Looking for ideas for books to give teen readers in your life? We think Devine Intervention by Seattle author Martha Brockenbrough makes an ideal gift. An L.A. Times review compared it to Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens; others have said Brockenbrough is a good match for readers who like John Green. But what else would make a good gift for a teen reader? We decided to ask Brockenbrough herself for ideas:
My brother meant well, but he will forever hold the record for giving the lamest holiday gift ever: an encyclopedia of calories in foods. Pick a food, it would tell you how many calories it had. Much as it’s tempting to give a teen what seems like a life-changing book, chances are that first edition of Good Things Happen to Kids with Clean Rooms will be shoved under the bed (along with 47 single socks, a cheese stick wrapper, and the overdue library book you’ve been looking for).
The kind of life-changing read you want to give is something that gives pleasure when it’s read in front of a fire, perhaps with a cup of cocoa. This is the sort of thing that weaves its way into a person’s storehouse of favorite memories. In short, the right book at the right time is the secret to a life well lived.
So what’s likely to be a great read for a teen this holiday season? Here are five picks:
Revived by Cat Patrick
Daisy Appleby is a 15-year-old science experiment who died in a bus wreck when she was tiny, and has been revived five times, starting over in new towns with new names with each resuscitation. The book is smart and fast-paced, and what seems like an intriguing experiment unfolds as something sinister, made more agonizing by a romance doomed by her circumstance.
This is a great choice for fans of science fiction and romance, and readers who like it can move on to Patrick’s daring other novel, Forgotten, about a girl who can only remember things that haven’t happened yet. (It’s ever bit as mind-bending as it sounds.)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This much-lauded novel, about two young women pressed into espionage into World War II, deserves all the accolades. When one of them, “Verity,” is caught by the Gestapo, what she confesses could lead to disaster. The book has one of the best endings ever—dramatic, surprising, teary—and it’s one adult readers will love just a much as teens do.
Wein has written five other books of historical fiction, and her blog has a great section on vintage fashion, including links to patterns for clothes and accessories, in case we get snowed in this winter.
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
This book bucks one of the biggest trends in young adult fiction: There is no romance, unless you count the love the protagonist has for the orphaned baby bonobo she rescues.
Set in Congo, Endangered tells the story of 14-year-old Sophie, who visits her mother at a bonobo sanctuary she runs. Sophie makes a critical error, which is compounded perilously when rebels stage a coup. The book is harrowing, beautifully written, and made Schrefer a National Book Award Finalist. Schrefer’s earlier books include the teen novel The School for Dangerous Girls and a novel for adults called Glamorous Disasters.
White Cat by Holly Black
This is the first book in a series that includes Red Glove and this year’s release, Black Heart. All three books are fantastic.
White Cat introduces us to our antihero, Cassel Sharpe, who is the only one in his family who can’t curse people with his bare hands. Since he killed his best friend, though, he has been sleepwalking and is on the edge of being kicked out of school—and discovering things aren’t necessarily as he thought them to be. Chances are, any teen who reads this will be clamoring for the next two books in the series.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Elisa is a princess who lives in the shadow of her thinner, more beautiful sister. But Elisa bears the mysterious godstone in her navel and knows she’s destined for some great or terrible thing. How she lives up to this prophesy is unexpected, smart, and at times heartbreaking, and readers who enjoy it will almost certainly want to pick up The Crown of Embers, the sequel published this year.
Be warned: that one ends on a cliffhanger that makes the wait for the last book in the trilogy agonizing. Carson is a fine writer of fantasy, and readers who like Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore will devour her work.
In Devine Intervention by Martha Brockenbrough, we meet Jerome, an unlikely guardian angel in a rehab program for wayward souls. He’s assigned to watch over Heidi Devine, who can’t quite figure out why she hears an odd voice in her head or what Lynyrd Skynyrd songs are doing in there. This smart, funny teen novel has been optioned for the screen by Jerry Zucker and Janet Zucker at Zucker Productions (Ghost, Naked Gun).
Martha Brockenbrough lives and writes in Seattle.