The wonderful thing about books for twelve-fourteen year-olds is they explore many topics that are fitting for adult literature, too. These books cut straight to the chase – none of these books are moralistic or preachy or patronising – they are interesting, well-written stories about fascinating ideas.
- A single stone, written by Meg McKinlay – this book has rightly won many awards. It’s a unique story about a dystopian society, where women rule. The setting is a small village where everyone has a role to play for the good of the whole society. Jena is one of the seven, a group of small girls who have denied themselves food in order to tunnel through the mountains to find mica to warm them through the winter. This book deserves a second reading – there are many unspoken views on girls’ place in society and the expectations placed on them. This book is definitely one for girls, and probably for more sophisticated readers.
- Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children, written by Ransom Riggs – I haven’t seen the recent movie based on this book but I want to see it. I’m glad I’ve read the book first. Jacob is sixteen, and bereft after his grandfather’s death. He wants to find out whether the stories his grandfather told about a group of children he lived with when he was young are true. Because these children are peculiar – one can make flames appear from her hand, one has an extra mouth at the back of her head, one boy is invisible, and there’s an incredibly strong girl. The premise is a familiar one of good versus evil but the characters are unusual and there’s a lot of depth in the inner battles Jacob faces. I’m keen to read the next two books in the series.
- The Wednesday wars, written by Gary D. Schmidt – this American book is more for twelve and thirteen year-olds, possibly even younger. It’s the story of Holling Hoodhood, a thirteen-year-old boy in seventh grade, set in 1967. There are family dramas, school dramas, Shakespeare dramas – a fun read with lots of action. Great for boys and girls, even though the protagonist is a boy.
- One, written by Sarah Crossan – every fourteen-year-old girl should read this book, published this year. It has an amazing premise – conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi, are sent to school for the first time at sixteen. It’s written in verse, in a series of fragments, narrated by Grace. Sarah Crossan won the Carnegie medal for this book, and rightly so. She manages to convey in the briefest of language, exactly how all the characters are feeling and thinking without over-defining it. There is nothing moralistic or patronising about this book – it’s simply a story about a pair of characters whose story is rarely told. The book is quite thick, but not text-heavy. The verse flows, almost like a stream of consciousness. Renee Milhulka, who writes a fabulous book review blog, recommended this book to me – she has a wonderful review on One with some questions to discuss with your children or in the classroom.
- The Giver, written by Lois Lowry – this book caused a lot of controversy when it was first published in 2004. Many US schools banned it – hope that makes you want to read it to find out why! It’s set in a dystopian society, where colours don’t exist, babies are given to family units to be brought up, elderly people are ‘released’ after a smiling celebration and twelve-year-olds are assigned an occupation for life. Jonas is a twelve-year-old boy, marked out to be the next Receiver of Memories, a rare position of honour and importance. But Jonas and his teacher, the Giver, begin to question the system of Sameness together. This could also be read by younger kids, too – Miss ten might be ready to read it now. This is the first book in a series of four.
- The Spook’s apprentice, written by Joseph Delaney – this is more of an easy read than the other books mentioned here. Tom is a farm boy, the seventh son of a seventh son. His father is trying to find him an apprenticeship, and the Spook – who takes care of all things ghoulish and spooky – agrees to give him a month’s trial. Tom isn’t so sure – the Spook leads an isolated life and there’s witches and bogarts and the dead to deal with. There are thirteen books in this series, with a few extra ones about different characters’ earlier lives.
- Dragonfly song, written by Wendy Orr – this is another book written in both verse and prose. Such a fabulous achievement for young readers to broaden their literary boundaries and try something different! Aissa is the daughter of The Lady, who rules her small village, but she was dismissed from the village at birth because of her extra thumbs. Her father cut them off – and was killed the next day at sea. The gods were not happy. Aissa was not killed as ordered but secreted away to another family who had recently lost their baby daughter. Aissa’s journey into her true self unfolds through the book – it’s a heroic, epic story. I could see this one as a movie, just like Wendy’s early book, Nim’s Island, was made into a film!
I nearly wrote a few more book reviews geared towards boys but as Mr twelve (who reads my blog) will receive a few of these for his birthday in a couple of weeks, I decided to keep quiet! If anyone is interested in more books for young teenage boys, please email me and I’m happy to send you some ideas.
I’ll have some ideas for adult fiction next week. Happy Christmas shopping!