YA fiction for tween girls, please
June 19, 2015 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Please suggest good summer reading for tween girls (11/12) who also happen to be going through their parents' divorce.

This is the summer I'd like for my daughters to fall in love with reading. When forced to read, they enjoy it, but left to their own devices, they will always, always choose devices. So this summer I will be setting aside time for the three of us to read together every night (each with our own books). I'm looking for suggestions, books that will "hook" them and make them look forward to reading. They can be new or old, any genre.

It also happens that their father and I are currently divorcing, and while I'm dealing with that separately with therapy and good communication and all that, anything that might help them (characters they can relate to, etc.) would be a bonus.

Books already planned: Harry Potter and Hunger Games series.

Some books they have enjoyed:

Sisters, Smile - Raina Telgemeier
"Whatever After" series - Sarah Mlynowski
Holes - Louis Sachar
Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson

Thanks in advance!
posted by yawper to Writing & Language (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
At that age, I remember loving The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Seaward.
posted by ourobouros at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

The Westing Game might be a little on the young side, but I still love reading it as an adult. And who doesn't love a murder mystery with a plucky girl protagonist?
posted by phunniemee at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

The tween girls I know who've recently been through a parents' divorce have become really immersed in manga and graphic novels. I think that could be a good transition between screen time (lots of visual stimulation) and book time (following a story for a prolonged period of time, etc.)
posted by witchen at 7:58 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Holes - Louis Sachar
There are two more books in this series, one novel and one "guide".

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
posted by soelo at 7:58 AM on June 19, 2015

Diane Duane's Young Wizards series comes to mind as a strong pick for this age group.
posted by fifthrider at 8:08 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved Judy Blume books when I was that age, and "It's Not The End of the World" deals with divorce.
posted by billiebee at 8:10 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

A couple of Judy Blume books come to mind, namely "It's Not the End of the World."
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:12 AM on June 19, 2015

Michelle Tea is a queer poet and memoirist who recently started writing a YA fantasy series, which starts with The Mermaid in Chelsea Creek and continues with The Girl at the Bottom of the Sea.

Themes include poverty, friendship, loneliness and outsiderness, teenage rebellion, and imperfect parents that you still feel empathy for.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:17 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I fell in love with reading permanently at about their age thanks to John Bellairs' gothic mysteries for YA readers, especially The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (others in this series).

The protagonist, Lewis Barnavelt, is an awkward kid, recent orphaned and adjusting to living with his loving but strange - after all, he's a warlock - Uncle Jonathan. Bellairs' books are suffused with love and empathy for kids going through hard times, and a faith in the power of books, imagination, and friends to make them endurable. His female characters are also strong, resourceful, and buck genre stereotypes.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:41 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ann A Martin. The Babysitters' Club is chock full of divorced kids and her other books are good for tweens too.
posted by chaiminda at 8:44 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

A Wrinkle in Time - rather mystical, like Harry Potter!
posted by linder6 at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2015

Un Lun Dun by China MiƩville has a reluctant but terrific heroine.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 8:54 AM on June 19, 2015

A lot of kids read Ray Bradbury's Dandelion wine at that age; it's a great summer book.

I love Louise Fitzhugh's The Long Secret-- sequel to Harriett the Spy and superior, in my opinion-- for the summer. One of the kids does have parent issues, in the form of a horrible absentee mother, but that part of the story has a happy enough ending.

Any Newberry Award books you haven't read, it's time to read them now! Witch of Blackbird Pond, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and a Wrinkle in Time.
posted by BibiRose at 8:57 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

P. S. Longer Letter Later is a lot of fun (epistolary format!) and has one of the main characters dealing with her parents' divorce.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles are great - fun, humorous fantasy adventures with a great female protagonist.

I'd also recommend anything by Diana Wynne Jones.
posted by capricorn at 9:00 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

You mention two out of three Raina Telgemeier graphic novels--did they read the third, Drama? (I actually like that one best.)

Along similar lines as the Telgemeier for graphic novels--you might try Hope Larson (Chiggers or Mercury for original novels, or her graphic-novel version of A Wrinkle in Time). I also really liked Laura Lee Gulledge's Page by Paige; your girls are a little younger than the protagonist but the change in her life might be apropos for the changes in theirs (especially if either of them are interested in visual arts).

The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch was also a hit with my girls at that age, as was Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society series.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:39 AM on June 19, 2015

My 12 year old devoured the Maximum Ride series this year. She started with the graphic novels and loved them so much she moved on to reading the whole series in "real" book form.
posted by Redstart at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2015

Maybe Paula Danziger's The Divorce Express.
posted by paduasoy at 9:45 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, for graphic novels, they're at the perfect age for This One Summer!* There is lots of not-traditional-happy-family content; parents who fight, adopted daughter of a single mother, mentions of lesbian parents, etc. I'm a full grown adult and I really, really loved this book.

*It looks like it's rated Grade 8 and up. Ask Mefi book recommendation threads always assume that modern parents shield their children from any literary mention of sex until age 18, which seems bizarre to me, but there is some age-appropriate discussion of sex from the viewpoint of the young tween characters gawking at the mating rituals and misfortunes of older teenagers. Give it a quick read to see if this bothers you.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does steampunk-esque thrilling adventure with a plucky young girl disguised as a boy flying around as a cadet on a genetically engineered living dirigible and who ends up tangling with an actual prince sound like fun?

Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy. I think of about 13 as the sweet spot for the books, but I don't think 11 is too young. The plucky young girl has some family tragedy in her background (dead father, iirc), but no divorce per se.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:49 AM on June 19, 2015

I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time at that age. It doesn't deal with divorce explicitly but it does feature a lot of changing and non-traditional families, and also it is awesome.
posted by telegraph at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2015

Seconding Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown (and many of her other books, such as the recent Pegasus or The Outlaws of Sherwood).

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, starting with The Golden Compass.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I think the tween years are a perfect time for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Graphic novels also seem like a great option - a couple of recommendations are Bone by Jeff Smith and The Runaways by Brian Vaughan.

Honestly the large majority of books I read and enjoyed at that age were garbage, so I also endorse just taking them to a bookstore and letting them pick whatever catches their eye, if they're into that - quality is great but won't matter unless something about the book piques their interest.
posted by unsub at 10:22 AM on June 19, 2015

Wonder - though not about divorce it is about kids that age and they have various life challenges. It is a great read with a great message.
posted by maxg94 at 10:25 AM on June 19, 2015

In the UK Jacqueline Wilson is the go-to author for teen girl's fiction. From Wikipedia, Her novels commonly deal with such challenging themes as adoption, divorce and mental illness. Addressing such issues has made her controversial because her readers are young.[1] From 2005 to 2007 she was British Children's Laureate.
Here is her amazon.uk page - you could see if any of her novels seem likely to you.
Here is her own website. (I must say the auto-playing sound is incredibly irritating, but then I'm not the target audience.)
Here is a profile of her in The Guardian.

They are entertaining and realistic; very British, colloquial, written from a young person's viewpoint and they don't shy away from hard subjects. The Illustrated Mum is one of my favorites. The Tracy Beaker series, about a young girl in care, has been made into a drama series by the BBC (youtube.)
posted by glasseyes at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Giver by Lois Lowry is great for this age group. They've already been introduced to dystopian fiction, so all the better.

Lowry was on reddit yesterday doing an AMA and so many of her no -grown fans still had so much to say about that novel. News to me was that she ended up writing some sequels, but The Giver itself is worth a shot. As with all things, no tempting them with the movie, it'll ruin it (with teen romance, etc, which was not a part of the novel)
posted by Violet Femme at 11:25 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit is another novel-turned-movie that is perfect for their age. The protagonist is a precocious 10 year old girl.
posted by Violet Femme at 11:27 AM on June 19, 2015

I ADORE Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series. Funny as hell, doesn't talk down to its readers, and very very "real," even though it's about a normal girl who suddenly discovers she's a princess.
posted by Tamanna at 12:46 PM on June 19, 2015

I loved "the enchanted forest chronicled" by Patricia C Wrede. Independent princess learning to fence, cook cherries jubilee, and live with dragons. It's a set of four books
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:13 PM on June 19, 2015

I really enjoyed The Princess Diaries at that age, and (unlike in the movie) her parents are divorced and have a fairly amicable relationship. Note that the later books in the series do deal with sex (in a high school appropriate manner; nothing explicit).
posted by damayanti at 1:24 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding This One Summer.

I also highly recommend Margaret Mahy's The Changeover. (Winner of the Carnegie Medal; ALA Notable Book; ALA Best Book for Young Adiults; School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; Booklist Editor's Choice, and it's good!)
posted by gudrun at 7:10 PM on June 19, 2015

The Uglies series is rather good.
posted by pyro979 at 8:10 PM on June 19, 2015

The Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchet - specifically "The Wee Free Men" and "A Hat Full of Sky".
posted by h00py at 6:28 AM on June 20, 2015

The Great Gilly Hopkins is another Katherine Paterson book. Gilly is in a foster home; the theme is be careful what you wish for. I like it almost more than Bridge to Terabithia. They may enjoy The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Take them to the library--your local YA librarian will have dozens of recommendations.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:02 PM on June 20, 2015

Seconding The Divorce Express!

Taking Sides by Norma Klein is good too.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:50 PM on June 22, 2015

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