Remind me what it's like to be 15!
February 25, 2012 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me find some quality books that would be easy reads for my 15-year old female cousin.

I've started tutoring my 15 year old cousin, who is struggling a bit in her classes. She mentioned today that she has trouble finding books to read during free reading time in her English class. It's been a little while since my young-adult fiction years, so I'm hoping the hive has some recommendations.

My cousin is a former popular girl who's now falling victim to the "mean girls" and being ostracized at school. She hates her well-to-do suburban high school and can't wait to leave. While she despises the girl drama at school, she seems to love it on tv and in movies (Jersey Shore, America's Next Top Model, etc). I want to find books that have enough drama going on to be interesting to her, but perhaps with a little more substance than her current choices.

Right now, it seems like she mainly reads things like the Gossip Girl novelizations and other cheesy teen series. She mentioned that she started the book Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen and liked it a lot, so I'm hoping to come up with some more recommendations of well-written, quality teen lit that tackles subjects like friend issues, high school drama, fitting in, finding your niche, etc.

So far, I'm thinking Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Any other ideas, hivemind?
posted by JannaK to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I was OBSESSED with everything Francesca Lia Block at that age. Oh, my God, to read Girl Goddess #9 again for the first time? Reordered my tiny little world.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:47 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will shamelessly suggest a book authored by a very good friend of mine:

Skary Childrin & The Carousel of Sorrow

Ostensibly it's aimed at a slightly younger audience than your niece, but if she's struggling a bit keeping up with her classmates then it's probably right on target. It's a bit fantastic in terms of the setting, but it's based around girls in school and deals with bullying, popularity, self-acceptance and, well, just like you asked for—finding your niche.
posted by carsonb at 5:52 PM on February 25, 2012

John Green is one of the best authors currently writing for teenagers. If you want to get your cousin interested, perhaps have her start watching the VlogBrothers YouTube channel that John created with his brother Hank. The videos often specifically speak to the concerns of smart teens and young adults, and they're really entertaining.
posted by decathecting at 6:09 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Books I and my brother read around that age, including books that got my non-reading brother into books.

My Side of the Mountain series by Jean Craighead George
-about a boy who goes off to survive in the Catskills of New York; takes falcon as companion

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
-about a boy who has to survive in the wilderness via an airplane accident; some gross scenes

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry
maybe The Scarlet Pimpernel
Scott Westerfeld's series: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras
-girls being the main protagonists
Westerfeld's Midnighters Series, starting with The Secret Hour
Garth Nix's novels: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
-also uses girls as his main protagonists (sword-wielding, brave, but still up for romance)
His Dark Materials series: Golden Compass, Subtle Knife, Amber Spyglass
-girl is main protagonist with a boy later coming in as a voice in the story

I'll come back with more later if these seem to match up pretty well.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:11 PM on February 25, 2012

Best answer: Seconding Francesca Lia Block- I Was A Teenage Fairy was the first of hers I read and it totally sucked me in. I also loved the Weetzie Bat books.

Recently I picked up the YA novel Looking For Alaska and it seems to fit the criteria of teenage 'finding my place in this world' kind of stuff you're looking for.
posted by shes_ajar at 6:12 PM on February 25, 2012

The only literary regret of my teen years is that I didn't start reading Vonnegut sooner. Not exactly teen, not much girl drama, but his quirky loaner characters really appealed to my ostracized teenage self. Mother Night is probably my favorite of his, but you might have success starting her off with some of his short stories to see if she likes him before committing to a novel.
posted by phunniemee at 6:13 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ellen Wittlinger writes good high school narrators with depth and realistic voices. Hard Love was one of my favorite books ever circa 8th-9th grade, and it still holds up pretty well. John and Marisol are far from the popular kids, but hoo boy does their relationship drama read realistically. I do not, however, recommend the sequel.

Seconding Francesca Lia Block. Start with Dangerous Angels, the compilation of the five short Weetzie Bat books. Witch Baby is my favorite of that set, and is especially relevant for someone struggling to fit in.

Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is incredibly adorable. If she likes the John Green character´s voice, I´d also recommend The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. (John Green has a very distinctive, snarky authorial voice that bleeds into all his books and narrators. It´s a love/hate thing.)
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:13 PM on February 25, 2012

Best answer: Reading Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I thought it would be a great book to read as a young woman (says not so young male). It is a memoir, not lit, but enjoyable and a light read.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:14 PM on February 25, 2012

At 15 she can handle adult books. A book she may enjoy is Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye. That might be a bit of a jump from the gossip girls though.

Alice Sebold, Lucky and especially The Lovely Bones.

Sistah Souljah, Coldest Winter Ever. (amazing book!)

I haven't read them, but Ellen Hopkins' books are very popular.
posted by saucysault at 6:27 PM on February 25, 2012

Best answer: Also, one of my all-time favorite finding-your-niche books is Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. LeGuin. It doesn´t have fighty mean-girl drama, the struggles are more quiet and internal, but it packs more insight into 80-some pages than some books do in hundreds. This review manages to convey a lot of what´s great about it.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:29 PM on February 25, 2012

Best answer: Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty for sure. My friends and I loved these books when we were in high school because it's like reading the diary of a friend who says everything you're thinking but smarter and funnier. Very good for high school girls who don't fit in.
posted by book 'em dano at 6:31 PM on February 25, 2012

The Chocolate War
The Pigman
The Outsiders
posted by coffeefilter at 6:34 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh man, this is why I love Metafilter. In under an hour, I have 12 responses listing out all sorts of great ideas! Some books that I love myself and had forgotten about, some that I've seen but never read, and many that are entirely new to me! And a few that I'd overlooked as being vapid teen series that might deserve a second look.

You guys are great. More suggestions are always welcome of course, but this will keep me (and her) busy for awhile!
posted by JannaK at 6:41 PM on February 25, 2012

Nthing Francesca Lia Block.

Don't count out Judy Blume...Forever, Tiger Eyes, even Summer Sisters might interest her, if she hasn't read them already.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:03 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

n-thing Lia Block and Judy Blume (you can't go wrong with Judy Blume, I recently re-read some of her books at age 33 and still liked them a lot).

Paul Danziger is really good as well. Kind of like Judy Blume, but with a bit of a bite (she tackles some controversial issues). "The Cat Ate My Gymsuit" is a great book about a teenager who does not fit in.

Cynthia Voigt is really great as well ("Homecoming").

The Catcher in the Rye!

Sherman Alexie wrote an amazing young adult novel called "The True Diary of a Part-time Indian" (or something to that effect). I read it as an adult and loved it.

all of the above books are not at high reading levels, but are very good.

I will try to think of more.
posted by bearette at 7:13 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh- 2nd-ing The Outsiders! (which was also written by a 16 year old girl, by the way).
posted by bearette at 7:15 PM on February 25, 2012

oops, and sorry- that's Paula Danziger, not Paul.

I'll add another- Norma Klein
posted by bearette at 7:16 PM on February 25, 2012

Tamora Pierce is really great for empowered young heroines, and she includes a fair dose of teenage-girl drama amidst all the jousting and magic and dressing up like a boy.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:18 PM on February 25, 2012

The Sorcery Hall trilogy by Suzy Charnas has a great heroine whose grandma helps her save NYC.

There's also The True Meaning of Smekday, which is simply an awesome book.
posted by spunweb at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2012

Best answer: I really enjoyed the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter (the first one is called I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You). I can't remember how many 'issues' they tackle, but they're definitely about more than just OMG BOYS like the synopsis makes it sound, and at the very least they're set at an elite spy school for young women and the young women in question are all very, very good at what they do. They're trashy in the best possible way.
posted by rosethorn at 7:39 PM on February 25, 2012

I (25yo) recently been on a young adult fantasy kick.... I've enjoyed:
*All of Tamora Pierece's books. She does a great job with having strong female characters. As a 10-11 year old I loved Alanna (Song of the Lioness quartet), but I think her more recent ones are better written and may skew older, particularly the Bekka Cooper trilogy and the Protector of the Small quartet.
* Kristin Cashore. Just wow. Again, strong female leads along with a great supporting cast.
* Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games. The first is so much better than the 3rd.

I don't think they're targeted at teens, but Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books (set in
Discworld) are easy reads with a teen girl as the protagonist.

Also, I second the idea that at 15, she's definitely old enough for adult novels. I remember kids giving me a hard time for reading good books that were technically below my grade level), so maybe be careful about cover art if you go for YA books.
posted by Metasyntactic at 9:13 PM on February 25, 2012

Best answer: 15 yrs old and you want her to be interested enogh to read it?
1. The Twilight series
2. The Hunger Game
I couldn't pull my girl away from them.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:43 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read Alice, I Think [looks like it's published in the US as I'm Alice, I Think] in my 20s and thought it was the sort of book I would have liked as a teenager who disliked high school. It's smart and funny and the main character is easy to relate to.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:35 PM on February 25, 2012

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
posted by brujita at 10:54 PM on February 25, 2012

Seconding Tamora Pierce. You can't have a book rec thread for teens and pre-teens without mentioning Tamora Pierce! I still re-read those.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:26 AM on February 26, 2012

Tomorrow When The War Began series by John Marsden - I suggest them because the main character is this really strong female character and although the main idea is a country at war it also focuses on relationships and struggling with identity as a teenager. May or may not be a good fit but something to consider.
posted by latch24 at 1:42 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

She would probably enjoy Anna and the French Kiss. If she is at all in to fantasy, Gail Carson Levine is good. She could also try some graphic novels, like Persepolis, Ghost World, Lynda Barry (maybe One Hundred Demons).
posted by gudrun at 9:33 AM on February 26, 2012

Best answer: Just recently, Code Name Verity came out, and it's absolutely fantastic -- about young women doing things, and about friendship, and -- it's just really really good.. It's set during WWII, but it's amazing anyhow (available at the Book Repository, not out in the US yet). The Hunger Games are addictive as anything. Kristin Cashore writes very good YA, though it's fantasy. Lev Rosen's All Men of Genius is fun, too. Karen Healey's The Shattering or Guardian of the Dead.
posted by jeather at 5:31 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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