Books for Teens
Berkeley Parents Network >
The Arts, Books, Entertainment, & Media >
Books for Teens
My son, at the age of 16, has found the FIRST fiction book that he
actually likes reading: Shogun. He likes the action, the history,
politics, war strategy, and intrigue aspects of the book. Can anyone
offer any other reading suggestions of other books like this?
mom of non-reader
Our 17-year old boy was in same boat as yours, and enjoyed these two
titles -- they are ''guy'' books: Red Badge of Courage by Stephen
Crane; Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.
I loved that book when I was a kid! After reading it, I went through
a military phase, and enjoyed the rest of Clavell's ''The Asian
Saga:'' King Rat, Tai-Pan, Noble House, Whirlwind, and Gai-Jin. If
you think he's willing to branch out a bit, the Patrick O'Brian Master
& Commander books take place a bit earlier, but are very solid and
popular maritime fiction.
Also, although it may seem like a step ''down,'' the Redwall books are
really fun fantasy/battle books, and there's a lot of them. I know
they're geared towards a younger audience than Shogun, but they're a
fun and exciting read (even now that I'm 22!).
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara - a terrific Civil War novel with
great insight into what the war was about and what it meant for our
country. A great read for anyone.
My son loved Shogun and also really liked the historical novels by
Edward (?) Rutherford. ''London'' is one of them, and I forget the names
of the others. They're long and involved and cover several periods of
history in what my son thought was a very exciting way.
I haven't read Shogun myself but see that the author, James Clavell,
has many more books. I'd suggest he browse the Clavell holdings at
your public library--read the jacket copy, the first page--and pick
one that pulls him in. It's all about engagement. You're right to try
to build on it.
Also have him browse Amazon's page for Shogun. See the ''readers who
bought this also . . .'' Those are computer-generated recommendations,
but it makes sense to look at them. It's telling you else people who
liked Shogun liked.
Amazon will often provide a few pages to sample, too.
Here are books my 17 year old son has read and enjoyed since 8th grade:
The Lightning Thief by Riordan (it's part of a trilogy)
Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by Lubar
King Dork by Frank Portman,
City of Ember by DuPrau - It is part of a series.
Any book by Margaret Peterson Haddix -
The Grave Yard Book by Neil Gaimon.
Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Twisted by Laura Halse Anderson
Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs - about a 15 year old boy who comes to
the U.S. from Mexico through the Arizona desert.
Chris Crutcher writes YA books about athletes and sports.website:
American Born Chinese by Gene Yang, and Watchman by Alan Moore.
Has your son tried Bernard Cornwell's books about Richard Sharpe, a
soldier in the Napoleonic War? Fabulous stuff! (And if he's up for a
bit more fantasy along with his war & action, Naomi Novik's
''Temeraire'' books add dragons to the mix during the same time period
-- and are otherwise pretty historically accurate.)
My family attended a wedding recently wherein a very sweet and
eager 13 year old girl pretty much entertained and chased after
my very fast and happy 15 month old son while the rest of us
relaxed. I'd like to send this gal a book (her mom says she is an
avid reader; ''Reading is her life.''). Can anyone recommend a
recent, excellent book for a 13 year old girl, preferably w/ a
strong teenage gal character? I looked at some lists suggested in
the SF Chronicle on 6/27, but I don't know which books would be
appropriate for a girl of her age.
Thanks for your help
If this 13 yr old is like mine, it might be better to get her a
gift card for Barnes and Noble or Cody's. My daughter has a
long list of books that she wants to buy vs take out from the
library and hordes gift cards to work on her list. That way you
know she will get something she truly wants.
My daughter (who happens to be 13 and a big time book worm) recommends
"Star Girl" by Jerry Sppinelli. You may want to consider a certificate to a local bookstore,
the reasoning of my daughter being, 13 year olds that like to read a LOT, use the library, hunt the used bookstores, etc. It is great fun getting a book certificate and going wild at the book store, as you get to choose something you might otherwise not really be able to afford, and it turns the experience into an outing as well!
I teach middle school English and have many voracious readers
in my classes. Some great titles include: The Sisterhood of the
Traveling Pants, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill a
Mockingbird, The Red Scarf Girl, The Golden Compass, Samurai's
Garden, This Boy's Life, My Antonia, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein,
Call of the Wild, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the
Night, just to start. Not all of these have female
protagonists, but they all have appealed to my female students
in the past. Good luck and thanks for celebrating her love of
My daughters, 13 and 14, both enjoyed the most recent book by
Cornelia Funke. (The name escapes me --argggh!) They are reading
her first book, ''Thief Lord'' now.
Also favorites are the Patricia Wrede 'Dragon' series (''Searching
for Dragons'' etc) and the Sammy Keyes mysteries by Von Draanen.
But, you know, it sounds like she already knows what she wants.
Why not a Barnes and Noble gift card, or a gift certificate to
Beauty, by Robin McKinley. This is for the 10-14 age range, but
I read it for the first time at 37 and could not put it down.
The writing is beautiful, the plot utterly gripping, and it's
actually one of my most favorite books of all time!
It's a retelling of the original Beauty and the Beast fable
(PLEASE don't think Disney...) the lead character is very
strong, very independent, with such strong moral character...and
she's only 16 years old.
This book was published in 1978 but is still in print and
available within 24 hours at Amazon. You mentioned wanting
a ''recent'' book, but if this girl's life is books, as her mom
said, she has likely read all of the recent stuff. Why not
introduce her to something wonderful she might otherwise not
discover, like Beauty? Check out the reviews at Amazon. You'll
be amazed at the strong response people have to it!
You might want to try a novel by Jane Austen or one of the
Bronte sisters. I read ''Pride and Prejudice'' for the first time
when I was around that age and though a lot of the nuances were
lost on me at the time, I remember really liking the story. I've
since read it countless times. Even if it's still a little
advanced for her, she can always go back and read (or re-read)
it later... Just a little plug for my favorite author
--Loves to read also
If she's an avid reader you're likely to give her a book she's
already read. My daughter is that age and is happiest with gift
certificates for good bookstores.
- parent of avid reader
My 11-year-old gave her 13-year-old cousin ''My Not So Terrible
Time at the Hippie Hotel'' and both girls loved it. It's by our
own Berkeley writer Rosemary Graham and you can check it out at
Phillip Pullman's ''Dark Materials'' trilogy. It's fabulous.
I have nieces who are 10 and 13, so have bought (and read) quite
a few books that fit your request:
Alanna:The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (First in a series of
4 about a young girl who pretends to be her brother in order to
become a knight)
Wild Magic, also by Tamora Pierce (Another quartet, this one
about a girl who can communicate with animals through magic)
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman (fantasy about a girl who
grew up in a college in Oxford and her animal daemon -- a
creature companion. This Oxford is only somewhat similar to ours.)
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (about a girl named Harry who is
given the sword of her country's most famous female dragon-killer
and how she fulfills the legacy)
Lyddie by Katherine Paterson (about a girl in the mid 19th
century who must go to work in the textile mills in Lowell, Mass.)
Earthquake at Dawn by Kristiana Gregory (Historical novel about
the 1906 SF earthquake)
Catherine, called Birdy by Karen Cushman (very funny historical
novel about a girl in medieval England whose father is trying to
marry her off to the highest bidder)
The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (the first of 3 Sally
Lockhart adventure novels that take place in the late 19th century)
It all depends on her taste (and yours), but if I were to pick
one, I'd porbably pick The Blue Sword or Ruby in the Smoke.
There is also Eragon by Christopher Paolini, who is a nineteen
year old homeschooled prodigy. This new book is the best young
adult fantasy book I've read since Harry Potter but the
protagonist is a boy.
I'd like to find out what boys are reading these days. I have an almost
13 year old who is a very strong reader and I need ideas for good books
to suggest to him, as he moves out of juvenile fiction into adult stuff.
Recently he's read The Da Vinci Code and others by the same author,
and lots of Tony Hillerman Navajo mysteries. I'd like him to put his
reading energy into good books, not junk, but don't want to stifle him
by insisting he read only classics. It would be great to hear what other
teenage boys are enjoying.
I have also been looking for interesting books of high quality for my
12.5 year-old avid reader. I have tried to steer him towards classics
such as Lord of the Flies, Watership Down, The Arabian Nights, and To
Kill a Mockingbird. Although these may be school textbooks for
some kids, he has not read them in school. He has loved some of the
books I've recommended and been lukewarm about others. I think a part
of him still prefers teen science fiction, rather than more serious novels.
Mom of avid reader
You are in luck! Two of my friends just published a
terrific book called ''Great Books for High School Kids''
edited by Rick Ayers and Amy Crawford. It is mostly about
teachers in the classroom, but has excellent lists of
books by topic after each chapter, and a very extensive
list at the end. There are some ''classics,'' but lots of
other newer authors as well. It seems like a good
resource to help you find what you are looking for.
For the parent looking for ''teenage boy'' reading material:
My three teenage boys read ''The Cat Who.....'' mystery novels by
Lillian Jackson Braun. I think they are quite bizarre, but my kids
like them. They also read the ''Redwall'' series by Brian Jacques.
My oldest (16) recommends the recent translation of Beowolf.
And they all read Japanese graphic novels.
Here are some books my son (now 19) has enjoyed reading.
The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
His Dark Materials Trilogy: The Golden Compass / The Subtle
Knife / The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
JRR Tolkien Ring triology
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (we read these to him
when he was much younger but he's getting more of the
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
He has also enjoyed some non-fiction but your son might be a
little young still: Fast Food Nation and Tuesdays with
Morrie come to mind.
It's definitely easier to find books for my daughter!
My 13 year old (Berkeley!!) son is totally into Michael
Moore's books. Other than that he reads manga (Japanese
graphic novels). He especially likes the Ranma 1 1/2 series.
He will also read comic strips such as The Far Side and
zoomed through some historical non-fiction graphic books
such as A History of the United States. I have tried to get
him to read some classic novels - especially the adventure
novels such as Treasure Island - with some success. He loved
Lord of the Rings but that hasn't translated into him
reading other fantasy as much as I thought. He did read all
of the Redwall books though (mostly when he was 10-12 yrs old).
Can you recommend books for kids who are 15 or 16 years old, but
are reading at about a 3rd grade level. I need books that are
high-interest, low vocabulary. If they had characters that were
not all lily white that would be good too.
Two words: comic books
There are a bunch of great comic book stores in the Berkeley area
- here are some past recs that I think are still good:
The clerks in these stores are usually very knowledgeable and
friendly and could help you find some that would be appealing
to a teen without too much gore or sex. Many of the comics
nowadays are very artful and articulate and some are more like
books than comics.
My teen at 14-15 got completely hooked on the Harry Potter books
too, if you don't think that would seem to babyish to an older
teen. He also liked the Anne Rice vampire series. A more adult
book that he liked recently is called The Alchemist, by a
Brazilian writer, which is short, with very plain language, easy
to read and surprisingly philosophical.
Girls might like magazines - all sorts of magazines from fashion
to music to literary.
Another suggestion, for a teen boy who doesn't read well and
might be resistant to any books, is video games. Some of the
adventure games require quite a lot of reading of intructions and
dialog. Even little kids will enthusiastically learn difficult
words in order to play the game! You could get suggestions from
Dr. Comics & Mr. Games which hosts the Roleplay Workshop.
The book Reading for Understanding (Schoenbach, Greenleaf et.al,
Jossey-Bass) may offer some useful insight along with it's
companion book Building Academic Literacy may offer some insight.
I used it in a Literacy Class at San Francisco State.
In particular, the authors suggest a way to literacy for
non-readers. Specific suggestions are for RL Stine, non-fiction
and magazines, but also process for bring students up to reading
I don't have specific book recommendations, instead a method for
Lexile.com has a searchable index of books indexed by lexical
complexity. For kids reading at a 3rd grade level you are
looking for books in the 300-500 range. You can search according
to keyword as well, so you can come up with a list of books at
the appropriate reading level, related to a certain topic of
interest. When you click on a book there will often be a link to
Amazon.com to buy the book. I use it to read the reviews and
find out if the book really is appropriate.
I did a quick search and came up with The Zack Files series. The
series in general is around 500-550, but one title, Evil Queen
Tut and the Great Ant Pyramids has a lexile of 420.
I'm looking for great books (or videos) for a 14 year old that
will convey the message of ''justice.'' My nephew recently
experienced his first major injustice and he's really lost faith
in adults, fairness, and humanity.
I don't know if the nature of the injustice your nephew
experienced had anything to do with the legal system, but there
is a series of books designed for high school students about the
U.S. justice system that seems quite good: it's called Crime,
Justice, and Punishment, and you should be able to find it at
any well-stocked public library. I have a friend, Sara Manaugh,
who is both a U.C. Berkeley Rhetoric Ph.D. and Columbia Law J.D.
who wrote one of the books in the series, Judges and Sentencing.
And on injustice on the larger sense, there's always Harold
Kushner's classic When Bad Things Happen to Good People, which I
think I read at about that age, on my father's urging. It's
written for adults but I don't the reading level is that
advanced, but the subject matter is wrenching -- Kushner was
grappling with his child's fatal illness and trying to keep his
faith (he's a rabbi).
I recommend the Autobiography of Malcolm X and Coming of Age in
Mississippi as two books about the fight for justice. Both are
pretty readable for a 14 y.o. with average or better reading
skills, as long as he has someone to discuss them with. Also,
To Kill A Mockingbird is a classic for that age group. None of
these books deliver pat answers or complete resolution, which I
think is a necessary fact of life that 14 y.o.'s (and the rest
of us) have to start coming to terms with.
Try ''Revenge'' by Laura Blumenfled. It's about a young
woman whose father is shot (but not killed). She explores
her desire for revenge and talks to people around the world
about revenge. It is related to the idea of justice--of finding
how one can resolve the desire to get even, to live in a world
that is not fair. It's very well written and i know some high
school kids that are enjoying it.
this page was last updated: May 25, 2012
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2013 Berkeley Parents Network