Teen Books Gift Guide

In the seventeen years that I worked in a retail bookstore, the teen section went from a couple of shelves tacked onto the outside of the kid's department as an afterthought to a full-blown, space-hogging, vampire-filled section.  Hallelujah!  Teens are reading!  Boo!  Teens are reading trash!  Whatever.  As a lover of trash novels myself, I don't care to judge.  Really, I do care to judge.  It's what I do best.

Moving on...

Here are some great books for teens.  Or for adults with short attention spans.  Or just for adults.  Heck, I've read 'em, maybe you should, too.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
This book hooked me from the first page.  Set in an alternate future of America, Katniss, the main character, hunts to keep her family fed, even though it is illegal.  When her sister is chosen for the Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live tv, Katniss takes her place.  It's a trilogy, so you can probably guess the outcome, but it is well-written and I loved the first one so much, I had to buy the next two for my nook while on vacation, even though I had copies waiting for me at home.  The first book in the set is, by far, the best thing I've read in years.  And I read A LOT.

The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield
In this alternate future series, your sixteenth birthday brings about an operation that turns you from ugly to pretty.  Sounds pretty good, huh?  But as you know, there's one in every crowd, and when Tally and Shay buck the system, they find out there's more to the story.  An excellent read.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Yet another alternate future type book, this one with a medieval overtone.  Lois Lowry is one of the best children and young adult authors ever, and this is her best.  In my opinion, of course.  Even though this one has been around for a long time, pick it up again and get a new generation hooked on it.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Becca doesn't like any of the boys at her school - they're too immature.  Until she meets Patch.  But then weird stuff starts to happen, and Patch seems to be at the center of it.  Turns out, he's a fallen angel.  An epic battle ensues.  

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Everything was going well for Samantha.  Well, until she dies.  However, she gets the chance to live her last day over again - each day for a week.  Well written and slightly sappy.  Just what your hormonal teenage girl needs.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I can't promise your teens will love this book,  but I love this book.  Set in Germany during World War II, a girl's love of books keeps her going during some VERY trying times.  Sigh... Now THAT'S a love story...

It's a novel.  It's poetry.  It's free verse style, edgy subject matter, and teens love it.  

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
John seems like the boy next door.  but he's not.  He's one of nine aliens from the planet Lorien who came to earth to live among humans.  But he's being hunted...  Imagine that.   The movie rights have been optioned, so I can only assume we'll be seeing more of Number Four soon.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Andi, a contemporary American girl, is dealing with a lot of heavy stuff.  Dead brother, distant parents, imminent expulsion from school.  Heavy stuff, huh?  She travels with her father to Paris, where she finds the diary of a young girl that was written 200 years earlier.  Their stories become intertwined and Andi finds herself in the past, in the story she has been reading about.  Historically accurate and beautifully written.

Ok, it's a vampire series.  But it's one that appeals to teenage boys.  I spent many hours over my lifetime in bookselling trying to interest teen boys, drug into the store by their Mamas, in anything that had words.  It's a tough sell, but boys (and girls!) seem to like these. A lot.  Vlad is an eight grader who is half human, half vampire, and angst filled.  Oh, and some vampire hunters are after him.  Each book in the series takes place in Vlad's next grade in school.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Here's another series that everyone has heard of by now.  But, quite cooly, these were written by a teenaged boy, and quite surprisingly, they are excellent.  A former bigwig boss of mine told the story of walking into one of the stores in his area and seeing a teenaged boy sitting on the floor of the kids department with a stack of these books in front of him and a pen in hand.  "Son, please stop writing in our books or I'll have to ask you to leave" Bigwig boss said.  "But I'm the author.  I'm autographing them" Teen Boy said.  Oh, snap.

I've been reading Kathy Reichs forever.  Her Temperance Brennan series is by far and away a better forensic series than Patricia Cornwell - yes, I just said that out loud.  Virals, her first young adult book, is just as well written and will appeal to all those teenaged Bones fans out there.  Tory Brennan, Tempe's niece, is the main character, and a little supernatural twist added in for good measure makes this a great read for teens.  Here's to hoping it's the first in a series! 

It's been my experience that teens love a good heart-wrenching, semi-sappy read (remember those terrible Lurlene McDaniel books you read as a teen where everyone has cancer and dies?  Loved 'em, didn't you?).  Anyway, this is a much better written take written in the same vein.  Clay, the main character, receives a box of cassette tapes that were recorded by Hannah, his classmate, just before she committed suicide.  The tapes tell of the 13 reasons she took her life.  Powerful stuff.

Leviathan By Scott Westerfield
Author Scott Westerfield has done it again.  He's the only author to make my list for two entirely different books - way to go, Mr. Westerfield.  You can die happy how.  Anyway, Leviathan is set on the eve of World War I, and that's where any similarity to traditional historical fiction ends.  This steampunk novel is well written, and the sequel, Behemoth, was just released.  Steampunk fiction seems to be here to stay, so embrace it in all its oddness.  This is a great place to start.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Mia remembers being in a car with her parents, and the next moment, she is outside her body.  In a coma, she relives moments from her past and has to make the choice whether to fight to live, or to die.  This book for teens had stunning writing and characters that but many adult authors to shame.  Memorable.

Code Talkers by Joseph Bruchac
The subtitle of this book, A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, says it all.  The simple writing and easy to follow story, coupled with plenty of action and good characters, makes this book a win for a reluctant teen reader.  It is especially appealing to boys, and makes a great choice for a book report.

The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
Alex Rider is like Jason Borne meets James Bond meets Indiana Jones.  Oh, and did I mention he's a teenager?  Not a ton of substance, but enough plot and action to keep readers involved.

Annexed by Sharon Dogar
The fictional account of Peter, the boy who was in hiding with Anne Frank.   His story takes us on the journey of meeting Anne, and then past the time Anne's real-life diary ends.  Very, very gripping, and very, very sad.  I mean, we all know how it ends, right?  

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
Whew.  Let's lighten this list up a bit, shall we?  It was getting sort of dreary in here...  Sarah Dessen has been writing teen books for years, and Keeping the Moon is, in my humble opinion, and example of what she does best.  Colie is fifteen, formerly plump, and filled with angst.  She spends the summer with her aunt, and begins to grow into herself.  Sounds like a thousand other coming of age books, huh?  What makes this one special is  Sarah Dessen's writing, kinda funny, kinda quirky, and kinda real.  Excellent.

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
Carrie from Sex in the City was a teenager once too, ya know.  In this story, she's a senior in high school, waiting for her "real" life to begin.  Fun!

And that's it!  My five days of holiday recommendations for kids and teens is complete.  Oh, except for one thing.  If you REALLY can't decide what to get, join me tomorrow when I wow you with all the cool kid-friendly features of the nookcolor.  

1 comment:

  1. I ran this list by my daughter (who is almost 16 -- what? How did THAT happen?), and she thought it was great. She's already read a lot of the selections here, (I know I bought her Crank) and she wants to read some more. I'll be picking her at least one here for Christmas.

    Excellent job!


Pin It button on image hover