Who writes like S. E. Hinton?
February 7, 2008 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Who writes like S. E. Hinton? So, a ten year old boy who is extremely bright, but has pretty much avoided all reading, has just plowed through every S. E. Hinton book at a rapid pace. We would like to continue this new found love of reading but we need some books which will catch his interest.

Obviously, the strong themes of these books and his young age give us some concern, but in general I think it is probably OK. Books which address the isolation he feels from his peers, and especially from his teachers, and probably even a bit from us, without undue violence etc. would probably fit. He is quite precocious, somewhat removed from his peers despite his gregarious personality, yet still only ten. He wants to read about older kids. Also, he recognizes good writing as well and has shown little interest in the series books so popular at his age. I might give him "Catcher in the Rye" but frankly a kid shy of puberty probably wouldn't get it. On the other hand, he very much gets all the social interactions in the S.E. Hinton books. What will stimulate his mind without being too adult? Right now, S.E. Hinton is the sweet spot, but he is done, or perhaps one book shy of being done with her oeuvre. All recommendations which might fit are welcome. We can sift, you don't have to. If you think it is interesting please let us know.
posted by caddis to Writing & Language (33 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Gary Paulsen? I remember liking his books when I was ~ that age, and my younger brother who is not a huge reading fan liked em too. I dunno how well he fits your kid, but he was what came to mind as good ten year old boy reading.

BTW, I read SE Hinton when I was just a kid and I turned out fine. Don't worry too much about what he's reading.
posted by MadamM at 7:58 PM on February 7, 2008

I read and enjoyed Lord of the Flies around that age, but needed to reread it later to understand it.
posted by contraption at 8:00 PM on February 7, 2008

Robert Cormier?
posted by Addlepated at 8:03 PM on February 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

I thought House of Stairs was sort of a classic weird Sci Fi Young Adult book that dealt with alienation in a way that was accessible to younger folks. Sixteen year old kids but the themes are not very "adult" Might fit perfectly. I have a copy if you have trouble tracking one down, lmk and I can mail it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:06 PM on February 7, 2008

Keep a ten-year-old the fuck away from Catcher. He won't get it.

I can't speak to Hinton, but I really really loved (and still do) The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death and Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, both by Daniel Pinkwater, both frankly hilarious and smart comedies, and both featuring older characters who are sort of outsiders. And they're both available in one affordable volume.

I adored Pinkwater as a child -- his stuff was really, really smart, peppered with occasional jokes that I frankly didn't get until I revisited his fiction as an adult, but goddamn I loved it then and love it now. If I had to sum it up, it's sort of like Kurt Vonnegut for kids. His stuff woke me up -- you mean stories can be like this?

If he's down with the horror, I also really enjoyed Poe's fiction as a kid, most notably The Telltalle Heart, which was another childhood revelation. Revisiting Poe as an adult was a disappointment, but as a kid, that loony-ass narrator was riveting stuff, and he was the first writer I tried to copy.

2nd Lord of the Flies.

He might also enjoy Huck Finn, but IMO Huck Finn is wasted on kids.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:07 PM on February 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

John Marsden.

Both my kids loved him, they were older than 11 when they first picked him up but they were not precocious readers. "So much to tell you" is great and deals explicitly with personal isolation, the Tomorrow series too but in a different way, and pubescent issues are addressed here too. They're set in Australia, but I think the issues he addresses all kids face, one way or another. He most definitely neither talks down, nor takes an easy route on a tough topic.

Robert Heinlein's juvenile stuff (please not the adult Stranger in a strange land etc) including Farmer in the sky, Podkayne of Mars, Space Cadet. I think these are timeless books.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, but not the Xenocide or Children of the Mind follow ups, Ender is grown up in those.
posted by b33j at 8:20 PM on February 7, 2008

Second Pinkwater!

At that age, I remember really, really enjoying Jules Verne's Two Years Vacation. Similar to Lord of the Flies in that a group of schoolboys get marooned on an island, but more to do with survival and cleverness than with base human depravity.

Actually, all of Jules Verne's novels are worth exploring. Journey to the Center of the Earth has a child protagonist, so it might be a good place to start.
posted by boots at 8:37 PM on February 7, 2008

just take him to the library, let him find his own taste is MHO.
posted by panamax at 8:44 PM on February 7, 2008

At 10 years of age have him read The Great Brain (Fitzgerald) series. He will appreciate them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:58 PM on February 7, 2008

Another recommendation for Card's Ender's Game. Phenomenal book for a kid his age with his proclivities. I had a grade school teacher that refused to teach the book because the entire class finished the book in one sitting instead of reading along as a group. The book deals strongly with Ender's feelings of isolation that (as members of an accelerated math and english program) we all related to at the time.

As hinted above, Card has written several follow-up and parallel (different perspective) novels in the Ender universe. While I would agree that Xenocide and Children of the Mind are no good for a ten year old (or anybody, really), Speaker for the Dead, the immediate sequel to Ender's Game, is fantastic. Highly recommended if he enjoys Ender's Game.

As an aside, I agree with the above about Catcher. Coming of age novels will make no sense to someone who hasn't quite started down that road yet. You can be sure he'll discover it (along with the rest of the subversive literature section at the library) on his own.
posted by anifinder at 9:05 PM on February 7, 2008

It's worth nothing that the chief protagonists in Ender's Game are young children, but they're exceptionally gifted children that tend to think and act like adults, sometimes to a degree that messes with suspension of disbelief. Not sure how important the "older kids" requirement is for this one, but it's something you may want to be aware of.
posted by anifinder at 9:08 PM on February 7, 2008

I can not believe I forgot Pinkwater. Alan Mendelsohn the Boy From Mars is one of the best books of all time, especially for slightly nerdy kids. One of the good ways to find other people's opinions of similar books for popular authors is to google the phrase "If you like books by [AUTHOR]" or "If you like [AUTHOR]" which I just did to jog my mind for other things that I think might be good. A few other authors

- Jerry Spinelli - good issue-oriented books geared towards younger teens. I liked The Library Card
- Paul Zindel's books are a little dark but they also have the isolated protagonist and awkward teen thing going on
- Holes by Louis Sachar was hugely popular a ways back. The two books after it form a pretty cohesive readable set.
- This is off the beaten path somewhat and I'm not sure about the age level but I enjoyed the Adrian Mole series. They're more humorous than dark but have the weird protagonist who is misunderstood by people and writes about it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:19 PM on February 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

I second Fitzgerald's Great Brain series. Damn I loved those books. And John Christopher's The White Mountains trilogy.
posted by goatdog at 9:24 PM on February 7, 2008

Not sure about being like Hinton, but great authors for the smart pre-teen are:
-William Sleator (House of Stairs, Green Futures of Tycho, Into the Dream, Interstellar Pig, The Boy Who Reversed Himself -- all are real world kids in sci-fi situations in basically the real world. These are my #1 recommendations. Not great if he's easily spooked.)
-Daniel Pinkwater
-H.M. Hoover (another sci fi, lots about kids having to make it on their own)
-Susan Cooper (fantasy)
-Katherine Paterson (present day, and ancient China; more female protagonists than he might like, possibly. The Great Gilly Hopkins eg)
-Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series (again sci-fi, but with real relationships)

A few other titles that come to mind when I think about being 11ish.
-Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (a book of ideas, not characters. Fun for a smartypants, but not about relationships or real-world stuff.)
-James Thurber is another author in a similar vein. Not very relationshippy, but funny and full of ideas.
-The Egypt Game
-From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler"
-My husband loved The Moves Make the Man"> when he was about that age.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:46 PM on February 7, 2008

posted by LobsterMitten at 9:47 PM on February 7, 2008

I've been reading a bunch of Newbery Medal Winners lately and really enjoying them. Some are re-reads from when I was a kid (about 10-12), and some are new to me. Louis Sachar's Holes was one that was new to me (came out long after I was that age) and I loved it and wholeheartedly second it. Ones I remember from childhood (and loved immensely) include Adam of the Road and Rifles for Watie.
I've also been reading a bunch by Diana Wynne Jones, who writes fantasy, and it might catch his interest. In particular, Witch Week deals with the social dynamics of a middle-school classroom quite well.
posted by katemonster at 10:11 PM on February 7, 2008

Oh, also -- Gordan Korman -- I'm only familiar with his earlier stuff, but I loved it (and still do)
The Obnoxious Jerks
posted by katemonster at 10:15 PM on February 7, 2008

Aha! The Outsiders was my favorite teen book of all time. So something teen angst then? I can't believe no one has mentioned Harry Potter! There's plenty of angst to be had and the movies don't do the books justice at ALL. The kids get older and there's quite a bit of angst to come. They are fantasy, but amazing.

I'll also second Louis Sachar and A Wrinkle in Time, and then there's also Sign of the Beaver, though it's not a series and is easily read in a couple of days. Still though, it's a great book.

Stay away from Catcher in the Rye. While kids might be mature socially and academically in many ways, they aren't mentally or emotionally. They are still children.

Just my two cents.
posted by magnoliasouth at 10:28 PM on February 7, 2008

Mr. HGG and I have put our heads together and here's what we've come up with:

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
The Boy Who Invented the Bubble Gun by Paul Gallico
John Bellairs' Lewis Barnavelt series
Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy
Judy Blume's books for the 11-14 year old set

Oh, and definitely seconding the Great Brain series, The Great Gilly Hopkins, and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:29 PM on February 7, 2008

My son liked fantasy at that age so my suggestions lean in that direction.
First Ender's Game is the classic for smart boys who don't fit in.
He might also like the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (it is an easier read that the Lord of the Rings)

He might also like Jerry Spinelli - Maniac McGee and Ringer are both good, are closer to Hinton.
posted by metahawk at 10:35 PM on February 7, 2008

I read The Outsiders when I was about 8. A lot of it went over my head and I read it again at 11, for a better take on things. That being said, the book fostered my interest in other Hinton books and then I went on to Animal Farm and 1984. I became very interested in language -- any 8th grade lesson plan on the Outsiders goes into that -- and so learning Doublespeak was a great fit. Orwellian settings also fit with many of the ideas I got from The Outsiders. So, while Orwell and Hinton are not traditional complements, they worked for me.
posted by acoutu at 10:55 PM on February 7, 2008

Seconding the Bellairs HGG mentioned - especially The House with a Clock in Its Walls and The Figure in the Shadows, the first two Barnavelt books. Plus the Pinkwater and L'Engle for sure; maybe Ursula Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea, too? I can't remember how old I was when I read it...
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:34 PM on February 7, 2008

I'l second Robert Cormier. His and S.E. Hinton's books had a similar effect on me as a teenager. They both have that dead-serious quality - nothing snarky or clever - and they pack a big emotional punch. I'd start with The Chocolate War, which is just a great book, all about being alienated from your peers and your teachers (with good reason, they're creepy weirdos playing dangerous games). It's great stuff - almost like a teen noir.
posted by tiny crocodile at 2:48 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll second Robert Cormier. Drat.
posted by tiny crocodile at 2:48 AM on February 8, 2008

n'thing Cormier. Also John Marsden. And Paul Zindel.

Australian author Lee Harding has two great books - Waiting for the End of the World and Displaced Person.

A slightly lateral suggestion would be The Prince in Waiting trilogy by John Christopher. Alternate future stuff with an alienated protagonist. And if he likes that, maybe start him on John Wyndham. Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids for sure. Susan Cooper has been mentioned already. Alan Garner and Nicholas Fisk are other sophisticated childrens'/young adults authors.
posted by tim_in_oz at 3:47 AM on February 8, 2008

I think the best suggestion here so far is Robert Cormier. While a lot of the more wholesome suggestions here are wonderful books, I wonder if he's already a little too sophisticated a reader and, on a more superficial level, too "cool" for them. He might love Holes if he hasn't already read it, but even that may seem a bit kiddish after the Hinton, and most of Sachar's other books hit younger than Holes.

House of Stairs might hold his attention if he likes sci-fi, but I haven't read the other Sleator books since I was younger than him so I can't remember much about them. If he likes that, you might also try House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer or Feed by M. T. Anderson.

Another author that comes to mind with Hinton and Cormier is Chris Crutcher. I've heard especially good things about his latest, Deadline.

There are some really good male authors writing really good boy YA these days--John Green, Barry Lyga, Jake Wizner, Frank Portman, Ron Koertge to name a few--but their books would have some explicit sexual content that, for a ten-year-old, I'd be remiss not to mention. It's one of those situations where he's probably ready for it, but his folks may not agree, and if you're not one of them, you may want to get their OK.
posted by lampoil at 5:25 AM on February 8, 2008

Anthony Horowitz, the Alex Rider series. He's not alienated in the sense of school/family/emotional angst but he's alone and angry ... he's a British spy whose parents were assassinated and he never knows if the adults in his world are friend or foe ... it's not cute 007 stuff, it's heavy. My 12-year-old is a hungry reader and these books are the only ones that really slow him down ... he savors them.

Also Jack London. And Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

And last I detest graphic novels but my kids don't. They are filled with alienation and angst. Perhaps another poster can give some insight there.
posted by headnsouth at 5:29 AM on February 8, 2008

When I was a kid, I loved The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill.
I also enjoyed the Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner- it's about a group of orphans who live in an abandonded train car in the woods.
I've heard that Holes, by Loius Sachar is excellent, but haven't read it myself.
posted by emd3737 at 6:30 AM on February 8, 2008

Holes, Ender's Game, Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time are all great. The first two deal especially well with isolation, too.

Perhaps The Call of the Wild? It's about a dog, obviously, but his failure to fit in with human society seems to go along with your theme.

The Chocolate War freaked me the hell out when it was read to me at age ten or so. I'm not sure I'd recommend it for someone under thirteenish.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:27 AM on February 8, 2008

Ned Vizzini is a relatively new writer, with two YA books out that have both gotten rave reviews. His second, about a 14-year-old boy suffering from depression, may not be right for your son. But his first book, "Be More Chill," is about a teenage boy who is completely uncool and takes a pill that makes him cool. It really explores the social dynamics of high school very well, but be warned that there is a bit of boy/girl stuff and also a bit of cannabis use.

I heartily second Louis Sachar's "Holes," which is a really really fantastic boy book.

And then there is my all-time favorite, "The Chosen," by Chaim Potok. It shouldn't be too old for a 10-year-old, but since it focuses on the Jewish experience in New York in the 1940s, it may be a bit foreign for your son if he doesn't know about (a) Jewish traditions and beliefs, (b) the Zionist movement, and (c) New York. If he does have an inkling about any of these things, however, he'll be entranced.

I'm guessing that your son probably doesn't want to read books that are too "girly," thus ruling out anything with female protagonists, BUT if he's willing to be open-minded he should check out the Tillerman Cycle, a series by Cynthia Voigt. It starts out with "Homecoming," a book about four children who walk from Connecticut to the eastern shore of Maryland to find their grandmother. Later in the series, "A Solitary Blue" and "The Runner" both have male protagonists and are very boy-friendly -- but he would need to get through the earlier books first. The writing style is quite similar to Hinton's, I think, a bit stark but not unfriendly.

Seriously, though, if you ignore everything else, just take a peek at "Be More Chill" to see if you think it's too mature for him, and definitely grab him a copy of "Holes."
posted by brina at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2008

Wow, a lot of these books are bringing me back to age 13.

Paul Zindel's Pigman, Pigman's Legacy, and My Darling My Hamburger were a few favorites back then.

I was all about the Adrian Mole Diaries (Sue Townsend) when I was a bit younger.
posted by medeine at 11:52 AM on February 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all so much; you have made wonderful suggestions.
posted by caddis at 11:58 AM on February 8, 2008

Seconding Jessaymn's recommendations, especially Sachar and Spinelli. I'm surprised no one has mentioned To Kill a Mockingbird. It might be a bit early for him, but for me it was a godsend around that age (maybe I was 11?).
posted by prophetsearcher at 1:10 AM on February 10, 2008

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