 8:31 PM on June 13, 2011

Ella Enchanted. First read it at age 11, and couldn't put it down. I'm in my twenties and STILL pick it up once in awhile to read it through again. Such a wonderful book for any young adult. It has nothing to do with the cheesy Anne Hathaway movie, by the way.
posted by sunnychef88 at 8:45 PM on June 13, 2011

My wife says that when she was that age, none of the traditional tweeny stuff held her interest. The first book that captivated her was Sherlock Holmes, and it was her gateway drug to literature.
posted by molybdenum at 9:44 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Andre Norton recommendations above - Moonsinger, The Crystal Gryphon, Year of the Unicorn, and many more.
Patricia McKillip - The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
seconding Robin McKinley - The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Beauty
Garth Nix - Abhorsen series, particularly Sabriel
Shannon Hale - The Goose Girl, The Book Of A Thousand Days
Margaret Mahy - The Changeover
seconding Gail Carson Levine - Ella Enchanted, and also try The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Patricia Wrede - Enchanted Forest Chronicles
Mary Hoffman - Stravaganza series
Vivian Vande Velde
posted by gudrun at 12:13 AM on June 14, 2011

Anything by Robin Jarvis if she likes real-world fantasy+scary(ish) stuff and that's also got an 'improving edge'. (going off her liking The Mysterious Benedict Society here)

Try the The Whitby Witches.
My personal favourite series of books ever ever however, is the Wyrd Museum. Creepy, occultish/folklorish and really really engaging.
posted by litleozy at 12:51 AM on June 14, 2011

If she liked The Benedict Society books, she will probably like Kiki Strike. I'd also recommend The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater.
posted by mikepop at 5:31 AM on June 14, 2011

Your daughter may like Alex Flinn's Beastly (so much better than the movie), A Kiss In Time, and Cloaked.
posted by onegoodthing at 5:45 AM on June 14, 2011

Zoe's Tale by (Metafilter's) John Scalzi to me touches a lot of the same notes as The Hunger Games and is also written from the perspective of a teenage girl.

I've been mentoring middle school girls for the past few years and several of them LOVED The Secret Life of Bees. It was the only thing they were required to read for school that they really liked.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:46 AM on June 14, 2011

My favorite books at thirteen:

My Side of the Mountain
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Jane Eyre
Little House in the Big Woods
Little Women
Call of the Wild

I also loved reading biographies. Sorry, I don't always remember specifically which biographies I read, but some of my favorite people to read about:

Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith - The Movies, Mr Griffith and Me - Gish's autobiography covers the earliest years of the silent film industry including a lot about her mentor, the pioneering director D.W. Griffith.

Marie Curie - Madame Curie - Eve Curie's biography of her mother the scientist

Harriet Tubman

Thomas Edison

At that age, I also loved reading 'social' or 'pop' histories. Books that give an idea of what it was like to have lived during different time periods. My absolute favorite was the Time Life series: This Fabulous Century covering the 1890's thru 1960's, one decade per volume. Very easy reading. Tons of pictures. Covers a mix of popular culture and historical events in an easy, fun and pleasurable way. They're out of print, but you'll often run across stray volumes in used bookstores. I'd recommend perusing some there, but when you're ready to get the whole set, I'd suggest Amazon.
posted by marsha56 at 6:26 AM on June 14, 2011

I'm surprised that I'm only seconding it, not 1millionth-ng, but a hearty second for Diana Wynne Jones. Anything by her is awesome (even her latest and, tragically, last, Enchanted Glass) but the Chrestomanci series (wiki link includes a reading order) has all the charm and heart of the Mysterious Benedict Society books with added humour, cleverness, and... well, coolness. These ones do skew a bit younger than Twilight and The Hunger Games, but they're certainly worth a go.
posted by AmandaA at 8:15 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding (thirding) Diana Wynne Jones, Garth Nix, Jonathan Stroud, Shannon Hale, Patricia Wrede, Caroline Stevermer and Gail Carson Levine as wonderful authors.

As well as Nix's Sabriel trilogy, I'd cautiously suggest Shade's Children, which is dystopian and seriously creepy.

Here are a few books with an air of menace that I enjoyed at around that age, though by comparison with The Hunger Games they might come off as a bit tame and/or young:

This Time of Darkness and Children of Morrow by H. M. Hoover;
Invitation to the Game, and the duology Devil on my Back and The Dream Catcher, by Monica Hughes;
plenty of William Sleator's books, especially House of Stairs, The Boy Who Reversed Himself, Interstellar Pig and The Green Futures of Tycho;
Star Wind by Linda Woolverton (I read this one over and over - but as an English schoolgirl with not much exposure to US culture, I thought the whole thing must be set in a future world, because the kids had strange names like "Mitch" and "Camden" and Venice was a place you could cycle to; without that veneer of exoticism, the book may not stand up as well).

And here are a few suggestions with no real basis beyond "these are good SF/fantasy novels for younger readers", some of which might appeal:

Mortal Engines, and sequels, by Philip Reeve;
Hounds of the Morrigan, by Pat O'Shea;
The Thief, and sequels, by Megan Whalen Turner;
The Dollmage, by Martine Leavitt;
The Neverending Story, and Momo, by Michael Ende;
A School for Sorcery, and sequels, by E. Rose Sabin;
Beyond the Deepwoods, and sequels, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.

(Sorry about the essay, but you did say you wanted plenty to choose from...)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:33 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to close this thread now.

Thank you so so much for all the recommendations. A lot of these look like one I'm going to have to read too (and then I'm sure my mother will borrow them).

My daughter is actually excited about the list we've created from these answers. Thank you again!
posted by saffronwoman at 4:31 PM on June 14, 2011

Nevermind - I can't seem to close it.

Keep em coming - we'll just keep making the list longer!
posted by saffronwoman at 4:34 PM on June 14, 2011

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
posted by Senza Volto at 9:38 AM on June 15, 2011

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