I’m a single parent (Dad) of a 14-year-old girl. She’s a capable reader but says that she finds it hard to choose what to read, so I was wondering if you could suggest some titles I could try with her?
Your daughter’s comments are certainly not different from many other young people of her age. Over the last decade in education there has been so much focus on boys underachieving, boys closing the gap etc that this seems to also seep into the book trade with so many more books being published that aims to bring boys into reading. This seems to be slightly at the expense of great books for girl readers.
Now, whether there are just as many books for girls being published as there ever were but the ever blooming ‘boy market’ has made it harder to find them, or that actually less of these books are being published is open to debate. But what I can promise is that there are some great books out there for this age group, written by some of today’s top authors. One thing I would also suggest is that you suggest to your daughter to speak to her school librarian, who will be able to point her in the perfect direction, but also to seek out expert advice from the public library service or any independent book store in your area. They will all have shelves full of books that will be just right. In the meantime, hopefully some of my suggestions will also work really well!
At the moment, one of my favourite authors has to be Sophie McKenzie. Not only does she have a real range of books, but she is an award-winner of the highest calibre in children’s books. Any of her books would be great to read but in my opinion her best has to be Girl Missing. The story of a girl who realises that she has been adopted and starts her search to find her birth parents. At this age young people are all about understanding who they are, and their identities, but these thoughts are explored in a great mixture of mystery, adventure within a real life story.
On the subject of award-winning authors, the late Siobhan Dowd, before she died, wrote some of the best books in the young person’s market. A Swift Pure Cry, I feel is probably her best, as well as being one of the first books I would put into any ‘just great reads’ section. The story is touching but told with such honestly that you can’t help but be pulled along with the characters.
Another two authors that are really popular with our teen girls are Meg Rosoff and Linzi Glass. Our students will be the first to tell you about the merits of both these authors and their favourite titles from each and looking at our borrower records Linzi’s Ruby Red is right up there. Like Siobhan Dowd Linzi is a great story teller, able to weave a magic through the lives of ordinary people in ordinary situations. Ruby Red is set in South Africa in the mid seventies amongst rivalries between Blacks and Whites. But as the story unfolds we see that there are some that truly believe in equality for everyone.
Meg Rosoff has a number of fantastic books but one that I find myself keep coming back to has to be How I Live Now, a book told from the perspective of a teenage girl caught up in a future war. Not at all futuristic, the war plays a big yet little part in the story. It is more a story about people, relationships and growing up that encapsulates its readers rather than a story about war. Again, Meg’s magic is through her characters allowing us to ask questions about what we would we do and how we would feel at the same time as feeling ultimately invested in each of the characters lives and their outcomes.
On the theme of future wars and teenage girls coping with this backdrop, Saci Lloyd’s The Carbon Diaries 2015 is another great novel. Set in the not too distant future when carbon rationing becomes something very real, we see how Laura copes with what this means whilst trying to live a normal life. The story seems so real as in diary format Laura tells all about her real worries, boys, make up and making it big with her band with few mentions of the impending doom one would feel the world was succumbing to. What makes it so real is that these are the things that matter to Laura, it’s not about the floods and the carbon rationing but it is about the everyday things that we would all still have to cope with if this did come to pass.
One the biggest genres around at the moment that is also popular with this age group is dystopian fiction. Moving on from its more adult titles such as 1984 and Never Let Me Go, dystopia has truly moved into the teen market. After the great success of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for me the next best series has to be James Dashner’s The Maze Runner which is just a high octane thriller/mystery set over three equally good books.
Other authors that our students would suggest would be ideal reads for this age group would have to be Sherry Ashworth, Jenny Valentine, Annabel Pitcher and Helen Grant, all of which appear regularly on our most read authors lists.