I’m a librarian in a secondary school looking to set up a new teen book group. Can you suggest some titles that you think would work well?
Out of all the book groups that we run in our school the one I probably enjoy the most is our teen book group.
Most of the students have taken part in the different book groups we run throughout the year since they have been in the school so we have built up a fantastic relationship with them and we all know each other’s reading tastes, likes/dislikes inside in. This always makes for some fascinating discussions especially as the group is so diverse in their tastes.
One thing we like to do is challenge the group with books they might not usually have picked up but that we know have a lot in them and can create some really in-depth discussions. These can either be authors that aren’t as widely read as others, or books with subject matter not common in teen fiction.
One of my all time favourite discussions from our group was around the book Unique by Alison Allen-Gray. The book looks at the idea of cloning and all the moral issues that could surround this within a story that really engages you as a reader as you start to make the connections and understand the themes within it. A number of our students that were part of this book group then went on to study Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in sixth form and were able to reference this book, the discussions we had around it and the way these issues are portrayed in novels.
For me teen book groups are also really enjoyable to run because there as so many great teen authors out there. At the moment we are enjoying an influx of YA (Young Adult) novels so there is so much on the market that is engaging, original and captivating teens in what could usually be a time where they might turn away from reading. Some of my recent favourites have included Saci Lloyd and especially The Carbon Diaries, Gemma Malley’s The Returners and Moira Young’s dystopian Blood Red Road.
It’s some of the more established authors though that I have enjoyed covering in our book groups. Authors like Kevin Brooks and Graham Marks whose books fit like gloves when it comes to teen book groups. Probably one of best teen books in my opinion comes from Graham Marks himself, How It Works is written in such an intelligent, knowing way that it dissects what it’s like to be a teen within a story that seems so real and grounded yet has an element of the supernatural. Kevin Brooks; iBoy is another title that has that similar play between the true, gritty, ‘real lifeness’ of being a teen yet in an inspired, original idea that mixes a little bit of sci-fi in too. Both books give you plenty of discussion topics within them but are also just really well-written books.
When people ask me what the best part of working in children’s books is I always reply that it’s the fact children’s authors cover such great topics that treat readers with great respect and without a hint of arrogance of pretentiousness. Young people are less willing to stick with something if they are not enjoying it, so the ability to engage from the first to last page is something the best children’s writers are able to do. Jonathan Kebbe, I believe is one of those authors and his book Noodlehead is one that we have revisited in our teen book group over the years. Dubbed as a teen’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the book looks at what it’s like to be a teen that doesn’t fit in, doesn’t match the mould and for that he is sent to a school for problem teenagers and drugged up with the rest of the student body. As with a number of teen books the novel looks at some of the bigger issues in life such as free will but does so in such an engaging way it makes for an intense yet satisfying read.