I’m a teen services librarian and lately I’m delighted to find that I’m serving more and more adult patrons. Many teen book virgins feel some trepidation, but there is no need, there is something for almost everyone in the Teen section. Teen books are often fast-paced reads, but don’t let that fool you: They are not simplistic. Teen publishing often seems more willing to take risks and is interested in challenging social conventions — just like teens! However, not all teen books are created equal, and just like books for adults there is lots of mass-produced crap. Here are a few suggestions of some outstanding books in several genres.
There is a trend of great speculative fiction happening in teen publishing. Most of which is not your space type Sci-Fi but more dystopias, scary government, anti-consumerism type stuff. One of my all time favorites in this (and any genre) is House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Set in a not-too distant future, we meet El Patron, drug business king pin and one of the most powerful men in the world. He is well over 100 years old and his body is giving out, and that is where his teenage clone Matt comes in. But Matt has his own personality and consciousness even if his destiny is predetermined. Bleak, scary, all too realistic and great for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale or Brave New World.
Think reality TV goes a little far? Try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. One male and one female teen from the 12 districts must be tithed yearly to a fight until death on a televised game show. Think this has been done before? Think again. Collins creates a story full of surprises, action, and contemplative moments. Fair warning you will not be able to put this down!
Fun for hipsters, geeks and nerds, try these two smart and funny novels:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Thought provoking, hilarious and feminist. You’ll wish you knew Frankie. Hell, you’ll wish you were Frankie.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Sweet, dorky, road trip romance for those who love 16 Candles, High Fidelity or Say Anything.
Some of the most beautifully written books in the teen section are from Europe and Australia. Many of them are marketed as “adult” books there, but “teen” books in the U.S.
How I live now by Meg Rosoff is a short intense book that you will never forget. Set in England during an attack by unnamed terrorists,15-year-old Daisy and her teen cousins try to survive on their own. It is as confusing, disturbing and heartbreaking as one might imagine it would be after a sudden breakdown in society. This war story focuses on desolation, hunger, longing, pain and an intense love story between two of the cousins.
Two very different novels about WWII are The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and Tamar by Mal Peet. The Book Thief, a book club favorite, is a heartbreaking tale of friendship set during the holocaust. Tamar is a road trip/mystery that follows Tamar as she searches for the secret of her name and tries to solve the mystery her grandfather’s past as a Dutch resistance fighter.
Touching Snow by Sindy M. Felin, a National Book Award finalist, is the story of a first generation Haitian immigrant dealing with culture clashes, child abuse and her own sexual orientation in 1980s NYC. Not for the faint hearted but still a hopeful story that would be great for a book group.
If you’d like other suggestions for teen books (for teens or adults!), please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Jennifer, Teen Center