Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Mystery of Buying Books for Teens

I buy books for gifts. Christmas, birthday, shower. I don't care about the occasion. I don't care that the kid really wants the latest DS game. I'm okay with being that aunt who always gives you a book. After all, my aunt always gave me pajamas. Books are waaay better.

When I want a good book for my nieces or nephew, I ask Becky Levine, my writing partner. She's got a kid, but even better, she reads lots of young adult books herself. Usually this call takes place in a book store with lousy cell reception, so consider yourself lucky.

Becky blogs about writing, reading and life at www.beckylevine.com Next year, her book, The Critiquers Survival Guide will be out from Writer's Digest. She's written a kid's mystery that she is shopping around. She knows from where she speaks. Enjoy her wisdom.


When Terri asked me if I’d like to blog about good books to give to teens (or Young Adults as they’re called in the genre) for the holidays, I said, “Me? Talk about kids’ books? But I never do that.”

I wonder why she laughed. ☺

Terri mentioned YA books because she thinks, and I agree, that teens can be tricky to buy for. I write for kids and I review kids books, and I can tell you that tweens and teens are some of the pickiest readers out there. And now you’re saying, but what about those kids I see who never take their noses out of a book? And I’m saying, yes, they’re wonderful, but what you’re not seeing are the dozen other books a parent or teacher waved in front of their faces, to which they said a respectful, polite “No, thank you,” without even cracking the cover.

So, if you’ve got a reader who’s a teen or heading there, I offer you this list. I’ve gone for books that seemed to fly lower under the radar than others, so you do have a chance that they are, as yet, undiscovered delights. The age ranges are my best guestimates; reading ages are all over the spectrum.

·The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Hilarious, sweet post-apocalypse novel with LOL dialog on every page. (10-14)

·Skulduggery Pleasant (and a sequel) by Derek Landry. A skeleton detective, magic, and projectile fire balls. What more could any kid want? (10-14)

·Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis. A Newbery Honor book which, frankly, can turn young readers off, but a wonderfully charming narrator, telling the fictional story of his life as the first child born into freedom in the town of Buxton, Canada. (10-14)

·Sleeping Freshman Never Lie, by David Lubar. Lubar is a prolific writer who delivers books for kids of all ages. This is one of his “older” books, with a slight edge of darkness surrounding Scott’s first year in highschool. Again, a wonderful, funny voice that keeps a bit of that darkness away. (12 to 16).

·The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Mystery, science fiction, and tight, breath-holding suspense. Suffering from amnesia after a car accident, Jenna has a battle on her hands—to dig out the secrets under which she and her life are now buried. (12-17)

·Lessons from a Dead Girl, by Jo Knowles. At one point, Leah and Laine were friends. Now Leah is dead, leaving Laine with a heavy load of feelings to sort through and resolve, if she can. This book touches on some very serious and tough issues, and you should know your reader well, or check with the parents, to wrap up this one. Brilliantly written, the story is a gift of reality and hope. (13, maybe 14, to 18).

Check these out. Hopefully, there’s someone on your list for whom you can find a perfect fit. And if not, remember, Agatha Christie has been the first taste of “grown-up” mysteries for many a teen. You’re never too young for Miss Marple at Christmas.

19 comments:

Solvang Sherrie said...

The True Meaning of Smekday sounds good. My 9-year-old likes books that make him laugh out loud. Thanks for the recommendation, Becky!

beckylevine said...

Sherrie, I think he'll like it. It's one of my son's favorites.

Gottawrite Girl said...

Well, we can't wait for your book, Becky - and many, many thanks for sharing some of your YA favorites!

Betty Hechtman said...

Great news about your book, Becky. Nice idea to list books for YAs.

beckylevine said...

Hey, Susan--thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the books!

beckylevine said...

Thanks, Betty--it's pretty exciting! And all of those YA books work for not-so Y adults, too. :)

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Wow. It's amazing how gritty so many teen books are. Becky, is that the general trend for older teens? I read to escape and most of these sound very heavy.

beckylevine said...

Joanna, YA didn't exist when I was growing up--it's been magic for me to discover it. A lot is gritty (although Smekday and Skulduggery are sheer silly fun), but, in the good books, the writing is tighter and faster than any other I'm reading these days. And there are plenty out there that are fast and funny and sweet: try Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park (sorry, Terri, I forgot one!).

beckylevine said...

Oops--than any other GENRE I'm reading! :)

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Becky, I read Mary Poppins as a kid and cried absolute BUCKETS when she left the family. I don't think I could do that again! The original was MUCH better than the silly creature Disney created.

beckylevine said...

Joanna, Mary (aka Julie Andrews) TOTALLY comes through in Kluger's book. You HAVE to read it. And then go out and read Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries--also better than the movie, and--as much as I loved JA in it--the grandmother is MUCH more nastily funny in the book.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

So all that is a title? Everything after Kluger? You know, I might dip a toe in...I have to admit, since my son is a teen, some of this just makes me feel sad. I'm reading Queen Bees and Wannabes, and just spoke to a neighbor whose daughter is being, oh, marginalized at her school. It brings up such painful memories that I actually block most of this!

beckylevine said...

That is the title. I got my almost 13-year-old son to read it, and HE loved it--and it's not his type of book at all. Go for it!

Plot Whisperer said...

Eagerly awaiting your title listed, Becky!! Come on YA agents and editors. She's holding out for first-rate. Sign her now before it's too late...
Great post.
Thank you...

beckylevine said...

Martha, you're so sweet! Thanks. :)

Barrie said...

Another teen mystery I read lately and loved: The London Eye by Siobhan Dowd.

beckylevine said...

Barrie, I liked that one, too. And, let me just say that if you're looking for a NEW teen mystery this holiday, Barrie's book I So Don't Do Mysteries is getting great reviews and comes out TOMORROW, Dec 9th. It's on my xmas list!

joshua said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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