Books Tweens and Teens Recommend to Friends
Peer pressure's not so bad when it comes to reading. A popular book has the power to sweep up even reluctant readers as word of its awesomeness catches on. Nobody knows better than tweens and teens which books to recommend to their peers, so we asked them: "What would you tell your friend to read?"
According to our informal poll, their picks go beyond the enduring biggies kids regularly recommend: the Harry Potter series, anything by Rick Riordan, Lemony Snicket's 13-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, the Hunger Games trilogy, and graphic novels such as Raina Telgemeier's Smile, Drama, and Sisters. And teens pass around more than the Divergent trilogy and The Fault in Our Stars.
Check out these tween and teen recommendations, old and new, and see if one -- or more -- will hook your kid, too.
Dork Diaries series, by Rachel Renee Russell, age 8+. This middle school saga with a strong female main character is up to Book 10 and still going strong. Some plots are thin and have some stereotypes (mean girls, jocks, clueless parents), but others are fresh and offer realistic glimpses of tween life. Either way, tween girls can't seem to resist.
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, age 9+. This poignant novel in verse mixes basketball, family, and coming-of-age themes with serious issues regarding a parent's life-threatening condition. It won the 2015 Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Author Honor and portrays a loving, supportive, intact family -- a rarity in middle-grade fiction.
Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories, by R.J. Palacio, age 10+. More of a spin-off than a sequel to the much-acclaimed Wonder, these short tales follow three students in vastly different circumstances learning important lessons. It digs deep into themes of kindness, friendship, accountability, and integrity with a deft understanding of middle school social drama.
Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper, age 10+. Melody has cerebral palsy and is very intelligent but unable to express herself verbally or physically. When she enters a mainstream classroom, she gets a machine that lets her communicate, and she strives to be accepted by her peers. Melody's a well-rounded, likable character whom kids will empathize with in this riveting story of self-acceptance.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, by Stephan Pastis, age 10+. This graphic novel from the creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine is the first in a series about a clueless 11-year-old boy who fancies himself a great detective. It's a funny, off-the-wall, yet poignant look at the life of an unusual kid who lets his imagination run away with him. Great for Wimpy Kid fans.
The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, age 10+. This is the first of a six-volume dystopian series about a caste of creative kids who are doomed to be thrown into a lake of boiling oil. Then they discover another world, where each individual is valued and encouraged to grow. The kids must rely on their creativity in a violent battle between the two societies. Great for reluctant readers.
The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter, Cherith Baldry, Kate Cary, and Tui T. Sutherlandage, age 10+. These numerous fantasy books about clans of cats who engage in wars and battles provide almost limitless entertainment for middle-graders. The characters are engaging, the cat world is well realized, and the situations are compelling. With strong male and female characters, they appeal to both boys and girls.
The Ranger's Apprentice series, by John Flanagan, age 11+. This beloved 12-volume fantasy series kicks off with The Ruins of Gorlan, in which teen orphan Will is selected to train as a Ranger, learning to ride, hunt, and do battle to protect his countrymen. Skilled medieval-style world building, good humor, and brave, likable Will combine to make this epic lively and fun.
I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, age 12+. Combining colorful characters, fantasy elements, and an absorbing mystery, this illustrated novel tells the story of 17-year-old May, who discovers an anonymous web comic based on her own childhood stories. The only problem is that there are details in the comic that only she and her now dead best friend know.
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, age 12+. This young-adult version of Hillenbrand's acclaimed biography of an Olympic runner and World War II POW takes the compelling, poignant true story of Louis Zamperini and makes it accessible for a younger audience. Zamperini shows perseverance and courage, from being a child track star to being an adult struggling to survive, in this detailed work of historical nonfiction.
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey, age 13+. The first in an intensely engaging apocalyptic trilogy, this story begins after a massive, deadly alien invasion wipes out most of humanity. Cassie Sullivan, one of the few survivors, struggles to reunite with her younger brother but faces danger, treachery, and mysterious (and handsome) strangers on the way. Incredibly hard to put down.
The Selection, by Kiera Cass, age 13+. In this dystopian romance series start that’s part Cinderella, part The Bachelor, a young woman named America enters a televised competition to marry a prince. Levelheaded and courageous, America manages to juggle political unrest, 34 competitors, and two potential love interests. Readers get easily hooked and have four more books awaiting them.
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, age 14+. Two misfits meet on the bus to school, begrudgingly become friends, and eventually fall in love. It’s a simple story, but Rowell perfectly captures the overwhelming emotions that go along with first love. Both Eleanor and Park are witty, believable characters, and the passion that grows between them will leave readers wanting more.
Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, age 14+. The epic sci-fi space-thriller Illuminae Files series is told in an innovative, visual way: through chat logs, emails, illustrations, and schematics. The harrowing events of this first book unfold as two teenagers fight to survive a catastrophic attack, fend off a supervirus, and face their own feelings for each other.
The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon, age 14+. Over the course of 12 hours in New York City, two completely different teens spark an intense, soulful romance. Despite their cultural and personal differences, Jamaican-American Natasha and Korean-American Daniel continue to be drawn together. It's one of the few interracial young-adult romances to feature two people of color, showing that love can and does bloom across differences.
Frannie Ucciferri, Common Sense Media catalog data coordinator, contributed to this article.