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The Top Ten Books For Teens Today
The teenage years are a time of transition, and a teenager of thirteen is different in many ways to a nineteen year old. Some of these books are more suited to younger teens and some to older – and some perennial favorites will span all ages. For each book reviewed I have suggested the most appropriate age level. All of the books listed here are enjoyed by boys and girls alike.
Several of the most popular books for teens are not single novels, but series. This is a great way for teens to get into reading - if you enjoy one book in a series, go on to read more!
The books selected here are a mixture of classic and modern, fantasy and realism and all are popular with the thinking teen of today.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
There’s no doubt about it: in terms of sales, the number one book (or trilogy) for teenagers in 2012 is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The movie of the first book in the series was released on 23rd of March and is the biggest grossing non-sequel in its opening weekend. It is only beaten in takings in the USA by The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Both these are sequels, and the Harry Potter movie is the 7th in its series.
And unlike some other novels for teenagers, this series has some depth to it. For more details about what these novels are about, read my review of the series: The Hunger Games Trilogy - a Parent’s Perspective
The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling may now longer be writing Harry Potter novels but children from 8 to 80 have not stopped reading them, and they remain as popular with teenagers as ever.
Whether you have read the novels or not, everybody knows that Harry Potter is a wizard who attends Hogwarts School for Witches and Wizards and fights Voldemort, the personification of evil.
Harry didn’t know he was a wizard until he was eleven years old, when an owl brought him the news he had a place at Hogwarts. He is headstrong but surprisingly well adjusted, considering he lost both his parents as a baby and was brought up by an aunt and uncle who thought a suitable place for him was a cupboard under the stairs. A lesser child would be severely traumatised, but Harry Potter of course is less social commentary and more entertainment.
One my daughters began reading The Harry Potter books when she was 8, and is still re-reading them now at 14. Her older cousins also still enjoy them. These books are suitable for all age of teens.
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson could be called America’s answer to Harry Potter. Instead of being a wizard who doesn’t know it, Percy is an unsuspecting demi-god. His father is Posiedon and his mother a mortal. Zeus is none to pleased with Percy because he believes he has stolen his lightning bolt. His mother tries to protect him by sending him off to a boarding school. But strange things happen there, like a teacher who transforms into what Percy thinks is a vicious bird, which attacks him. He slays the bird, and then everyone behaves as if the teacher never existed. Home for the summer vacation, he goes on a trip with his mother and encounters an enormous monster who makes his mother disintegrate before Percy can save her. He kills the monster and then goes to Camp Half-Blood, the only place where he can be safe. Needless to say, he’s not safe there for long, and the books are rollicking adventures that appeal to both boys and girls, and teach them a bit about Greek Mythology along the way.
These books are aimed the younger end of teenage market.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Bod, whose full name is Nobody Owens, is a normal boy. It's his circumstances that are not normal. One night, when Bod is just a toddler, he wakes up with a noise in his house. Being curious he climbs out of his crib to look, and when he sees the open front door, it looks so inviting that he goes through.
Bod wanders up the road until he reaches a graveyard. What he doesn't know is that a man named Jack has killed all his family and wants to kill him too.
There's a new ghost in the graveyard and she can't stay long because this is not her proper place. She asks the ghosts there to look after her son. Mrs Owen never had a child, and she persuades her husband to let her look after Jack. So Bod lives an unusual life for a little boy, waking at night with the ghosts, and sleeping most of the day. As Bod goes exploring round the graveyard he soon finds things are not always how the seem.
Meantime Jack is still searching for Bod and still wants to kill him.
This book is suitable for all ages of teenager, and adults will enjoy it too. (I did!)
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
This book is a classic, and has been loved by teenagers for decades. (Its full title is: The Hobbit or There And Back Again, but it is usually just called: The Hobbit.)
It follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, after Gandalf, the wizard, asks him to go with a group of dwarves on a quest to recover stolen treasure from Smaug the Magnificent, a dragon.
Bilbo and the dwarves are captured by goblins and taken underground. Gandalf comes to the rescue, but Bilbo can't keep up with the others as they escape and gets lost in the underground tunnels. Trying to find his way out, he finds a ring.
The ring can make him invisible, but it has other powers too. Bilbo meets Gollum, who used to also be a hobbit before the ring corrupted him and turned him evil. If Bilbo can solve some riddles, Gollum will show the way out of the tunnels, but if he can't solve them he must pay with his life.
The Hobbit is a tale of heroism and growth, and won prizes soon after it was published. It is a fore-runner to Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and is to be released as a movie on December 14th 2012.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
It is close to Sophie Amundsen’s 15th birthday, when she arrives home to find a letter in the mailbox. There is no stamp on the letter, and what is inside is like no letter she has ever seen before. It is just a question, asking, “Who are you?”
The letters keep coming, and build up into easy to understand lessons on philosophy and religion, covering most of the main movements throughout history. Sophie gets more and more curious about the sender of these letters, and eventually meets the writer, who continues with her education. But there is a twist in this tale!
This book in is a great introduction for teenagers into philosophy. It may be a little challenging for younger teens, unless they are already read widely. However, the language and subject matter is suitable for all ages.
There Is No Dog by Meg Rossoff
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if God was a teenage boy? I haven’t but Meg Rossoff clearly has, because that’s exactly what Bob is. He has fallen in love with Lucy. Bob neglects his duties and floods and other disasters ensue. Eventually, Mr B, Bob’s deputy, feels compelled to intervene.
According to my daughter, this book is well written and makes you think about the nature of the universe.
This book is probably best suited to older teens or younger teens who read widely.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
When his neighbor’s dog is killed and left on the lawn with a fork stuck in the dead body, Chistopher John Francis Boone is determined to find out the culprit.
But Christopher has Asperger Syndrome and has never been beyond the end of his street on his own before. His search for the truth challenges him in ways he has never been challenged before. This book is a fascinating insight into how life with Aspergers affects Christopher. It is also a page-turning detective novel. You will also learn some fascinating facts about prime numbers, among other things!
Slated by Teri Terry
If you live in the USA you might not have come across this book yet, because it is not due for release in print form until January 2013. But it is available to pre-order or on Kindle - and it is going to be big! It already is big in the UK.
Like The Hunger Games, Slated is a dsytopian novel, but while it is also set in an unpleasant and dangerous future with a sixteen-year-old girl as the main character, this novel is far from a Hunger Games wanna-be.
Kyla, the main character, has been slated. That means that according to the government she is a criminal and has had all her memories removed to give her a new chance in life: in other words to start with a clean slate. This clean slate includes being taken away from her old family and placed in a new one. As the novel opens, Kyla is just about to leave the hospital where she has been for 9 months and meet her new family.
Wee Free Men (The Tiffany Aching Series) by Terry Pratchett
Tiffany Aching is a witch in training. Proper witches live on hard rocks, but Tiffany lives on the Chalk, where no good witch is ever found.
When Tiffany 's brother is stolen, she goes on a quest to rescue him, accompanied by the Wee Free Men, who are blue miniature Pictsies.
Like most of Terry Pratchett’s books, this one is hilarious.