In previous posts, I’ve alluded to my love of things geared for groups younger than my Gen X demographic. I’m not ashamed of it, and you can find some really good stuff that way. For example, right now, I’d say that Phineus and Ferb and Gravity Falls (both on Disney Channel) are two of the best shows on TV.
But I really prefer reading, and when I go to the bookstore, I’m amazed at the volume of young adult fiction available today. When I was younger, we had Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume and miscellaneous teen romances and that was pretty much it. With so few options, I read a lot of Stephen King. Now there are shelves upon shelves of teen fiction in the bookstore. Rows of covers of girls with big eyes, looking wistfully at some hunky boy who has some dark secret (thanks, Stephanie Meyer). Or some outsider trying to navigate her high school cliques and mean girls. These books are a guilty pleasure for me, and yes, there’s some really bad stuff out there. I don’t mean bad as in inappropriate, I mean just bad writing (although there's plenty of inapparopriate too). But in my perusal, I’ve come across a few that I would honestly pit against adult fiction any day (because there’s plenty of dreck on the shelves there too). So if you’re a reader, try checking these out, and then pass them on to your teenage daughter:
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Mia is a happy, talented high school musician, with a close-knit family. When tragedy strikes and they are all involved in a horrific car accident, Mia becomes not quite living and not quite dead. She finds herself wandering the hospital where doctors are trying to save her life. She watches the people around her who are waiting at the hospital, her boyfriend, friends and grandparents, and weighs the decision of whether to stay alive and face the pain that’s in store (physical and mental), or pack it in and move on. I cried while reading this one. It’s beautifully written, and the author makes you feel for the characters and what’s been lost to this girl. Apparently the movie rights were snapped up for this pretty quickly, but it's stuck in development purgatory.
Between by Jessica Warman
I'm a sucker for a good ghost story, and this one fits nicely. Liz is a well-to-do, but troubled, teenage girl who wakes up on a boat with her friends after celebrating her birthday. The problem is she wakes up, well, dead. To top it off, she can't remember how she got there, floating by the boat. This isn't a scary tale, but a good character study and a mystery. What happened to her? Was it an accident or is one of her "friends" to blame? What link does she have to the also-dead high school classmate who is hanging out with her? This is somewhat similar to If I Stay, with the whole "observing from beyond" theme that The Lovely Bones made popular.
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I know, I know, this isn't an unknown quantity, but it still bears mentioning, if for no other reason than if all you've seen is the movie, you're missing out. I started reading these after the first movie came out (the second begins filming soon), and couldn't stop till I finished all three. Repeatedly I thought to myself, "this is for CHILDREN??". Violence, mutilation, torture, forced prostitution, drug abuse, not to mention the "kids fighting each other to the death" thing. But it also is a telling political allegory regarding our reality TV culture, as well as bringing up the question of what happens when the oppressed start using the tactics of the oppressors. Very grim stuff.
Those are just some recommendations. I'm happy to say every one of those I've given to my daughter and she's enjoyed. Can't seem to get her interested in Sweet Valley HIgh though...