C'mon get happy... books?
January 11, 2020 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Looking for "happy books" for my tween reader whose friends are all reading dystopian fiction or scary fantasy that freaks her out.

If it skews silly that's ok, but it would be great if the focus was on a "kid I can relate to" as opposed to like, a talking cat or space unicorn or something.

Her requirements include: No nonfiction, no graphic novels or picture books.

I can probably dig up some classic titles that were old-fashioned even in my own childhood... but surely there's something more modern out there that fits the bill?
posted by nkknkk to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The two Unbeatable Squirrel Girl novels are great. They’re set in the Marvel universe with some action but nothing very scary, though of course they do have fantasy elements. The main character is a smart, sweet, slightly awkward kid with two great parents and some great friends. They are lovely.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles are fantasy, but funny and smart and full of girl power. One of the main characters is a princess who runs away to live with the dragons because she doesn’t want to marry any of the possible handsome but boring/unintelligent princes her parents suggest. They’re delightful.

Tamora Pierce might work if that doesn’t feel too young to her (and it’s also fantasy/adventure but doesn’t feel scary to me, and I am pretty sensitive to scary stuff), as might Rainbow Rowell if that doesn’t feel too old to her (many characters are in college). The 39 Clues series is adventure with a bit of suspense but not scary in my opinion.
posted by bananacabana at 12:06 PM on January 11, 2020

The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane is great.

I also loved Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, and pretty much anything by Diana Wynne Jones.
posted by Tamanna at 1:19 PM on January 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Mysterious Benedict Society - though there is some peril and bad guys
Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
posted by soelo at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2020

I don't know about space unicorns, but when I was a kid I related really well to the kids in Barbary, which is about a cat on a space station. It's also one of the most realistic SF books about a space station that I've read.

I would absolutely second Tamora Pierce (the Alanna series, Circle of Magic) - and I don't think they would be too young. The Circle series may be aimed a bit younger, but the others were written for young teens (actually workshopped with them). I was utterly obsessed with them from age about 9 to ... umm 43. They are fantasy, but the drama is very character based.

For more on the fantasy side, Terry Pratchett's books for young adults have the same humour and humanity that all of his books do.

On the contemporary / realistic side: I really enjoyed Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan - it's really heart-warming.
posted by jb at 4:38 PM on January 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh! And my brother, my friend and I all loved Gordon Kormon books at that age. I want to go Home was my favourite and it was hilarious.
posted by jb at 4:40 PM on January 11, 2020

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books by Maryrose Wood
The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson

All of these contain some conflict but they’re pretty gentle stories overall.
posted by corey flood at 4:44 PM on January 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Redwall series is very cozy and feel-good YA fantasy, also a bit silly in setting but fairly straight in delivery.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:25 PM on January 11, 2020

The Dear America books. There are also Dear Canada books, a series about royalty, as well as a series about young men. They are about tweens and teens and set in different historical situations.

Books by Lloyd Alexander, particularly the Chronicles of Prydain and the Vesper Holly series. Vesper Holly is a sort of female Indiana Jones and I haven't read the books since I was a tween so there may be racism or orientalism that I've forgotten about.

Books by Sharon Creech might also fit the bill.
posted by arachnidette at 6:33 PM on January 11, 2020

Rainbow Rowell writes great YA. While there are tough situations, they are far from dystopic, and there is a thread of sweetness in everything of hers I’ve read.

Ursula Le Guin, Annals of the Western Shore (3 books, fantasy, young characters)

Joan Aiken, starting with Arabel’s Raven and maybe continuing to the Wolves of Willoughby Chase and its sequels.

Also the Hobbit if she hasn’t read it yet.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:25 PM on January 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I love Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and David Levithan, but I would not recommend them for most tweens.

Holes by Louis Sachar is one of my favorites for that age (read it together, it's a terrific book!)
posted by toastedcheese at 6:16 AM on January 12, 2020

Boys Life is told from the point of view of a 12 year old boy growing up in the deep south in the '60s. I think it qualifies as a "happy book" - it made me happy. It should qualify as a "kid I can relate to book"
posted by metadave at 1:01 PM on January 12, 2020

Carl Hiaasen has great books for that age. Hoot and Flush were the first two and my kids loved them (me too). Since then it looks like he has written several others. I had enjoyed his adult books for years and was excited when he began writing for the younger set but with similar style.
posted by maxg94 at 5:59 AM on January 13, 2020

I tend to recommend Robin Stevens Wells & Wong series starting with Murder Most Unladylike / Murder is Bad Manners. They're murder mysteries, so they are not exactly happy but are not scary or dystopian. (I admit to reading them as a grown up and loving them, but my 10 year old niece also approves.)
posted by scorbet at 6:06 AM on January 14, 2020

I marked a few as Best Answer and other suggestions are great too, but even "kinda not too scary fantasy" is disqualifying for the purpose of this question. I need really, purely happy books about real kids if possible. Thanks, all!
posted by nkknkk at 1:30 PM on January 17, 2020

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