Thursday, August 07, 2008

Because a couple of you asked...

Instead of sitting around trying to come up with ASSinine punny names for future books in the Twilight Series--Breaking Wind, Full Moon, The Butt Crack of Dawn--I thought I'd give you a few titles for teen girls ... and middle-aged librarians who have never made the emotional leap beyond 17.

Books for older teens (i.e. they feature sex, sexual assault, pregnancy or drugs or they're simply sophisticated from a narrative standpoint)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: let's start with first principles, here, folks. Published in 1948, this book pretty much invented the YA genre. It's still crackles with sexual energy and naive despair after all these years. The 2003 film version wasn't bad either, IMHO.

Before Wings by Beth Goobie: A 15-yr-old girl who has an aneurysm in her heart goes to summer camp where she engages with spirits who haunt the lake at night. Goobie is one of the most insightful and lyrical YA writers out there. She should be giving writing lessons to every aspiring novelist. It's too bad she's a bit of a recluse who doesn't do workshops because, oh my, her skills are so needed right now.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Melinda is raped at a party during the summer before high school and spends her freshman year as a social outcast. What might otherwise be yet-another-problem-novel is made rich by the depth of Melinda's character and the cutting authenticity of the high school environment.

Seven for a Secret by Mary C. Sheppard: Set in a Newfoundland out-port in 1960, this book tells the stories of three teen cousins as they unearth the secrets of their pasts and face the sometimes harsh realities of their futures. The narrative voice of 15-yr-old Melinda is spot on with the warmth of the Newfoundland dialect.

The Corner Garden by Lesley Krueger. I reviewed this novel a few years back and loved it. Toronto author, Krueger, stitches together the life of a troubled teen with that of her aged neighbour who has not yet come to terms with her own teen regrets as a Nazi sympathizer in 1940s Holland. And, no, this is NOT yet another WWII/Holocaust novel for children. I too will admit that that particular genre has been done to death. It is, however, more of a YA/Adult cross-over.

Feed by M.T. Andersen: A YA dystopia that actually has the courage to be a dystopia rather than carrying a saccharine message of hope. The characters in the novel receive everything they need through the feed that is implanted in their brains. They can order and buy any kind of experience they want. The only problem is the "they" gets lost in the "want."

Sights by Susanna Vance: How's this for a first sentence: "I was in the womb eleven and one half months, came out fat, durable and gorgeous." Baby Girl was born with the Sight but it doesn't let her see her own future. She and her Momma have fled her dad and now she's starting high school all sore-thumbish in a new town. Reading this book is all tickly, like drinking icy ginger ale on a hot day.

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty: Jessica spends a year missing her best friend Hope. No, it's not quite an allegory. It is, however, a smart, sassy look at high school written by a writer for Cosmo Girl. It also includes an irrational attraction to a bad boy, but this one is sorta kinda ok in the end and, most importantly, DOESN'T WANT TO EAT ANYBODY OR READ THEIR THOUGHTS. Some may lump Sloppy Firsts with other teen fluff like L.B.D: It's a Girl Thing or Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging but I found it to be a cut above. So did ole Whatzernamenow, the Harvard freshman who infamously plagiairized it a couple of years ago. Second Helpings, the sequel isn't so bad either.

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl by Martha Brooks: This from the epigraph attributed to John Gardner: "There are really only two plot lines: a stranger rides into town and a stranger rides out of town." In the book, a community nurtures a pregnant teen who lands in their midst. Sometimes the setting feels like a throw back to, uh, I dunno, a combination of Leacock's Mariposa and a the estrogen-laden bear hug novels of Carol Shields. In the end, it proves twice over that it takes a village to raise a child ... and that it takes a child to bind a village unto itself.

Books for your 11 and 12 year old girls who are reading Twilight despite your admonishments
Before Wings by Beth Goobie: See above. I love this book so much I accidentally gave it to my niece two Christmases in a row.

Everything on a Waffle, The Canning Season or just about anything written by Polly Horvath: Do you know the novels of Horvath? She's crackles with dark humour and creates some of the most memorable supporting characters out there.

The Emily Series by L.M. Montgomery (like duh)

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan: A pro-(quirky) family, pro-creativity, pro-happiness book for emerging teens. Imagine. It's also great, whacky reading for the home-schoolers out there.

Howl's Moving Castle or Witch Week or just about anything by Diana Wynne Jones. Diana Wynne Jones is round about one of the best fantasy writers for children ever but let's not get into that now, shall we? We could alway save fantasy and sci-fi for another list, another day.

Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman. OK, so I have a thing for fantasy when it comes to my late, middle readers. I put this one on the list because of the love interest in it--you know, in order to appeal to the Twilight readers.

You could also check out Kittenpie's book review site for older readers here. For those who don't know her, KP is my mommyblogging librarian doppelganger in Toronto. She also has the distinct advantage of reading far more widely that I do because, I suspect, she is just plain better at her job.

Do any of you have any suggestions, recommendations for me in the teen girl genre? I've had Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light and Sheree Fitch's The Gravesavers by my bed for about six months now but other books keep jumping the queue.

9 comments:

nomotherearth said...

I loved I Capture the Castle!!

I would probably suggest the Judy Blume books - classics that hold up, in my opinion.

I read a lot of fantasy, and the teen ones I would recommend would be the series of books by Alison Croggon, starting with The Naming.

I also really liked the Eragon series, but was dismayed when Mr Earth told me that he saw an interview with the author and he was really pretentious. Always clouds my judgement (judgment?).

Veronica @Toddled Dredge said...

In the 11-12YO range, I loved Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl. There is stalking, but it's not as creepy as the vampire kind.

Also, Kate Thompson's Switchers.

kittenpie said...

Oh, geez, recommendations? Well, as you mention (thanks, btw), that's what the kp reads site is about - partly because while I read a lot of kids' and teens' stuff, I can't remember it later, so I can hunt it down there. So yeah, not better at my job, just more forgetful!

But - one that might have some of the same hallmarks as the Twilight books and have been successful with older teen girls: A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray, I think, captures both the flirtation with sexuality and the danger of magic. It's a good read, though, and adds some social commentary about Victorian times, some mother-daughter relationship stuff, and some girl politics into the mix, which gives it a bit more substance, too.

anniegirl1138 said...

Speak is a great novel. I could get either gender to read it when I was teaching remedial reading at the high school level.

Beck said...

I Capture The Castle is one of my VERY favorites, of course.
How about Coraline by Neil Gaiman for the 12 year old aching for spooky thrills? But I'm not particularily great at thinking of books for that age.... right now, I'm just trying to keep my nine year old in books that are innocent but challenging. Tricky!

Mama Kickypants said...

I just finished 'Trickster's Choice' by Tamora Pearce. It's a fantasy, and I beleive she has written a number of other books set in the same world. Great characterization in the main character, Aly, lots of intrigue, a little romance. It would probably be fine for 13+. I'm halfway through the sequel, 'Trickster's Queen' - quite an accomplishment while mothering a breastfeeding 2 month old!

womaninawindow said...

Oh, I'm ridiculous and predictable. I loved the Little House series. What's wrong with me? Really? I must have been abandoned on a doorstep and wrapped in Cosmos pages or something - something Vogue and cutting. I'm so all about the old and guess I was, even when I was 12. Oh, and talking animals. If an animal spoke I was so on it!

crazymumma said...

I JUST stumbled out of the big ones room and she is out of her mind with excitement that the latest in the Twilight series is out, and then I come here and read The Butt Crack of Dawn and my post 40 post birthing body is seriously having difficulty keeping my pantyliner dry.

painted maypole said...

ok, must check some of those out.

any suggestions for good, not too long chapter books to read to my first grader?