I'm not a teen but I read a lot of teen books. Why am I confessing this? Because I've heard too many people say something to the effect "It's good that teens are reading and then they can move to better books" or worse is "those books are just eye candy." (Gadzooks! Are you kidding me?! Books that are just eye candy are being read! It means kids and teens are reading! It means they're getting something into their brains, such as vocabulary, spelling, grammar, punctuation, characterization, plot, and meaning to think about, not to mention a love for reading! And what do you define as eye candy anyway?! Non-fiction?! Anything that doesn't teach something deeply important?! Or any book that isn't considered a "classic"? Or maybe the truth is, any book or genre that YOU don't care for! Forgive my rant. I'm touchy about this subject because someone called Fablehaven by Brandon Mull--a book I liked--eye candy...it was a wonderful & thick YA fantasy; I do not define that kind of book as eye candy. And others are welcome to think otherwise; I'm still going to enjoy the book. Let's carry on, shall we?) Generally, I think when they say "better books," they mean adult books and classics.
I tend to read YA (Young Adults) or MG (Middle Grade) because those books are shorter which fit into my busy life. Although I've read the romantic teen books, I'm not into those; I'm often skimming the "Oo, I'm in love with him" parts so I can get back to the story. I believe the first book in the Harry Potter trilogy was considered MG. I just listened to the audiobook Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede which would be considered a YA. But in the third book of the series, the main character is now 20. There's a new book category called "New Adult" and perhaps that's where this third book fits in.
Like adult books, teen books can be deep or shallow, well-written or not, come in a variety of genres--fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary fantasy, contemporary, romance, mystery, etc. There are many teen books which address some hefty issues. Then there is the fluff. Then there are the teen books which are humorous and deep or humorous and fluff. Teen books aren't just for teens and they're not just a stage to get through. Many times, teen books are better written than adult books because authors have to instantly grab the attention of those in that age-group--not an easy task. On top of that, the books have to KEEP their attention. I find books written for adults tend to ramble on and on. I notice that in both non-fiction and fiction. I often wonder if adult books tend to be longer because authors and readers feel they aren't getting their money's worth if they aren't reading a tome. I enjoy good books, no matter who they're "geared" for. (I suppose if I like a book then it's geared for me...?)
"But you don't have to take my word for it." (Name that show about books from long ago. And can you name the actor who said it?) Try a YA novel. If you're unsure what to pick, ask your librarian. Or ask me! Tell me the genre you tend to read and I'll recommend a YA in that genre.
This week, I looked over three book lists, varying in number from 15 - 32 books. I've seen other lists more intense, such as the "100 all-time..." whatever it is one should read. I read the lists every time to see how many of the books I've read, maybe to validate my own reading choices, make me feel like I'm a literary buff. Unfortunately, I usually can't find more than a handful of those books that I've read. So today, I write my own list, not to tell you what you should read because of the socially redeeming values but a list of books I HAVE LOVED!
Books who have been accepted to this list had to pass at least two out of four conditions:
THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, by Norton Juster.
This was published the year I was born and I've been reading it ever since...okay, not quite. But I've had a copy of this book since at least 6th grade. The first copy got lost so of course I had to get another copy but by the time I was done with college and was married and had kids, the book was falling apart. I got another copy but that was paperback. Then a couple of years ago, one of my kids gave me a HARDBOUND copy! And then, it just gets better, I have the Kindle version as well! Oh, joy, rapture!
Now about the book - It's about a boy named Milo "who didn't know what to do with himself--not just sometimes but always." The poor, disinterested boy ends up receiving a gift of a play tollbooth that becomes very real when it sends him to Lands Beyond. The book is full of puns and witty wisdom.
Note: Do not watch the movie that was made in the psychedelic year of 1970. It's just too far off. Ruins the book.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE HOBBIT, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I bought this when the boxed set was only $5.00. The set included The Hobbit and you really can't say Lord of the Rings without including The Hobbit. It's been with me until the books absolutely couldn't even be fixed with tape. My husband's books crumbled as well. The books were replaced. If you don't know the gist of the books by now, what with the movies and all, then you probably wouldn't be interested in reading them anyway.
Note: The movies are good; the books are so much richer and deeper. I LOVE them! By the way, I get replacement books through used book stores. Online, there's a place called Thriftbooks-free shipping; when it's a series of books I can get the same style covers, good prices, I can see where the books ship from, as well.
THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN, by Lloyd Alexander.
Like the books mentioned above, I've had a set for a very long time, until those too gave up the ghost. We replaced them.
This series focuses on a boy named Taran, an assistant pig keeper, who thinks he wants adventures, to be like the heroes he's heard stories of. He gets what he wishes for, and discovers that "adventures" aren't as easy as they sound. In his journeys, he learns what it really means to try and thwart evil; what heroes really endure. He learns about himself. Mr. Alexander won a Newbery award for the last book in the series.
Note: Disney made a movie combining books one and two called The Black Cauldron. Hated it. Totally ruins the books. Read the books instead and let the characters play on the stage in your mind (how weird a statement was that, eh?).
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, by C.S. Lewis.
I love this series. There are some well-done movies or mini-series made from these books. But the books are still better. Book One in the ancient set I have is The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. But Mr. Lewis wrote the pre-quel, The Magician's Nephew, and now that's become Book One. I still can't start there. Habit, I guess.
A WRINKLE IN TIME, by Madeleine L'Engle
This time I'm going to point out a particular book in a series. Madeleine L'Engle wrote A Wrinkle in Time as part of a trilogy, but it's this book that I love. The other two didn't grab me as much. I don't remember if it was this or Andre Norton's Breed to Come that started me in Sci-fi. Still, this one rates high on my list.
Meg and her genius, young brother, Charles set off to find their father who's experiment has taken him from off this earth. But Charles's faith in his own abilities pulls him away from Meg. If Meg wants to get her beloved little brother back, she's going to have to fight...without any weapon but herself.
THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES, by Patricia C. Wrede
I haven't had to replace this set yet, but it's still read and re-read. There's something about a princess who takes fate into her own hands that's irresistible, especially when she becomes a dragon's princess on purpose and then has to protect herself from the knights that try to rescue her, the wizards that try to trick her and the dragon fire that accidentally goes off when dragons sneeze.
HARRY POTTER, by J.K. Rowling
Of course all the books are on our shelves. They haven't had to be replaced but then they haven't been with us for decades either. My husband, young son, and even younger daughter, dressed up as Voldermort, Harry and Hermione to perform at a bookstore that was having a special midnight sale of whichever book it was at that time. For payment, they got the hardbound version. I was at a writer's retreat so didn't participate, but that doesn't mean the book isn't mine now, eh? I'm the mama. The book must stay with the set.
THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES AND OTHER FAIRY TALES, selected by Alfred David and Mary Elizabeth Meek.
Don't let the title deceive you. These aren't your children's fairy tales. These are a bit closer to the original moral tales that were told to adults not children. I have loved fairy tales and have - I admit it - a plethora of fairy tale books. I love reading all sorts of versions. The picture is the exact one on my copy except my book is taped over and over again. I got it in college for a class and never let it go. If you've only read the picture book versions of fairy tales, it's time to upgrade. See what the stories really say. By the way, in the real story, the little mermaid gets something special but it's not the prince. One young princess's stepmother has to dance in red hot iron slippers. Just a taste for what's in the book.
There are a lot more books I've read and loved - even non-fiction, even non sci-fi and fantasy, even grown-up ones - but these are the devoured ones. I will probably go re-read these again super soon because I just described them to you. How exciting!
Marian, that's me!
I love stories! I love to read fairy tales, fables, stories from around the world. I especially love scifi and fantasy. And I like to write. And watch movies. And play board games. And do theatre things.