5 Books for the Reluctant Tween Reader

My friend asked me a few weeks ago for book suggestions for her tween niece – her  words were “something that isn’t Divergent” which is apparently the only book that exists in this girl’s world and I know she isn’t alone even though ::shudders:: it’s one of my least favorite YA dystopian novels. I thought I’d share the books I suggested here and open the floor to you guys – what books would you suggest for a tween who doesn’t read much?

Suggestion #1 : The Dystopian Series

book one of the Lunar ChroniclesIt’s probably not surprising to you guys that my first suggestion was The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer since I can’t go more than twelve minutes without mentioning it to someone. I might have impulsively half shrieked it to her immediately and then, embarrassed, pretended my shoes were fascinating.

But the truth is, this series would be high on my list of suggestions for tweens, teens or adults and I think it’s perfect for the reluctant reader because it’s so effortlessly readable and highly prone to binging. You will devour this world once you enter it. And it was an obvious suggestion for a girl who loved Divergent. This is a similar genre but a thousand times better.

I love that all the main characters are the kind of girls you want your girls to emulate. They are not vapid self centered tweetie girls with nothing on their mind but shoes. They are mechanics and hackers and girls who know how to work hard and yes they are boy crazy like woah but they mostly try to keep those feelings in check and mostly they are just about “Do you think he likes me?” and “I bet he’d be fun to kiss,” and not much more. And if they like the first book, there are a half dozen more and short stories to keep them reading.

If they like The Lunar Chronicles, they should also check out: The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Suggestion #2 : The Sweet Love Story

15749186I was hooked on To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han from pretty much the first page. This one is for the boy crazy niece or the painfully shy girl. The one who eats up romantic comedies like it’s her job. And even though it’s cliched, it also feels fresh. And even though the main character is boy crazy, she’s also wonderfully naive and innocent. So you probably won’t get in trouble with your sister for suggesting it.

One of my favorite things about this book, aside from the sweet romances, was the very strong family dynamic – Lara Jean is really close with her father and sisters and it shows. Also – the food – I don’t know many teenagers who cook as often as Lara Jean and have such a sophisticated palate. I would not mind my daughter picking up said traits.

If they like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, they should also check out: the sequel or any of Han’s other books, anything by Jennifer E. Smith or Judy Blume, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Suggestion #3 : The Series About a Group of Friends

517y761mL0L._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_I’m impatiently waiting for the day I can hand over The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick to my daughter. These are kind of the Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High of the current generation – centered around a group of friends who each have their unique personality type, talents and family issues to deal with – the girls are in sixth grade when the stories start and progress through middle school.

This one is also a great read for the moms of daughters. It’s cool from a mom perspective to see the girls grow and change with each book. And you’ll want your daughters to be like these girls – I’m not saying they never get into trouble but they always mean well – you know? Also the book club mentioned in the title? The girls and their moms start a club to read one classic novel a year with each other and discuss it. At first there are eye rolls galore but the girls all grow to love the club and they READ the books and that often leads to reading other books and the author does a great job at making whatever book they are reading set the tone for the book.

If they like The Mother Daughter Book Club series, they should also check out: The Babysitters Club obviously (check out the new graphic novel format), Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (splurge for a gorgeous edition), Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (mentioned in one of the MDBC books ; free on kindle)

Suggestion #4 : The Book That’s Really Poetry

11527309This is one for the girl who just really doesn’t have the interest in reading a whole book – but happens to like poetry. May B. by Caroline Starr Rose is actually written in poetic form but it’s not stuffy about it like those awful epic poems you had to read in high school. Beautifully written, it’s also #allthefeels with a Little House on the Prairie vibe. And it’s a quick read so it’s not a huge time investment.

If they like May B., they should also check out: Little House in the Big Woods if they were all about that early pioneers vibe ; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai if they want more poetry ; The Princess Diaries or I Capture the Castle if they are interested in the whole nonconvential book writing styles thing – these two are written like diaries, or you could call them epistolary novels if you want to give a vocab lesson.

Suggestion #5 : The Books That Aren’t Books At All aka Web Shows Based on Classic Novels

Yes, you can trick your tween or teen into experiencing Pride and Prejudice without picking up a book at all. I know, there are movies that are super, but this web show provides the experience in four minute increments, perfect for the short attention span – and it’s a modernized retelling – and it’s funny – and the cast is amazing – and watching Jane Austen retellings is an excellent way to get your kids obsessed with Jane Austen and often leads to them tripping and falling into the actual books. Studies have shown. Probably. If you are like dead set on this being a books only excursion, get the book based on the web show. But if they are super reluctant to even leave the safe confines of youtube, point them this way. And then watch with them. And prepare to laugh and swoon.

If they like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, they should also check out: Anne With An E, Emma Approved, the actual Pride and Prejudice or movies that are also modern interpretations of classic novels like Clueless (Emma) or 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew).

OK: Your turn! What books would you suggest for the reluctant tween reader?

Book Tag | Elements Book Covers

The Elemental Challenge: Should You Choose to Accept it:

1. Find a book with water on it.
2. Find a book with blue on it.

1. Find a book with fire on it.
2. Find a book with red on it.

1. Find a book with something related to earth on it.
2. Find a book with green on it.

1. Find a book with air on it.
2. Find a book with white on it.

Spirit Bonus:
Find a book with the colors blue, red, green, and white on it.

Water: 1. Find a book with water on it. 2. Find a book with blue on it.

I spotted The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion a mile away and knew I wanted it to represent blue / water right away both because of the gorgeous blue and the fact that I’m extremely anxious to read it having adored The Rosie Project. I’ve had Fluke by Christopher Moore on my shelves for years and still haven’t finished it. Unlike some of his other books (Lamb continues to be one of my all time favorites), this one didn’t grab me right away and I have a tendency to pick it up only to put it back down again. Someday…

Fire: 1. Find a book with fire on it. 2. Find a book with red on it.

I don’t think I have any books that are more vibrantly red than Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel which my book club discussed last month. I didn’t finish the book though I kinnnnda enjoyed it. Honestly, it just seemed to drag a bit too long and too often for me despite some really great writing and wonderful moments. Of course for an actual symbol of fire, I knew I was going to need something dystopian. Divergent by Veronica Roth definitely does the trick, visually, and is also a fantastic book to boot.

Earth: 1. Find a book with something related to earth on it. 2. Find a book with green on it.

I probably have more green books than The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown but I loved the vines shooting out of the letters and thought it fit the concept of “earth” brilliantly. I haven’t read this one yet but I’m looking forward to it. Then of course there is the terribly literal interpretation of “earth” – A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is one of those books that I feel I must read at some point but keep putting off for unknown reasons (probably that aforementioned sense of self obligation – I don’t like it when I tell myself what to do).

Air: 1. Find a book with air on it. 2. Find a book with white on it.

This might have been the hardest one. I have books that are more literally white but they are kind of boring to photograph. And what is more iconically white than a wedding dress? Thus American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld wins for sure. I read Prep but haven’t read this one yet – time will tell if it’s equally brilliant.  And then there is the idea of “air” being present in a book. I mean technically any book with a picture on it also has air in the picture, right? I finally settled on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because of the clouds on the cover and further justified the choice because it’s such a fantastic book.

Spirit Bonus: Find a book with the colors blue, red, green, and white on it.

I actually found two and coincidentally they are both written by Jasper Fforde. Leave it to Fforde’s all encompassing all consuming imagination to produce covers that contain every possible color. I’m OBSESSED with the Thursday Next series and seriously adored One of Our Thursdays is Missing. I haven’t read Shades of Grey yet but I’m expecting great things.

What books would you have chosen?

If you are already thinking about your answer: YOU, my friend, are tagged.

15 Lessons Learned Watching The Maze Runner


Last night I decided to watch The Maze Runner even though I haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet. Because I’m a rebel. Yup. That’s right. Also my husband was like “Do you want to watch The Maze Runner?” And I said yes.

Having not read the book, I was going into the movie relatively uninformed except that I’ve read a description of said book and read the first few pages. This is what I knew going in (mild spoilers):

A boy is trapped in a box that opens into a big grassy field known as The Glade. He doesn’t know who he is or how he got there but when he gets out of the box there are a ton of other teenage boys who also don’t know who they are or how they got there or why but they all seem to have come to terms with this information until a girl shows up a few days later and then they’re like WTF?? This changes everything????!!!!!”

I’ll be honest, I didn’t love this movie. The plot was fairly interesting but it also felt incredibly rehashed and because it was a movie trying to do a book’s job, it left a lot of questions unanswered that I tried not to dwell over but pretty much failed. After about half an hour I almost turned the movie off but my husband and I found that by making snarky jokes and heckling the movie loudly that it made it enjoyable to watch.

Things Learned while watching The Maze  Runner (spoilers obvy)

So a quick synopsis of this movie would be “If Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games Had a Baby and there were giant cyborg spiders there.”


Lesson one: The first thing that Thomas learns when he enters the Glade (before he remembers that his name is Thomas) is that nobody knows why they are there and that there is a giant maze all around them that could conceivably lead to an exit but they aren’t allowed to go in the maze because they said so.

Lesson two: Then he tries to go in the maze basically immediately and another boy whose name is Golly or Gabby or Gally or something beats the crap out of him for it and when Thomas is like WTF? the walls of the maze start to close and he’s like “Oh so that wall would have crushed me?” and I was like, you could have led with that guys.

Lesson three: Except the whole maze doesn’t close, just the entrance. But apparently if you get trapped inside the maze you will for sure die because no one who has been trapped in the maze has ever come back because Grievers. What are Grievers you ask? We don’t know. Nobody has ever seen them. But you’ll die. And I’m like “Or maybe they just found the exit and left??”

Lesson four: If you get stung by that thing nobody has ever seen, you’ll die but first you’ll go into a murdery rage and then the other boys will kill you, so for sure, you will die. Look at this wall of names of all the boys who have been trapped here. Look at these names of all the boys who have DIED.

Lesson five: If you run into the maze without permission enough times, the boys will make you an official runner because they are tired of throwing you in the pit and reminding you that you will die but that Golly / Gally guy will for sure keep making slanty eyebrows at you or possibly those are just his normal eyebrows.

Lesson six: Turns out that your memories are coming back waaaay faster than predicted and you are getting more than just your name back. This has either never happened before or everyone else is lying.

Lesson seven: The guy in charge of running the maze has been making an intricate map of the thing for three years now but you’re going to go for a jog tomorrow and find new places he’s never seen and while you are at it, you’re going to kill a griever who happens to be a giant cyborg spider whose leg wants to tell you the way out of the maze like it’s scanning for metal at the beach.

Lesson eight: Don’t tell those guys that have been trapped here for 3 years that you think you know the way out because they will be throwing serious shade your way.

Lesson nine: When a girl randomly shows up in the Glade for the first time in ever and she’s saying your name, it obviously means you are suspicious and also you are the only Thomas that has ever lived so it’s def not a coincidence. Also apparently girls remember their names right away and are like “What’s your dysfunction?”

Lesson ten: Don’t tell the completely harmless chubby kid that everything is going to be fine and you are going to get him out of the maze and help him find his parents (because even though he doesn’t remember them, he obviously has parents that are looking for him). You might as well just shoot the poor kid in the face.

Lesson eleven: Girls should be immediately trusted  as an authority on all subjects because they throw fruit at you and you’ve never seen one before.

Lesson twelve: When you finally escape the maze, you will find out that everything is waaaay more complicated than you thought which makes sense since you don’t remember anything except the five things you remember for no obvious reason.

Lesson thirteen: People who are dead are probably not really dead unless they are. Also wicked is or is not wicked, for sure.

Lesson fourteen: Women of a certain age should not wear sleeveless shirts. Kay thanks.

Lesson fifteen: Dytopian stories are never finished in one book / movie. Even if you don’t want to watch another one, they will leave you on a cliff hanger saying “WTF?”

So has anyone read the book? And seen the movie? How do they compare?


Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

age of miraclesMy book club is discussing The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker this month, a sort of cross between an apocalyptic End of the World tale and a coming of age story.

“On an ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia awakes to discover that something has happened to the rotation of the earth. The days and nights are growing longer and longer; gravity is affected; the birds, the tides, human behavior, and cosmic rhythms are thrown into disarray. In a world that seems filled with danger and loss, Julia also must face surprising developments in herself, and in her personal world—divisions widening between her parents, strange behavior by her friends, the pain and vulnerability of first love, a growing sense of isolation, and a surprising, rebellious new strength. With crystalline prose and the indelible magic of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker gives us a breathtaking portrait of people finding ways to go on in an ever-evolving world.”

-description from goodreads.com

I could tell after only a few chapters that this was going to be one of those books that stays with me for a long time. The story had the ability to pull me in so deeply that when putting the book down each night, I had to sort of mentally separate the story from my actual life.

The way a strong dream can feel so real that when you awake you may later be unable to remember what was from the dream and what really happened, this story seemed so plausible sometimes that it was unsettling. I found myself having a new appreciation for our 24 hour days and thinking about how small changes in our world can have such a vast impact on our lives.

The overall concept of this story is both fantastical and disturbingly plausible – the way any good dystopian kind of story should be. I think the author did a great job of fleshing out her story, providing a main character that was both realistic and likeable with plenty of side stories that had less to do with the world potentially ending and more to do with coming of age.

This is not a happy story, but it is also not a depressing story. It is engaging and fantastical and realistic while also being surreal. I loved reading Walker’s interpretation of how life on Earth would be affected by the Slowing – all the immediate effects and then the longer term changes. She really looks at the world from all angles – from how people adjust to the changing day lengths, to the animals, plants, climate and more. I found a lot of her ideas to be very plausible. Whether they are scientifically realistic or not I can’t say, but as a reader the whole story really worked for me.

Question: If the rotation of the Earth changed, causing the hours and minutes of each day to be unpredictable – would you:

A. Live on “clock time” and ignore the rising and setting of the sun OR

B. Would you try to follow the Earth’s new rhythm and stay awake during the light hours and sleep during the dark ones?