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Summer Reading Book Recommendations From My Teens

By Mir Kamin

A few weeks ago I mentioned that part of our not-terribly-structured summer plans includes a weekly trip to the library. This, of course, led to questions about what my kids are reading this summer. I’m more than happy to share, but I do so with the following caveats:

1) Both of my kids are given to fairly narrow bands of interest when it comes to reading habits, and I make no claims as to their normality (or lack thereof) relative to their peers.

2) I don’t censor my kids’ reading, ever. I figure if they can and want to read it, it’s fine by me. As a result, what I’m okay with my teens reading may not be okay with you for your teens.

3) While I used to be the primary influence over my kids’ reading choices, at this point in our lives, I’m much more likely to pick up a book they’ve brought home than the other way around.

With all of that in mind, here’s a peek into our reading these days.

Teen Son’s Book Recommendations

list teen tween book recommendations for summer reading

My son is a young 13 year-old and favors fantasy and science fiction, mostly.

Me: Tell me your favorite series or author, right now.
Him: Rick Riordan, definitely. I know lots of people read the Percy Jackson books, but there’s a whole ‘nother series after that called Heroes of Olympus that’s really good, too. The newest one is called The House of Hades and is coming out in the fall. I’m looking forward to reading that one.
Me: Aren’t these books for kids a little younger than you?
Him: Not really; I mean, I think I started reading them a while back, but they’re recommended for middle-schoolers, I think. And I reread these ones a lot because they’re kind of great. Good stories, plus some nerdy science stuff and a lot of mythology thrown in to keep it interesting.
Me: Okay, what else?
Him: Oh! I also really like the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage. That’s maybe even a little bit younger, but they’re really good, too. And that series is done now—Fyre is the last one and it just came out a couple months ago—but she’s working on a new, related series called TodHunter Moon that’s probably going to be really good.

(This kid apparently thrives on anticipation rather than actual books.)

Me: Okay, tell me what you read most recently that you loved.
Him: I like pretty much everything by Gordon Korman, but Ungifted was really, really funny. It’s about a regular middle-school kid who accidentally ends up in the gifted class, and it’s told from a bunch of different points of view—every chapter starts with the character’s name and IQ, which makes it even funnier. He’s really good with making the characters seem real.

Teen Daughter’s Book Recommendations

three book recommendations for summer reading

I turned to my daughter, who is 15 and likes what I tend to call “extreme teen angst” books.

Me: Your turn! Want to start with your favorite book?
Her: My absolute favorite that I’ve reread a ton of times is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It’s told in an interesting way; it’s about a girl who killed herself and then this boy gets a bunch of audio tapes she recorded, so it’s her in the past, on the tapes, and him in present-day, listening to her. It’s cool.
Me: Okay. What else? Who are your favorite authors right now?
Her: Everything by John Green is great. The Fault in Our Stars is probably my favorite of his. Right now I’m really liking Ellen Hopkins’ books; Perfect was really good.
Me: Okay, I know why you like John Green (he’s funny, he writes incredible dialogue). What do you like about Ellen Hopkins?
Her: She writes in poetry. Except not. It’s free verse, I guess? It’s weird, I have to show you. [She showed me and it’s true, all of her books are written like epic poems.] It takes some getting used to and it’s kind of unique, but it grows on you. Her stuff is dark but also really… real. It wouldn’t be good for younger teens but I like her stuff a lot.

Manga Book Recommendations

manga book recommendations for teens

Both of my kids also read quite a bit of manga, so I asked them to share their favorites.

Her: My very favorite manga is the High School Debut series, but they can be sort of hard to find. That one is basically a teenage soap opera. I also really like Fruits Basket, which has a fantasy/sci-fi component in addition to having your basic silly manga romance stuff going on.

Him: I actually like the Fruits Basket books, too. It’s a cool story. But my favorite is probably Bleach. That’s more…
Her: … violent.
Him: Well, yeah. There’s a lot of fighting. But it’s a cool story about this kid and his friends who have special powers.

Finally, for whatever it’s worth—and this and a dollar will get you a crummy cup of coffee—if you either want to step into the wayback machine, yourself, or have similar teens and want to expose them to books they might not pick up themselves, here’s my picks from back when I was their ages, based on what they’re reading now:

My Summer Reading Book Recommendations for Teens and Tweens

Teen and tween book recommendations for summer reading

For my son and other sci-fi/fantasy-lovers, the Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle. Although I read both kids the first three books when they were younger, they later read the other two on their own, and both agreed the series is still fantastic even now. (Guilty confession: These are the books I reread every couple of years as an adult. I love them beyond measure.)

For my daughter and other the-many-difficulties-of-coming-of-age story fanatics, anything by Paul Zindel, though The Pigman is probably the place to start. (Coming in at a close second would be My Darling, My Hamburger.) Dark and raw, Zindel’s novels definitely don’t sugarcoat the teenage experience, but I remember reading them at my daughter’s age and having trouble putting them down.

Will you share what books your teens are reading right now?

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About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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Hi, I'm Natalie.
Guest

Teenage summers are great for reading “authors” – when I was 13-16, I went through everything Steinbeck, Bronte, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Asimov, Douglas Adams, Jane Austen…

Isabel Kallman
Admin

+1

Arnebya
Guest

Yes, Natalie. Yes, yes, yes. My daughter saw me reading Sense and Sensibility recently (she’s 12) and asked if it was new and was it the first time I’d read it. GIRL, PLEASE! (Really, that was the first thing in my mind). I explained to her that there are books I can reread every few years and they still feel new, never lose their beauty or impact. She knows there’s a box in my closet that contains books I’ve kept over the years. I opened it recently to pull out Judy Blume for my younger daughter and I saw The… Read more »

Hi, I'm Natalie.
Guest

Heh. And now you made me look at my reread-every-few-years bookshelf! (My husband haaates it & loves that I now buy almost all my books on Kindle. 🙂

meghann @ midgetinvasion
Guest
meghann @ midgetinvasion

To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time. From the Mixed-Up Files. . . is my a close second. Even as an adult I can re-read that one over and over and it never gets old!

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[…] What were we talking about? Oh, right! Books! I wrote a piece for Alphamom about the books my teens recommend for summer reading, and if you have similarly-inclined kids you may find their picks interesting. Or maybe you have […]

Brenda
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Brenda

Even though I’m in my upper 20s, I still have an affinity for teenage angsty books, so thanks for the reommendations! Orson Scott Card is an amazing science fiction writer (Ender’s Game). I haven’t read a book of his I didn’t like. I love to read memoirs, too. There’s something about peering into someone’s private life with permission that I find fascinating. Great memoirs are The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. I probably would have read those as a highschooler if I was into the genre then.

js
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js

I now have to go to the library and read My Darling, My Hamburger! How did I get to be 30mumblemumble years old and have such a limited repertoire in reading?! I followed my Mom there. Stephen King, who I had to take Dramamine to follow, was her favorite. As a kid, I was always very into The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, etc. Then the romance novel genre happened to me and I never looked back. It hasn’t all been low-brow. I like James Patterson, too 😉 My kiddo is reading Nancy Drew right now, among others.

RuthWells
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RuthWells

I reread the Narnia cycle religiously. It pains me a little that my kids are not as devoted to it as I am.

Katherine
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Katherine

My 14 yo son agrees with your son on the Rick Riordan and Septimus Heap books. He says his other favorite author is Orson Scott Card. He has read all the Ender books as well as Pathfinder and Ruins. He is eagerly awaiting the 3rd book in that series.

In our family now, you often can’t tell who chose a particular book (other than a few of my picks) as both my boys (14 and 17), my husband and I all read each others picks at times.

Katie K.
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Katie K.

My 14 year old daughter says Inkheart is her favorite.  Also, The Giver and Maximum Ride.  
I also reread the Wrinkle in Time books ever year or two.  Love them!  Little House on the Prairie too.  I just started rereading Anne of Green Gables last night.

Kristie
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Kristie

These books are not remotely like the ones you recommend, but I feel that everyone should read the James Herriot veterinarian books, beginning with All Creatures Great and Small. It was a different time, so along with the animal stories there’s lots of drinking, but they’re such great books that I don’t even mind those parts. I read all the books out loud to my son when he was 9 or 10. Now that he’s almost 14, he hardly wants to read at all. I hope he gets over that. It breaks my heart. 

meghann @ midgetinvasion
Guest
meghann @ midgetinvasion

Oh man, my grandparents had/have those books at their house, and when I was a kid, I read them every time I was there visiting. Such great memories!

Donna Brazas-Reynolds
Guest

I too love James Herriot! The stories always had me laughing until I cried.

meghann @ midgetinvasion
Guest
meghann @ midgetinvasion

I have to comment as ask for ideas for my 10 year old. She reads like an adult, but obviously a lot of adult and teenager books aren’t necessarily going to be appropriate for her. I give her the great ones, like Bridge to Terabithia, and she’s done in a day.  She’s not really a science fiction/fantasy fan. She’s read most of the books I can think of. She’s actually pretty good at self-regulating. She got a stack of books from someone and came to me with one and said “This one has too many bad words.”  She loved Little… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

I was and am a big Narnia fan, and one of my favorites at her age was Lloyd Alexander’s series The Chronicles of Pyrdain – the Disney’s The Black Cauldron was based on one of the books in the series.  My kids and I have also really enjoyed the Septimus Heap and Pendragon series.  The Mysterious Benedict Society is fun as well (I didn’t like the ones after the first one as much, but my kids enjoyed them).   My younger son, who is 12, is really enjoying Artemis Fowl, The Missing series from Margaret Peterson Haddix, and the Lovecraft… Read more »

Pamela
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Pamela

A good strategy for precocious readers in general is to give them non-fiction. If you can get her started reading about a subject she’s interested in, you’ll never run out of books. So for example, since she likes the Little House books, she might like other books about pioneer life. That might segue into books about US history at the time, etc. A librarian can probably help you with specific books they have available.

Emilie
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Emilie

These may seem super old-school nowadays, but I always loved The Baby-Sitters Club Series. They’re not very long, but there are a million of them & they’re written from different baby-sitters POVs (one book might be written in Kristy’s voice, another is Stacy’s…I always liked Claudia). Anyway, these books may be considered totally lame, but I always liked them. Your daughter will probably zip through them, but hopefully since there are so many, it would keep her occupied for a while. Or the Sweet Valley series??

meghann @ midgetinvasion
Guest
meghann @ midgetinvasion

Emilie-I LOVED that series when I was her age. I think I read all of it. I keep showing it to her when we’re at the bookstore together, but her response is pretty “meh” every time. (Yes, Claudia was one of the best ones!)

For some reason that does remind me that I blew through a ton of The Bobbsey Twins books at her age, too. Wonder if she’d go for those? 

Amy
Guest
Amy

If she likes the Little House books, she might like the Anne of Green Gables books. They’re a big longer and written for a slightly older audience, but still very accessible for a younger audience.

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

The Trixie Belden series! They are mysteries, but they are awesome. Also, Agatha Christie, although some are a little bloody. And if she’s suggestible a few might be nightmare-inducing.

Aimee
Guest

I love this topic! I love to read but am at a place in my life where I can read (A) non-fiction and (B) YA fiction. I think it’s having so much real-life drama, I can handle the YA stuff, not that it doesn’t have drama. I just finished The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan — it’s the first book in another series of his, The Kane Chronicles. It was funny and exciting and entertaining — if Monkey hasn’t ready that series that might be a good one for him. I also just read and loved Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.… Read more »

StephLove
Guest

I don’t have a teen, but my 12 year old, is reading the Eleventh Plague, right now, dystopian post-Apocalyptic fiction. Actually, we’re reading it together.  He also just finished Dark Life, which is in the same vein, but under the ocean, where some of the human race has relocated, due to lack of space on the largely flooded Earth. The Eleventh Plague is the darker of the two, it reminds me of The Road, actually. Though I don’t restrict his reading, there are some books I’d rather he read with me so we can talk about them and this is… Read more »

KIm
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KIm

I love children’s lit and young adult stuff, too.  Always have, always will.  My grandmother has a set of Lousa May Alcotts at her house – I love to grab one when I’m up there.  It’s like slipping back into my childhood. (NOT LW.  Never been one of my favorites.  Much prefer 8 Cousins and Rose in Bloom.)

Sonia
Guest
Sonia

Is there is series of chapter books based on sports for my smart yet ESPN crazed 7 year old son?  He checks out lots on non-fictional sports books from the library but I would love to find a series with an actual fictional story to them!

Daisy
Guest
Daisy

Not exactly sports related, though one of the main characters is VERY into sports is ‘The Macdonald Hall’ series by Gordon Korman.

Carolyn
Guest

Middle school librarian here. Your kids have great taste in books, Mir. I could go on and on about the wonderful books, fiction and nonfiction, published for kids these days. Many popular adult authors also write for kids – James Patterson, for example. Check out my book blog for more recommendations, or find me on GoodReads.

Sonia, check out titles by Mike Lupica and John Feinstein.

Rita
Guest
Rita

My 14 year old daughter recommends the inheritance cycle by Christopher Paolini, The Belgariad series by David Eddings (one of my favorites growing up), Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer. All of these are action/adventure/dragons/middle earth type books. Also loves Artemis Fowl, Warrior cats, and anything by Tamora Pierce. Andrea reads anything and everything, but these are the first series that come to mind.

Kathryn
Guest
Kathryn

Ooh, I love Gordon Korman! I Want to Go Home is one of the greatest kids books, and his MacDonald Hall series is fantastic. I hardly ever hear about him on these lists, so I’m thrilled Monkey likes him!

Kathie M
Guest
Kathie M

Your son might really like the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. They’ve actually broken up the books for a YA audience (since the originals are huge tomes). I always loved The Borrowers series by Mary Norton. My parents never screened anything I read. I was WAY above the average for reading skills and had an endless supply of books since Dad was a librarian. When the fall book order came in it was like Christmas!

Eileen
Guest
Eileen

My 14 year-old just read The Fault In Our Stars in a day, after I told her I’d finished it in two days. We both really liked it and she’s moved on to Looking for Alaska. I think we’re both becoming John Green fans. She also loved Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Insurgent, and can’t wait for the 3rd book to come out in the fall.

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Your kids have great taste in books.  Now that I’m a school librarian, I try to find time to read more.  I loved 13 Reasons Why and also enjoy John Green’s books.  I read Ungifted this year and it was delightful.  I just found out that I won the Laura Bush Foundation grant for my school next year so I’m looking forward to buying many more interesting books.  I bet Monkey would like the book “How they Croaked” that chronicles how famous people in history died.  It’s fun and quirky.  

Holly
Guest
Holly

When I was around their age, I fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s books. If they haven’t started reading him already, they should. He writes both comics as well as intriguing sci-fi/fantasy novels (the movie Stardust was based on one of his books). I think Neverwhere was my favorite, followed by American Gods. I also really like Cassandra Clare’s novels. The View from Saturday. Anything by Jasper Fforde (but particularly the Thursday Next series. Delightfully surreal). If Chickie is into the angsty-type books, she absolutely should read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I have a feeling she would identify… Read more »

JMH
Guest
JMH

So! Many! Books!  🙂 I am bookmarking this page so I can refer to it when we visit the library this summer. I want my 12 yr. old daughter to read The Giver trilogy this summer. She LOVED the Hunger Games so I think she will like these books too. Plus, The Giver has GREAT discussion points to talk about at dinner.

Cindy B.
Guest
Cindy B.

The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull is absolutely fantastic. The main characters are brother and sister too! Also love the City of Bones series. P.C. Cast is great, as is Cinda Williams Chima. So many books 🙂

Arnebya
Guest

Can I just tell y’all I keep coming back to this thread with paper and pen because MORE BOOKS.

Karen W.
Guest
Karen W.

My teen and I have read and re-read a fantastic book by author Jenna Zark entitled, “The Beat on Ruby’s Street” (http://www.jennazark.com). It is a very unique book in that it takes places in 1958 Greenwich Village *NYC* and follows a young girl, Ruby, growing up with the “Beat Generation.” I can’t say I have ever read a book about the “beatnick” culture or lifestyle before and this book really brings it to life in a fascinating and entertaining way! Ruby’s unconventional upbringing creates obstacles in her young life; a well-meaning social worker, accusations of theft, and time in a… Read more »