Book recommendations for serious teen reader
April 26, 2016 8:07 AM   Subscribe

My soon-to-be fifteen year old kid has officially graduated from YA novels, I think. She's tired of dystopian heroines and teen romance and fantasy/SF and looking for stuff that is accessible but also really, really good. I'm looking for books for her that don't have to be classics, but that aren't pretty generic. Also not sexist in the vein of Updike, Roth, etc.

So far she's read and enjoyed Northanger Abbey, The Shining, and Les Miserables.

On deck are The Great Gatsby, Welcome To The Monkeyhouse, and How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.

Would appreciate additional ideas. Tx.
posted by jfwlucy to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend

"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" - Carson McCullers
"Great Expectations" - Dickens
"The Woman in White" - Wilkie Collins
"Dracula" - Bram Stoker
"One Hundred Years of Solitude" - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"The Crying of Lot 49" - Thomas Pynchon
"The Grapes of Wrath" or "East of Eden" - John Steinbeck
"Heart of Darkness" - Joseph Conrad
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:13 AM on April 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think that's a good age to start on Vonnegut.
posted by monologish at 8:15 AM on April 26, 2016 [19 favorites]

I read and seriously imprinted on Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, Animal Farm and All the Oscar Wilde at that age. I think, personally, that this is a good age to sample completely different kinds of big-deal author and to work out what you like and the more eclectic the range the better. Other suggestions, based on what I strongly reacted to as a teenager: Henry James, Washington Square; Hardy, Tess; Brontë, Villette and Jane Eyre; Greene, The End of the Affair; Eliot, Middlemarch and the Mill on the Floss; Plath, The Bell Jar. I was quite focused on the 19th and early 20th centuries at that age, and others may have better contemporary suggestions. But I do think it's a golden moment for just reading all the things and stacking up on classics now is a good move for later in life when you have less time and receptivity to the new.
posted by Aravis76 at 8:19 AM on April 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

True Grit
posted by H21 at 8:27 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pride and Prejudice, for real.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:27 AM on April 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro.
posted by My Dad at 8:34 AM on April 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Jeffrey Eugenides: The Virgin Suicides (there's suicide in it, but it's not the point of the story, and if she can deal with The Shining, she'll be fine)
Patrick Suskind: Perfume
+1 on the Marquez. Maybe also Love in the Time of Cholera?

At 15, I was also reading the original Grimm's (and still regularly pick it up). They're strange and wonderful and so different from the Disney versions.
posted by mochapickle at 8:35 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some contemporary ideas...
Bel Canto - Ann Patchet
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
Name All the Animals - Alison Smith
Middlesex and/or The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides
The World According to Garp/A Prayer for Owen Meany/Cider House Rules - John Irving
Mister Posterior and the Genius Child - Emily Jenkins
The Sweet Hereafter - Russell Banks
A Million Little Pieces - James Frey (will require explanation about false memoirs)
A Separate Peace - John Knowles
To Kill a Mocking Bird - Harper Lee
The Book Thief - Marcus Zusack
Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Marc Haddon
Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison
posted by carmicha at 8:36 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

If she likes the intense and a bit depressing, she might enjoy the work of Hilary Mantel. Wolf Hall and Bringing Up The Bodies have made a big splash - and are very gripping - but I've enjoyed Beyond Black and A Place of Greater Safety.

Also, if she liked Les Miserables, she might enjoy Bleak House.

At that age, I think I enjoyed Isabelle Allende's House of the Spirits very much, along with some of her other work.

Also, what about Margaret Drabble? Jerusalem The Golden definitely has some sixties attitudes toward womanhood and sexuality, but it really grabbed me in my late teens, and while it has some stuff about sex in it, it's not creepy or gross. (And I don't think it's too adult/difficult/etc for a younger person.) I also really liked The Radiant Way and some of her other eighties books.

If she is at all interested in memoir, Robert Graves's WWI memoir Goodbye To All That might be very taking. It reads like a novel and it's informative and interesting without being too heavy.

Oh, also, I remember reading a lot of Robertson Davies around that time. He's....well, he's a little sexist, I've got to say. But if you are looking for a novel to cheer you up, there's not much to beat Tempest-Tost. Also, although he's kind of sexist, he creates some very interesting women characters. The World of Wonders trilogy has child abuse and sexual abuse (not graphic) in the first book, but I read it around age fifteen - I certainly don't think it's inappropriate compared to a lot of contemporary YA, and I think a bright kid could get a lot out of it.

Oh, and what about The Woman Warrior? And Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey is one of my very favorite novels in the whole world - just a really sweet book.

I got a huge kick of out Moo a little later in my teens, but I don't think it's too complicated for anyone who has stuck to it through Les Mis.

I really enjoyed (and still really enjoy!) Tony Cade Bambara's short story collection, Gorilla My Love. I like her other books, too, but the short stories I read in my teens.

This is probably a good age to read Shirley Jackson (We Have Always Lived In The Castle, etc).

I know you said she's not looking for SF/fantasy, but Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon is pretty neat.
posted by Frowner at 8:37 AM on April 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Seconding Price and Prejudice!

Cold Mountain is beautifully written.

I haven't re-read Catch-22 recently but I loved it when I was 16.

If she hasn't completely given up on SF, maybe something by Philip K Dick? Maybe Ubik, or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
posted by esoterrica at 8:38 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are non-fiction recommendations welcome here? I read the Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin at around that age and adored it. The bite-sized chapters all on different subjects were perfect for my teenaged attention span.
posted by backwards compatible at 8:38 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are a ton of great book recommendation threads from other AskMes, and I'd also point to the various lists collected at List Challenges, some goofier than others. (I think the Rory Gilmore one is fun.)

More broadly, this is a chance for you to help your kid practice her own book discovery skills. Obviously not criticizing getting good suggestions here, that's a great method to model for her in fact, but part of becoming a lifelong reader is figuring out for oneself what sort of book discovery method works best.

Some people like wandering the library or browsing in bookstores. Some people like curated lists. Lately I've been adding many things to my to-read list from the "what's making me happy this week" segment of the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. I also semi-randomly browse through for interesting new SFF to read. There's Find what's fun and what works.

Some people (coughlikemecough) get stuck in the mindset that buying a book is some sort of unbreakable commitment to reading it all the way through. This is not true! Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and don't be afraid to chuck an unsatisfactory story into the donation bin.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:43 AM on April 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my all time favorite novels. It broke my heart and rebuilt it.
posted by batbat at 8:48 AM on April 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

How about Margaret Atwood's MaddAdam trilogy? It's a little dystopian but altogether a great read: Oryx and Crake; The Year of the Flood; MaddAdam (which I finished last night).
posted by anadem at 8:49 AM on April 26, 2016

Re: contemporary books, also...
Cold Sassy Tree - Olive Ann Burns
White Oleander - Janet Fitch
A Map of the World - Jane Hamilton
A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley
House of Sand and Fog - Andre Dubus III
Empire Falls - Richard Russo
She's Come Undone/I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
Sophie's Choice - William Styron
Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner
posted by carmicha at 8:50 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was a kid with a high reading level and a low tolerance for crap, but a lot of adult books still seemed boring and/or over my head (due to sexual/relationship content) as an early teen. So I’m going to suggest a few more YA titles that it would be a shame for her to miss.

Cynthia Voigt is categorized as a YA author, is excellent. While she’s done some fantasy, her contemporary stuff is definitely outside the YA clichés. I really recommend the Tillerman books, starting with Homecoming.

The Anne of Green Gables series is also YA that stands up to adult reading. If she hasn’t read that, it would be a shame if she missed it. Ditto Little Women.
posted by Kriesa at 8:51 AM on April 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is about the age when I absolutely loved John Irving. I think the first book my father gave me of his was either The Cider House Rules or The World According to Garp, but I ended up reading most of his oeuvre.

That and Vonnegut, I see you have Welcome to the Monkey House on there but I'd include Cat's Cradle and Bluebeard too.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:59 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

+1 for 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter' and I'm liking the Eugenides suggestion(s) too... if she can get with Fitzgerald and Stephen King one might as well throw a little Patricia Highsmith in there as well. I'm not sure whether 'Strangers on a Train' or 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' is the place to start.
posted by mr. digits at 9:07 AM on April 26, 2016

My list:

Zadie Smith
Isak Dineson/Karen Blixen - Out of Africa etc
Beryl Markhan – West with the Night
Bruce Chatwin
Percy Walker
Isabel Allende – 2nded
Alice Hoffman
Jane Smiley - 2nded
John Irving’s oeuvre – 2nded
Haruki Murakami
Donna Tartt – 2nded
Michael Crichton - I always liked his early stuff when I was a teen. Jurassic Park was a really fun book!
posted by rdnnyc at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2016

I also managed to read and love The Three Musketeers when I was around 15. I loved it then. I've tried to re-read it as an adult and just.can' That and the Man in the Iron Mask are good around this age imo.
posted by rdnnyc at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Her tastes sound completely opposite of mine, so I don't have any specific suggestions. In general, though, both her lists and the suggestions here sound like the AP Reading List, so that might be a good resource.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:15 AM on April 26, 2016

I am currently in the middle of Octavia Butler's trilogy Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago. If your daughter is tired of postapocalyptic series with female protagonists, these books might create a whole new perspective on that genre. Butler sadly passed away before her time, but she is certainly a masterful SF writer who transcends genre restrictions/conventions with her social commentary.

Also, perhaps The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver? The book has a teenage female protagonist from whose point-of-view the book is told. Rarely have I read a book so affecting as this one. I love other Kingsolver, too, but TPB might be a good place to start.

Lastly, it would probably be a slog at age fifteen, but I came to the Earth's Children series by Jean Auel late in life and love them. The series starts with the well-known Clan of the Cave Bear and continues for several books. I think it's worth reading at least through The Mammoth Hunters.
posted by Slothrop at 9:16 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was about that age when I read The Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy and loved it then nearly as much as I do now.
posted by greenish at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

-Nthing Catch-22. That's the book that kind of changed my life when I was 14.
-Nthing The Grapes of Wrath.
-The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. Most people probably know the story (or at least variations of it), and the novel deserves more attention than it gets.
-The Secret History by Donna Tartt (I'd actually recommend this one over The Goldfinch for a 15-year-old)
-Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia (another woefully underrated one, IMO)
-In the Woods by Tana French (beautifully written and profoundly sad mystery with tweens and teenagers as prominent characters)
posted by holborne at 9:34 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oops, sorry, just thought of another one I loved when I was that age: Native Son by Richard Wright (make sure it's the unbowdlerized version).
posted by holborne at 9:39 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nine Stories - JD Salinger (everything by him, really)
Skippy dies - Paul Murray
Evening of Long Goodbyes - Paul Murray
Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Nabokov (his short stories are the bomb!!)
Anything by Hemingway
posted by speakeasy at 9:41 AM on April 26, 2016

I heartily second The Poisonwood Bible and the suggestion of Octavia Butler and Jane Austen in general.

Maybe also consider Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout for the brilliant depiction of a mother-daughter dynamic. Oh, and the novels of Rainbow Rowell might be just the thing at 15. I loved them at age 30 and wished I could have read them earlier.

Maybe suggest a Year of Reading Women to her as well? I did that a couple years back and it changed the way I saw the world. At her age, it could be transformative.
posted by minervous at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

When I was that age, I loved:

Anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other Magical Realism. I remember being into Like Water For Chocolate as well, though not as much as Marquez, and would probably have dug Isabel Allende, too, had I run into her.

Any Southern Gothic I could get my hands on, from Kate Chopin to Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite, extending towards Flannery O'Connor. I kind of *wanted* to like Faulkner, but I wasn't ready yet.

The more approachable James Joyce, like The Dubliners and Portrait Of The Artist. I'd been shoved into Catholic school and went away to (secular) boarding school around this time, so Portrait resonated with me in ways it probably doesn't with most modern teens, but seriously Joyce is great and much easier to deal with than you think. I was also pretty seriously into Irish and Welsh mythology, Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and other stuff that goes hand in hand with turn of the 20th century Irish literature.

Jane Austen Jane Austen Jane Austen Jane Austen

"Grownup" dystopian lit like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. I'd have liked We, too, though I didn't read it till college.

Tom Robbins, though in retrospect I think he's probably pretty misogynist? There was also Amy Tan and Toni Morrison, but it was the 90s and everyone was reading them back then. I discovered Louise Erdrich freshman year of college and wished I'd started reading her stuff sooner.

Classic sci fi, especially Ray Bradbury. I'd have liked William Gibson's stuff, too, if I'd have known of it back then. I'd have enjoyed Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams back then, though I wasn't reading them yet.

A Confederacy Of Dunces, though I grew up in and around New Orleans and, like the Joyce, it may have resonated more with me personally than a general "a fifteen year old girl would love this".

I remember liking Dickens more than is normal for an American teenager, though usually through the lens of school assignments.

A lot of my friends were into Tolkein, and it seemed like everyone was reading Trainspotting, though again I'm sure that was a function of the 90s.

Bottom line though, by fifteen I was the pilot of my own reading ship. My parents had been turning me loose in the bookstore or the library for at least 5 years by that point and giving me free range over their own bookshelves (a lot of the above are books my parents had, in fact). I read according to my interests, things I ran across on my own time, and things my friends were reading. Occasionally they would give me a book as a present or recommend something they'd read recently, but their recommendations were much more like what happens between friends than parent-to-child "here's something I approve of" type stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 AM on April 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

As a teenager, I liked Anne Tyler novels. I also remember enjoying the Bounty trilogy by Charles Nordhoff (Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea, Pitcairn's Island.)

Other suggestions:
something by Dickens - maybe Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, or A Tale of Two Cities
something by George Eliot (For a teenage girl, The Mill on the Floss would be a good choice.)
The Count of Monte Cristo
East of Eden
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (fantasy but probably not the kind she's used to)
Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
The Time Traveler's Wife
Lexicon by Max Barry

And of course Jane Eyre, if by some chance she hasn't read it yet.
posted by Redstart at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nobody's said the Neapolitan novels yet?!
posted by town of cats at 11:19 AM on April 26, 2016

I recently finished Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space, a biography, and it was excellent, a good read, and had me excited about the world. It really touches on the advances in women's rights over the last 60 years in the USA, too.

You say no SF/Fantasy, and those were what I most enjoyed and was starting to get into at that age. Kurt Vonnegut, mentioned upthread, is a SciFi guy, but his insight into humanity is amazing. (Although a bit sexist at time, and depressing, too.) I'd recommend God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater as one that is more hopeful than sad, and Slaughterhouse Five as that was the first one I read by him and made me keep looking for more.

Again, Sci-Fi, but so much great insight into humanity, is C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet, from his Space Trilogy. It is my favorite of the three. The first chapter is a bit tough to get through, but once Ransom is up in the spaceship, she won't put it down.

Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between The World And Me started as a letter to his teenage son, and goes into depths about his feelings on race in America.

Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years is a graphic novel about a 20-something witch. It is not a romance. It touches on meeting your idols and seeing them as individuals. It is excellent.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
posted by jillithd at 11:29 AM on April 26, 2016

stuff that is accessible but also really, really good. I'm looking for books for her that don't have to be classics, but that aren't pretty generic

I feel that you should introduce your daughter to the delightful A Lee Martinez.
posted by porpoise at 11:30 AM on April 26, 2016

I also think CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet is really great wise sci-fi but I think you should probably warn your daughter that there is some weird gender stuff happening in the trilogy (if she decides to read the whole thing), particularly in That Hideous Strength. It's a good exercise in taking what's worth having - which is a lot - and critically examining the dodgier stuff.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:32 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

(I totally agree, Aravis76, and would actually recommend just Out of the Silent Plant. Mayyyyybe the second one (Perelandra), but I have never liked That Hideous Strength.)
posted by jillithd at 11:43 AM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

All the rest of Jane Austin -- what treasures to look forward to!

Anything by Ursula Le Guin. Some will resonate more than others, but all are worth trying. She's frequently labelled "sic fi" but is so much more. Lathe of Heaven is a good beginning.

If she liked The Shining, she might try these by Stephen King: 11/22/63, Firestarter, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Joyland, The Stand, Lisey's Story, Rose Madder.

And Dickens -- at least give them a try. Sometimes the sexism is a bit choking, but they're such cracking good stories.

With any prolific writer, I encourage young readers to taste books, but only keep reading if the book pulls them in. And remember, it doesn't hurt to try books by authors whose work you've previously disliked. They may have changed, you may have changed.
posted by kestralwing at 11:56 AM on April 26, 2016

My teenage daughter loved The Life of Pi.
Also Vonnegut and Pride and Prejudice.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:46 PM on April 26, 2016

I was a few years older when I first read The Diviners by Margaret Laurence and it was amazing. I would have been fine at that age, only I was busy reading other things.

Also, if she hasn't read Jane Eyre yet, let me suggest it followed by Wide Sargasso Sea. Those books are better read together.
posted by GilvearSt at 1:15 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used to read SF anthologies when I was that age. Anthologies are a great way to discover new authors, really.
posted by My Dad at 2:09 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I was that age, I was super into mysteries. Bonus: lots of famous mystery writers are from many years ago and were prolific, which translates into Fun At Thrift Shops and Used Bookstores.

I was super into Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham, etc., and also had a run of Perry Mason/Nero Wolfe.

Also when I was a teenager I was in love with Bleak House, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, LM Montgomery (and in particular the hidden LMM gem, The Blue Castle, which is the BEST).
posted by oblique red at 3:18 PM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

All the Light We Cannot See
Station Eleven
Things Fall Apart

All beautifully written and thoughtful, but very accessible and easy to read. Nothing particularly inappropriate for a young teen, although they all have their more intense moments.
posted by Alexandra Michelle at 4:35 PM on April 26, 2016

Here are a few...

Boy's Life
The Power of One
posted by metadave at 5:22 PM on April 26, 2016

These are all books I adored at her age or shortly after, and I still treasure them — I am looking at them on my bookcase as I type:

Magic for Beginners or Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link (short stories, YA, not generic or genre-y)
Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates (not YA but teen POV/protagonists, really powerful articulation of rage, power, and helplessness in teen girls)
House of Spirits by Isabel Allende (beautiful, magical, woman-focused)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (This series opened up sci-fi for me—I had no idea it could be funny until I read it.)
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin (James Baldwin can be heavy, but I discovered and loved him at her age. He also helped me recognize some of the race dynamics going on around me that I could sense but didn't understand.)

This was published long after I was a teen, but I like it a lot now, and I would have loved it then:
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (not YA but has older teen protagonists, creepy, a little queer, WoC author, not all-white cast)
posted by (Over) Thinking at 5:41 PM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would recommend Louise Erdrich's first - Love Medicine.
posted by gudrun at 7:49 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I believe my sci-fi phase was followed by my southern gothic phase, followed by my mystical realist phase (or whatever that's called), then historical novels and biographies followed by my modern novel phase. So I'd suggeest Faulkner and Allende and maybe some biographies too. Also more grown up mysteries and trashy novels: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or Le Carre, stuff like that.
posted by fshgrl at 8:32 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing McCullers and Erdrich and Toni Morrison and Steinbeck, Allende and Garcia Marquez.

Recommending against Bell Jar and anything Plath. I was a very literary teenager, and the revelation, on taking a course on Neruda in college, that a poet could have a long career that involved all sorts of things in addition to poetry, and didn't have to be miserable and off themselves at a young age, was really, really good for me.

Graphic-novels-wise, Lynda Barry is great. Particularly One! Hundred! Demons! Oh, and another along those lines I liked was Blankets. And how about Marjane Satrapi's work? All of those are pretty literary for graphic novels.

Nonfiction wise I am trying to remember ethnographies and such that had a big impact on me... Everything In Its Path by Kai Erikson? And oh, lordy. Hunter S. Thompson, but he's a strong drink and should maybe be taken later.

And I am a lifelong fan of the mysteries of Russell Hoban's book Riddley Walker. It can be really hard to parse his weird future British-based accent, but the puzzle was a lot of fun for me at that age.
posted by gusandrews at 9:36 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Even for a serious 15 year old reader, there are a lot of recommendations here that I would think twice about. Jumping from dystopian YA to The Goldfinch or Haruki Murakami is a real leap. Try asking your librarian or search for "Adult Teen Crossover Books." There is even an award for adult books with appeal/appropriateness for YA readers--the Young Adult Library Services Division of the American Library Association lists all the Alex Award nominees & winners here. It includes fiction & non-fiction. Here's another list from this year. I'd look at those lists for ideas rather than go for the classics--she will encounter those in school/college. More fun & broadening to read other things now.

Here are a few recommendations:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Secret Life of Bees
Where'd You Go Bernadette
The Cat's Table
The Book of Lost Things
Water for Elephants
St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
The House on Mango Street
Tell the Wolves I'm Home
The Round House
The Rook
Wicked (& his other speculative fiction)
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series (if she is familiar with the classic Holmes)

I also agree with oblique red's list of classic mystery writers, although they can seem kind of slow & dowdy to the modern reader. I love them, though.

And, remember, not all YA is dystopia, romance, vampires, & science fiction. There are a lot of sophisticated stories classified as YA.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:37 PM on April 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

Does she like mysteries? She should try Agatha Christie. They're all murder mysteries, but since they're from a different era they're not too grisly. They're also very well written but not incredibly dense, so they're easy reading without being junky reading, if you know what I mean. Try giving her Death on the Nile or And Then There Were None and see what she thinks.

She could also try Mary Stewart. Start with The Moonspinners. Her books are mystery novels and Stewart writes really great heroines. She also has a great easy style. And she's also written a bunch of books if your daughter likes them.

And finally, you should find Eloise Jarvis McGraw's book Greensleeves. It was going out of print and very hard to find, but someone has rediscovered it and added some dumb discussion questions to the first page, but at least it's available again. It's got a really great 18 year-old heroine, who has a glittering mother and a famous father, and who decides she just desperately needs to stay put for a single summer and be nobody in particular.
posted by colfax at 1:49 AM on April 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

So many great recommendations! Thanks everyone!
posted by jfwlucy at 5:52 AM on April 27, 2016

Yes, Agatha Christie is excellent! I would highly recommend "The Man in the Brown Suit".
posted by jillithd at 6:45 AM on April 27, 2016

A Wizard of Earthsea

Some of Mark Twain's speeches and other texts besides "Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer"?They are very cynical, which teens will latch on to.

"The Day I Became an Autodidact" by Kendall Hailey

For myself at that age, a lot of "grown-up" books didn't engage me because they turned largely on politics and/or relationships -- and I just didn't have enough experience in that area yet.

Has she read Terry Pratchett? Many of his books have much more mature (i.e., grown-up, not sexy) themes and subtexts than their title would suggest -- topics like race, money, prejudice, etc.

There are some good mysteries (e.g., Dick Francis) that she might like running through to get a feel for a new genre and a new milieu (England).

To be honest, at that age I just read an enormous amount of scifi. *shrug* But I would also pick up anything between two covers and rip through it in a few hours.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:25 AM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

What about Possession by A. S. Byatt? Really well written, and I found it very engaging.
posted by kristi at 10:12 AM on April 29, 2016

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