Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why I Am Going to Be a Lousy Uncle

I'd like to take a moment to say thank you for all the encouraging words that followed my last post. I am, you will notice, still here. I am even feeling rather better. The Baby Surprise Jacket continues charmingly. Dum spiro, spero.

The daughter of M, a dear colleague, is about to celebrate her thirteenth birthday. In celebration I went out to buy her a couple of books as a present. I've done so every year since M and I began working together. I don't often socialize with co-workers, but M is a delightful exception, and her daughter, whom I'll call Violet, is a good egg.

Until this year, choosing which books to give has been no problem. More often than not I wrapped up new copies of old favorites–Laura Ingalls Wilder, Roald Dahl–and sometimes later discoveries like Karen Cushman (author of Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice).

Thirteen is a big birthday. I decided to move out of the kid lit section and into the hitherto unexplored stacks labeled "Teen Readers." M told me that Violet is fond of Meg Cabot's "Princess" novels and so I thought perhaps I'd pick up something in that line.

An hour later, I staggered away from the "Teen" books bent double under deep misgivings about what's being fed to young readers by modern publishing. The available stock at Barnes and Noble leads me to conclude that:
  1. Teenaged boys do not read books any more. If there were, let's say, 500 works in the section, perhaps ten were not explicitly aimed at girls.

  2. Girls who read are encouraged to pursue one of three paths: princess, witch,* or slut. Should she find any one role limiting, she can blend them to become (for example) a slutty princess, or a royal witch.

  3. Whatever she wishes to be, she is taught that life's chief goal is to get a boyfriend, whether she has to buy him (princess), put a spell on him (witch), or wiggle her skinny ass until he capitulates (slut).

  4. All girls have three tools with which to nab the boyfriend: connivery, sex and submission. This last is true even if, according to Debrett's Peerage or similar, she outranks him.

  5. A girl can either have the boyfriend or her own life/interests, but never the two at once.

  6. Meg Cabot's idea of being a royal princess appears to be modeled on the life of Tori Spelling, except that instead of living in a big house in Beverly Hills one lives in a big house in a fictional country in Europe.

  7. Most girls in "Teen Readers" books probably could not point to Europe on a map if it were lit up and flashing. But it doesn't matter, because being smart turns boys off and if you are smart, you better hide it.

  8. I saw three books with non-white teen girls as their chief characters. One girl was a slave, one was marching to Selma, and one was having a baby and getting over a heroin addiction.
Here's what I got Violet for her birthday:
None is from the "Teen Readers" section, and I'm pretty sure none is on Violet's wish list. But I figure I'm giving her two glimpses of real royal history, and the ur-Harlequin romance. I have no idea if she'll read them.

Maybe if they sit on her shelf for a while, she'll get curious and step away from the Meg Cabot.** Maybe she'll discover there's more out there than the latest crap designed to groom her as a docile consumer of The Rules, Bridget Jones, and He's Just Not That Into You.

*I don't mean a practitioner of Wicca. I mean Lindsay Lohan, but with the secret power to give her nemesis a giant zit, and make Jeremy ask her to the prom.

**I realize this is a snobbish thing to say, especially as Meg's Princess has a boyfriend and I don't. Perhaps I should read the books myself, and learn.

196 comments:

ellen said...

Good choices all. When my niece reached that magic age I taught her to knit and started buying her craft books and equipment for all occasions. It's good to hear you are feeling a bit better. I think late winter is hard when you're north of the Mason-Dixon.

Cathy said...

I agree with you about the books. I have a 10 year old daughter and we listen to books during a monthly 6 hour drive. I recommend the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series (there are 4). These books focus on self growth, giving, the value of friendship and family. Great for young girls.

Love your blog. When are you going to do a podcast???

Lynae said...

Actually, I think your choices help to make you a great uncle.

With a 6 yr old daughter (who everyone says is beautiful) I worry every day that looks will become more important to her than substance. She is a great kid...but what will happen when she turns 13? I only hope that those giving her gifts at that time will put as much time and thought into it!

You think those books are harrowing? Try reading some of Jodi Picoult's!

MaryB said...

You are going to be a fabulous uncle! Thanks for pointing out how absolutely difficult it is to raise children these days -- my two sons are now grown, and even a few years ago, finding appropriate reading material for them was hard. You made three excellent choices. Kudos too for sticking to your established practice of giving books. Someday she'll understand. You might try her next year with some Jane Austen...MaryB

Tressa in NC said...

And so it goes . . . hasn't changed much from the 50s or the 70s. In my day, a girl could aspire to become a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. Above all, getting the boy was of utmost importance. Ain't it fun being a girl? Apparently, not any more fun than usual.

Thanks for doing your part, Franklin, to enlighten this teen girl. Keep up the good efforts.

Teaandcakes said...

Yay! Great choices, and all reasons why you'll be a fantastic uncle, not a lousy one.

Anonymous said...

Tamora Pierce's books. Favourites still, especially those set in Tortall. Alanna might be landed gentry, but she gets to be a knight too! Yay for big swords! :-P

anneonymousone said...

You are _already_ a wonderful uncle. Everyone, especially teens from the McAdolescence generation, needs someone who is capable of honoring the genuine in them.

During some stages of the kids' life you may be perceived as eccentric, if you're rich enough, or downright weird, if you're not. Remaining honestly, faithfully, defiantly, joyously yourself, with all the frustration, celebration, doubt, exhilaration, wonder, creativity, confusion, and hope that you have: this is the best gift that you could ever give anyone.

Thanks for sharing that gift with us, Franklin.

Netter said...

Hmmmmm, I think I'm happy my husband "put a stem on that cherry," as he so delicately put it in the ultrasound room three years ago.

BrooklynMom said...

I have distinct memories of reading "Forever" by Judy Blume, and "Go Ask Alice" by anonymous, when I was thirteen. And I would have definitely been considered sheltered and naive. Peer pressure? I don't know. But reading that literature can be a way of safely stretching your wings; I didn't have sex early, and I never took drugs. Obviously, those books would be poor gift choices! I like the books you purchased, because when I grew up (I'm now 40) I sought out both Austen and Bronte. Honestly, I die when I visit book stores these days--a lot of novels for teens are downright frightening in their subject manner.

Rachael said...

Franklin,
First off, kudos on your prior post. It was True, with a capital T.

Secondly, this is precisely what will make you a good uncle. I jokingly call those books in the grown-up B&N section the 'pink & green' books. I destest them.

As I child, I went straight from Little House on the Prairie & similar to Tolkien & Pride and Prejudice (this is the closest I ever got to a girly book). I never looked back. I never read the babysitter books that were the girly girl books of my day. They are a bunch of sh*t and they always will be.

WHY WHY WHY should I have read about teenaged girls (or women) needing men to be complete when instead I could read about Aragorn and Frodo and not want to marry them, but want to BE them.

Somebody needs to tell these girls that not only is it OKAY to be strong and smart and independent, it's actually a GOOD thing.

Sorry for the rant, but this is one of hot button topics. The message that is being sent drives me nuts.

(and in case anybody was wondering, this is not a bitterness based opinion, I am happily married and my husband quite likes me this way)

lyssa said...

The teen reading section is worthless...smart kids just skip right past it. Adult trash fiction is so much more interesting.

Good segue from the Princess Diaries into history...I hope it catches her interest.

ccr in MA said...

I second the Tamora Pierce recommendation, if the reader likes or can be persuaded to try fantasy. Her heroines are really strong, fun, and great role models -- but much more entertaining than that makes them sound, really!

Good on you for working so hard against the tide of trash, too.

My verification word is "megusru". Are you sure Meg Cabot isn't the witch?

Anna van Schurman said...

See the connections between this post and your last? I think you have a career as a theorist.

kirsten said...

Not only will you make a great uncle, but you are a great friend. Buying something for a teen of either gender would be a daunting task, but you have approached with a great deal of thought and consideration. We should all be so lucky to have such a considerate relative.

Another great post.

Cassie said...

Tamora Pierce, Garth Nix, Justine Larbast... okay, I can't remember her name, but it's "Magic or Madness", Scott Westerfeld (Uglies et al). Pratchett. Kushner.
Thirteen is approaching adult book territory. Depending on how old a thirteen she is, you have a lot of options.

Emma in France said...

My nearly 13 yr old daughter loved Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Wee Free Men, a Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. There's also the Artemis Fowl series, the Garth Nix Abhorsen series, Piratica by Tanith Lee, Abharat by Clive Barker among others. These all have a fantasy lean though. Perhaps not suitable for you to give but a book I think every girl should get on hitting puberty is Taking Charge of your Own Fertility - Toni Weschler, I think.

Beth said...

Stop talking about the BSJ - I'm starting to get the itch to start one and I'm soooo easily influenced.

Here's a possibly useful link:
www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists/bbya

She's at a tough age to find just the right thing for though.

PURLEWE said...

Hi Franklin,

I know you don't know me from Adam's dog.. But I read you often. I live in Philly, know the Village Knittiot (she is a regular to Fiber nite), and am passionate about books.

My partner teaches that age and she is frequently bringing home new books. I can tell you what we consider to be worthy.
Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small is a line of books about a girl who wants to be a knight, but she is the first girl to become one openly (the right was paved by a previous series about a girl who spent her life becoming a knight while pretending to be a boy. Once it was reveals she was a she, the kingdon let girls apply. This is the first such girl to apply.) I find that this particular series is the best of Pierce's.. the others are good, but she is a better writer now.

Stargirl by Spinelli, a great story about a girl who wants to be who she is.. not popular, not unpopular, but WHO SHE IS. Which throws the whole school off kilter.

And then there is the Percy Jackson and the Olympians boooks. A boy who finds out that he is the son of one of the greek gods (Poseidon) and that he needs to go on a quest. He encounters other children who are also half-bloods who all share qualities with their parents. The 3rd book of this series comes out on May 1st. I am chomping at the bit to read it.

So there you go.. I know it is too late. I never read from the teen section. I went stright from Wilder to adult books at 3rd grade. (yeah, the librarians loved me.) So I am rediscovering children's teen lit as an adult and picking and chosing carefully. I read you pretty often and thought you wouldn't mind the 2 cents.

erin/pinkerbell said...

Jane Eyre has always been a favorite. the other two I am unfamiliar with. Yeah the teen section is pretty scary (I have a 15 year old little sister. I have perused some of her favorite authors. I am truly frightened.)

amysue said...

Diana Wynne Jones and Diane Duane write wonderfully. That said, it's slim pickings for boys. My son can choose from marauding robots, star wars, legos based "novels" and the like. Sigh.

Arlette said...

I gotta say it -- Daniel Pinkwater! He tells hilarious, compelling and totally odd stories. Some of his stuff is kinda young for the teen crowd, but the "5 Novels" collection is aces. And I saw someone mentioned Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" -- it's wonderful!

Tina said...

When I was 13, I also remember reading "Go Ask Alice", along with "The Outsiders", "Lord of the Flies", "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", "Romeo and Juliet", "Catcher in the Rye", Tolkien.

I skipped most of the teen fiction, though. I was also very insterested in historical biographies (one of my favorites was one about Marie Antoinette).

There also a book called "Briar Rose" by Jane Yolen, which is the story of sleeping beauty, but set during the Holocaust. I remember loving it.

Trillian42 said...

Fantastic choices. Although, don't despair if she does read some of the teen crap. I was a massive bookworm and devoured tons of ridiculous "girls without boyfriends are weird losers" books (The "Couples" series, anyone?) and managed to grow up just fine. Still weird, but happy.

If she's at all interested in fantasy, I highly recommend Holly Black's "Tithe" and "Valiant". Excellent books.

Chris said...

So, have you considered a career writing novels for teen boys?

Excellent post. It braces me for what I'll have to deal with when my niecelet is older. Right now, I'm dealing with things like the lack of comparative religion picture books that this agnostic "god"parent can provide...

Stacy said...

Stepping away from the juvenile literature section and getting her meatier fare puts you in "Good Uncle" territory with me.

I often have the same trouble finding books for my boys - but, they haven't outgrown Dick King-Smith or Roald Dahl yet, so I'm good for now. When all else fails, I reach for the non-fiction. :)

Liz said...

The Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery is wonderful, although perhaps a bit young.

I remember loving TH White's Sword in the Stone and Once and Future King. My father gave me his copies and I just devoured them. Monica Dickens (yes, related to *that* Dickens) wrote the World's End series which were great.

I also started reading Austen and, oddly, Herman Hesse at that age. One of Hesse's books used the same illustrator as an Andre Norton book, so it was shelved in with the "teen" section and I took it home.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the many reasons I'm happy to be the mother of boys! Boys who do read and always have done so! Son #1 is currently studying the history of British Literature (by choice) and Son #2 has been a Tolkein fan since age 10. Good for you, Franklin!

Janice in Camas said...

My daughter is also coming up on thirteen and, just like many adults, reads the trashy stuff once in a while as a break from the really good literature that is assigned in school (and that she reads on her own.) She knows the stuff is silly, but it's fun and she's still reading. That being said, it is the very good uncle who puts so much thought into a lovely young woman's gift, and it will be appreciated -- maybe not today ... maybe not tomorrow ... but someday.

Angie said...

Excellent inciteful post, Franklin. My DD is 6 and already she wants to know if something makes her look "sexy", truly terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I can find lots of good stuff in the 'young adult' section, but I'm lucky to have a great bookshop with a wonderful bookseller who points me to the good ones and carries few of those 'shudder' books you mention. One of my recent favorites is Dairy Queen, written in that diary format, but written well. Not fantasy or historical. Can't remember the author.

Not that you're asking for suggestions - you already made great choices!

Gwen

Michael said...

I am eternally grateful to the individuals who gifted me with good literature as I was growing up. Excellent influences, the lot of them, so Take Heart.

Anonymous said...

Well done! Books are supposed to open worlds, not close them. Thanks for making the effort to enlighten one more woman to be. I'm afraid I can't reach all of them.

KJ

Eileen said...

Great choices. Don't forget "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." There are passages in that book that I still think of often, and it's been several decades since I first read it.

aunt kate said...

Three cheers for subversive relatives!

Scott Westerfeld's trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, and Specials) is a great antidote to the culture of beauty-uber-alles. See also Laurel Winters' Growing Wings -- the protagonist is, and her mother can't cope.

Zizou Corder's Lionboy books might be a smidge young for 13 (but at 46 I'm devouring them). Mixed-race protagonist; socially aware, non-sexist, but above all funny thrillers.

Liz said...

Good choices. When I was that age I also loved The Giver (kiddie 1984), and a lot of my friends read Ender's Game. If she has reading stamina she probably wouldn't be too young for Lord of the Rings. Wow, am I a sci-fi/fantasy geek or what?

At that age my uncle gave me two books from a junior-ish miniseries within Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. It's like a harlequin romance but with dragons.

KnitNana said...

Here, here, Franklin! Thank you. (And I like your book choices...eventually she will, too!)
It's not just literature for the young ones that are problematic either...but I'll not go there today.
So glad you're feeling better!
(((hugs)))

Liz said...

Judging by the YA shelves in public libraries here (UK), "vampire" and "becoming undead" are other popular career choices for teenage girls.

AuntieAnn said...

We're lucky to have a thoughtful "teen" librarian at our local library. I am usually pleased by what my DD (age 12) selects to read in their special "teen" section. Thank you for making thoughtful reading selections for this young girl in your life. Do NOT get me started about the clothes they are marketing to pre-teens and teens.

Mother of Chaos said...

You would have been my favorite uncle.

Desiknitter said...

Actually, I think you'll make a fine uncle!

Tanya said...

True,so true. I worry about this constantly as parent to 2 avid readers. I worry just as much about what crap my son is absorbing when he sees how girls and women are portrayed in these books and my daughter well she is only 3 at the moment so thank goodness for that, I have a little time. We are raising this generation of women to be mostly dumb sluts and it is very very disturbing. Feminist is the new F word, what the hell happened? Oh and think the book section is bad stay away from the clothes!

Karen said...

Violet, good egg, Roald Dahl, nice!

As for books, two words: Nancy. Drew. Yeah, her rich dad got her out of trouble sometimes, but she was smart, and her boyfriend liked her because of it, not in spite of it.

Carol said...

Why, Franklin, the fact that you too blame the patriarchy is exactly WHY you'll make a wonderful uncle.

Might I suggest "Breakfast with Tiffany" by Edmund something? 40-something gay uncle takes in surly teen and they find common ground. It like totally rocks. I know, right?

Ann said...

Here's the link to the st. paul public library teen site: stpaul.lib.mn.us/teensite/explore.html
Check out their genre recommendations and the book reviews by kids. Although I'm alarmed at the frightful B & N bookshelves, the kids do still need to be allowed to explore a little bit, even if it's to the junk area. I am grateful that my mom let me go through a romance novel phase that was pretty horrifying. I outgrew it just fine ;-)

doodah said...

Three cheers to you for not giving that crap to a young person. We need books that inspire and challenge and speak to our souls -- not that shallow/damaging garbage. You ROCK as an uncle!

mc78 said...

Hope the receipt is included with the gift so that 13-year-old can return one of the snoozy books and get a princess book if she wants. Geez, mindless entertainment, like my garter stitch afghan square, is a necessary indulgence sometimes.

Seanna Lea said...

I like A College of Magics, because it has some romance, a lot of politics, some old fashioned coming of age shtuff and a truly hefty dose of Responsibility. I reread that book all the time.

Anna-LIza said...

I will just mention that, even when I was, myself a 13-year-old, I've always believed the "loving junk fiction and junk music" phase is a necessary one in order to develop discrimination later.

My feminist (21-year-old) daughter and I actually enjoy Meg Cabot's books--I've always gotten the opposite message from The Princess Diaries than the one you cited, mainly due to the protagonist always trying the stupid teen-mag solution and then finding out that being herself is actually the best way to deal ... simplistic, silly, but funny.

My DD also introduced me to Tamora Pierce--really good stuff. I introduced her, in turn, to Joan Jett.

hillary said...

You're so right about the choices in books. My daughter, who's 11, is a voracious reader and it's hard finding good stuff. She loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and the Cornelia Funke books. Lately I've been feeding her a steady diet of Judy Blume.

Elizabeth said...

Then you can get her The Wide Sargasso Sea as a follow up. Or not.

Finding books for my 12 yr old son is a challenge. He like SF and Fantasy, which helps as there's more of it that's gender-neutral in terms of targeted readership, and there's more of it than there is general lit for a boy his age.

So much teen fiction is so sexed up these days. I guess it's not too surprising given the way our popular culture has gone. But, it's dismaying all the same.

Sister Sue said...

As several folks have said, brother dear, this is exactly why you will be an AWESOME uncle. Think about your influence on me. I have to admit, I wasn't ready for Jane Eyre when you first recommended it to me. I read some of those 'girly' books in my day. And yet...I majored in English. HELLO!? Who fostered my love of lit and reading? I think it was my brother with his eight million books that simply resided in the same house as me. I love Jane Eyre now. And all of Austen's novels. I think I turned out ok, with lots of great influence from you. It also might make you feel better to know that one of my 9th grade girls is reading Life of Pi (which is cheaper if you buy it in the young adult section--go figure), and one of my boys just finished Three cups of Tea. Neither is about princesses or blowing stuff up. There is hope for the future, I promise.

LindaD said...

I read Nicholas and Alexandra when I was 13, I still pick it up from time to time. I also read Sho-Gun (James Michener) at that age, too. Someone mentioned Nancy Drew, I still like those, but NOT the new Nancy Drew Notebooks, those ought to be thrown on a pile with Sweet Valley High books and burned!
As far as girls growing up goes, it's tough. I was in the girls' swimsuit section of our local Walmart the other day, trying to find a non-sexy swimsuit for my $ year old (there was a choice of one) and overheard another mom encouraging her daughter (I'm guessing about age 11-12) to go for a skimpier swimsuit!!! I had to walk away!

LindaD said...

Sorry that should be 4 year old, not $ year old, to me, she's priceless!

firefly said...

I am unlurking to recommend Louisa May Alcott as well as Jane Austen and the Brontes.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden was a big favorite of mine. L. Frank Baum's Oz series is good too.

Also Harriet the Spy, although I'm not sure how old I was when I first read it. Probably younger than 13.

I grew up reading the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, which was pretty much sh*t too. My parents also got us the series of "classics" books that were back-to-back -- Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island, the Swiss Family Robinson and Heidi (not sure of the correlation there) -- and I loved those books.

Even if Violet does read a lot of crap now, it doesn't mean she'll turn out that way. Don't underestimate the power of crap to turn people off and send them in another direction, seeking something better.

Cheryl :) said...

I think you made wonderful choices of books for your friends daughter. I've noticed the books for girls are all a bit trashy.

I think you will be a great uncle --but just some advice if Sue's baby is a nephew --stay away from Captain Underpants. I rue the day we finally agreed to allow the progeny to read it.

I was also happy to have him request Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a Christmas gift though.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, your comments are so true. When purchasing books for my 13-year old daughter I tend to stick with Newberry Medal winners or National Book Award winners. To the suggestions already posted, I'll add The Giver by Lois Lowry and House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer--neither of which has a female herione, and both of which were adored by my daugher. Though at that age I think I was pretty much in to the James Herriott books (All Creatures Great and Small) as well as PG Wodehouse. In short--next time you need a recommendation holler out!

Sharon Rose said...

I second the James Herriot suggestions. And my stepdaughters are bonkers for the Horrible Histories series. They present world history in a funny, cartooned, sarcastic manner that really appeals to young teens.

Cindy in Happy Valley said...

The good news is we all don't become what we read as teenagers.

Were that the case I would be either an alien from another planet or a serial killer.

Uh...wait a minute.........

eatrawfish said...

In the briefest defense of "trash" books, it is possible for people to read and enjoy light, fluffy, and even silly novels without adopting them as some sort of philosophy.

Personally, I think a mix is good. As a 13 year old I adored Jane Austen, Alexandre Dumas, and literally hundreds of harlequin romance novels. Yet as an adult I don't base my happiness on marrying Mr Darcy, escaping from prison and exacting revenge, or finding Mr. Right and having dozens of babies.

I think gifts should be sharing what you enjoy. That's what's most important when I receive one.

Anonymous said...

How about The Westing Game? Hero is a young girl and there are no boyfriends to be caught, just a mystery to solve.

Or the Pullman series that starts with The Golden Compass?

I still love young adult fiction :)
- Liz

mochiqtpi said...

Great book choices. Jane Eyre is one of my favorites. Hopefully these books will introduce M's daughter to the world beyond teen novels. For me, that book was Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Ann said...

Wow. So many excellent book suggestions! I was a voracious reader at 13 and my favorite was Jane Eyre. I would also reccomend Ursula Le Guin and Madeleine L'Engle's "Meet the Austins" series. Go with the classics though and you can't go wrong. Shakespeare is a must. Good luck and thank you for your wonderful writing!

Leslie said...

I do have to say that YA literature is making some progress after beeing in a pathetic death-spiral for years, although most bookstores seem to stock far too much of the pink frou-frou garbage. For anyone looking for good recommendations for young adult readers, please check out www.teenreads.com. This website includes lots of reviews on a variety of new YA books by people who really care about matching the right book to the right reader. (Full disclosure, my friend Sarah Wood is a Teenreads reviewer. I think her reviews are the best part of the site, but I'm terribly biased, of course.)

Aidan said...

You may aspire to finding a prince, but you'll always be a Queen in my book. And maybe if you shook your hiney a little more the right man would notice!

Tina M. said...

Good for you! You wanna know what I was reading when I was 13? The Clan of the Cave Bear series, lots of Stephen King, and plenty of Anne Rice.

At least my trash was *good* trash. :) And hey, Ayla was pretty damned resourceful even if she was having plenty of sex (which was eventually completely consentual). I could probably knap my own flint knives and tan a hide based on my devourings of Ms. Aul's fecund prose.

Dorothy said...

A. you should actually read Meg Cabot, the books are not what you might think. My husband, son (age 13) and I have all enjoyed them and found lots to talk about. Meg confronts lots of issues that girls really think about, really worry about. She has good practical advice. They are *not* like the movies. Her All American Girl books are similar and perhaps even better. The girls are not being sluts, the girls are learning how to cope with and take charge of their sexuality. Princess Mia is whiny and angst ridden, but her underlying theme is how to achieve self-actualization. She spends an entire book trying to decide if she is ready to have sex with her boyfriend, and in the end, decides not yet. The All American Girl hero, a couple years older and wiser than Mia, spends a book wrestling with the same decision and chooses differently, a thought out and intelligent choice for her.

B. Tamora Pierce is also very good, both boys and girls like the strong characters, many of whom are females. Some of it though makes me roll my eyes, but mostly she's a good read.

C. There are lots and lots of good books in the YA section. Seriously. But that's the section of a bookstore where you really need service. Service and advice that you are more likely to get at an independent bookstore than the big box.

D. Boys do read. All the authors that other commenters have mentioned and more.

E. For some reason, an old post of yours about meth and "fitting in" appeared in bloglines yesterday. I hadn't realised it was old. One of the commenters mentioned that every group can be nasty to its members, and that taking drugs to fit in is appealing to weak people. Well, a LOT of teen fiction these days addresses this head on and offers role models and situations to help kids learn to avoid those very pitfalls. Some of the "theme" books go a bit far and end up seeming preachy(perhaps the pregnant heroin addict?) but many many are wonderful.

Have a chat with Violet and ask her what books she likes to read and why.

Franklin said...

Wow. I have to say - amazing response to this.

I gave Violet Little Women a few years back and it was much enjoyed. It's certainly an old, old favorite of mine.

Many, many of these authors are new to me, though, and I'm delighted to hear of so much out there that's good.

And lest I sound too high-minded, I've read my share of trash. Stephen King, in particular. Superbly written trash, absolutely succeeds on its own terms.

Cindy in Happy Valley makes a good point, of course. One doesn't necessarily become what one reads about. If that were the case, come to think of it, I'd have turned into a Russian Grand Duchess or a Belle Epoque demimondaine.

PICAdrienne said...

I have a 15 year old daughter and an almost 12 year old daughter. Fifteen is in an honors languages arts class at school, she has enough reading on her plate, so far this year it has been Oliver Twist, The Good Earth, Once and Future King, Romeo and Juliet, and The Odyssey. I know there have been a few short stories in the mix as well. Now, for almost 12, she just finished Bridge to Terebithia (she has NOT seen the movie) and I just got her Sounder and Pride and Prejudice. Thirteen is really tough, depending on reading level, I would suggest going with the classics for the next few years, such as Jane Eyre. It is also a great age for Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and Watership Down.

You will be a fine uncle...it is all about love and caring. Even 'experienced' (father of 4 kids, all older than mine) uncles can misjudge. With the almost 12, he figured he could give her a doll for Christmas one more time, after watching her, he thinks he missed by a year. Daughter of mine told him he didn't miss, and did like the gift.

Rachel said...

As the former manager of the kids and teens section at a large independent bookseller, I feel your pain. You didn't even mention the Gossip Girl or A-List series - if you think the Princess books are bad, you would run screaming from these. But as your insightful readers have pointed out, there are a number of quality books for young girls. I just finished Peter Abraham's _Down the Rabbit Hole_, a great mystery featuring a 13 year old female sleuth. _The Penderwicks_ (Jeanne Birdsall) is a lovely story, _True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle_ (Avi) is full of high-seas adventure, _A Northern Light_ (Jennifer Connelly)is a great historical tale, and _Speak_ (Laurie Halse Andersen) is a truly amazing story - all feature strong, intelligent, independent young girls with more on their minds than makeup, boys, and clothes.

Liz said...

You don't know me from Jane Doe, but I wanted to let you know that I absolutely loved Nicholas and Alexandra as a teen...which was less than 10 years ago, so I consider it to be "recently." :)

Amy said...

Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix. I know they've been send but wanted to endorse them strongly.

judy said...

may i suggest one of my faves? i first saw the movie, then read the book, "my brilliant career".
the movie follows the book closely, and both are a delight.

beadslut said...

I am delighted to see many of my favorite rereads in this list. College of Magics, Coraline, Tamora Pierce's series, Larbelastier's Magic books, Westerfield's wonderful stuff and Duane and Wynne-Jones too! All of these came out well after I was Violet's age, but I found them anyway. I would add Patricia Wrede to that list also.

What's important now is that she does read, and to poke the good things in front of her, thank goodness for Uncles like you.

Isn't it nice to be a modern demimondaine?

marie in florida said...

you are a perfect Uncle. considerate and generous. it's more than ok to be the eddy in the flow ; and; you've started a good discussion here. i just read "Bridge to Terebithia" myself. the movie was very faithful to the book.

marie in florida said...

i forgot to add; Sadly most magazines for adult women are much the same sort of gargle. geeze...

Anonymous said...

and how about the brian jacques books. terrific stuff.

Anonymous said...

how about the brian jacques books. terrific stuff!

Anonymous said...

Franklin,

I will echo the awesome uncle comments. I do not if this is a repeat because I will confess I did not read alllll the comments. You have given the soon to be 13 year old reading to aspire to and not something that is beneath her young, intelligent mind. Loved your choices.

Chris in MN said...

I really enjoyed the Douglas Adams "Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" books at that age.

Geogrrl said...

Those are good choices, Franklin. She WILL appreciate them.

For her next birthday, might I recommend "The Blue Castle" by Lucy Maude Montgomery? A favourite I discovered at the age of 12 and periodically re-read.

Hanna said...

Hi Franklin,
As a 13-year-old who reads everything from the Princess Diaries to Anna Karenina, The Bell Jar and everything in between, I figured it was a good reason to unlurk. I don't know what level Violet's reading at, but here are some of my suggestions for modern books that are fun and easy reading, but still have smart protagonists.

Twilight (and its sequel New Moon) by Stephenie Meyer

While this book is most definitely a romance featuring a girl who falls in love with a vampire, she extremely smart, funny and independent.

Anything by Tamora Pierce

The Giver by Lois Lowery
One of my favorite books of all time.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

A gem of a read. About a girl who dies and ends up in "Elsewhere." It's not a heavy book, and had me laughing out loud!

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A graphic novel about growing up as a teenager in Iran. The author is witty and inspiring. I met here at my library last year!

I have loads more titles, but don't want to take up too much room... If you're interested, I'm happy to give you more titles/advise you on all things pertaining to 13-year-old girls...

I love the blog!

KellyD said...

First if you had to resort to the tricks in some of those books to get a boyfriend, HE'S NOT WORTH IT.
While raising my step daughter as a single mom ( yeahhh theres a story there) I forbade anyone in the family to ask her if she had a boyfriend. Do you realize that people ask this of girls as young as 6??? She learned that math and science rocked, she didnt need a BF to be someone, and intelligence is sexy. It's gotten worse.
I worry for my neices.

NeedleTart said...

Two words Franklin: Dorothy Dunnet. In fact, get a set of her Lymond of Crawford series for yourself. "The stuff that dreams are made of" (at least until Mr. Right puts down the trashy stuff and gets a look at you).

KnotAnotherKnitter said...

Jacob Have I Loved

The link will also direct you towards some equally good books.

I'd also recommend The Cheese Stands Alone, Lord of the Flies, and The Chocolate War. These are 'boy-themed' books, but were some of my favorites. They are on the dark side, so you may want to preview them, first, to see if your niece is old enough.

Kate S. said...

May I also suggest the following series -
Crown Dual and it's Sequel by Sherwood Smith
The Wren series by Sherwood Smith.

The Anne Mccaffrey books that were mentioned up stream are:
Dragonsong
Dragonsinger
Dragondrums

Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon series and
The Devil's Aritmetic are good.

Jane has just started wrting with her son, Adam Stemple and they have several books out together about Elves and the Modern world.

(These are good for Boys or Girls)

Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series. Some adult themes/violence - but the first three books about Talia the Queens Own Herald are good.

Philip Pullman's Compass Series is good and has a strong following.

Franklin - you care and that means more than anything. You'll be a terrific uncle.

Back to Lurkdom -

Kate

Angel said...

I was a big reader as a kid and I jumped past all those young adult novels straight to the good stuff at 13- (I was also a way advanced reader for my age so that might affect my choices) Jane Eyre is a good choice- there is also all of Jane Austin's stuff (yes all about women landing husbands but with the most witty social commentary.)

However I have to say my favorite, absolute favorite books from that age was the Earthsea Trilogy- by Ursula LeGuin. I think its is one of the best fantasy series of all time, next to Tolkien and Narnia (actually I think it outranks Narnia as LeGuin is such a sophisticated writer.)There are well-drawn male and female characters and recently LeGuin has actually expanded the trilogy and it retains its originality and brillance. I'm surpised nobody has mentioned it yet as it is one of the great fantasy classics that is geared toward young people.

But really by about that age I was also branching out into the hard-core classics- the way I figure it, a little Dickens, Shakespere, Hardy, Fitzgerald, and Wharton are good for the teenage soul.

Cate K said...

You made good choices. At 13 I was reading (sneak reading) Catcher in the Rye and out in public I was reading every biography I could get my hands on. I also love history books and would actually read encyclopedias for fun. Now I surf the internet.

lara andraste said...

As a 16 year old girl, I'd like to asure you that my friends and I avoid the teen section like the plague. I feel insulted by most of the material and definatly the advertising of such.

That being said, I'd recommend Tamora Pierce, especially the Lioness Quartet.

Twilight said...

I think if I were in that bookstore I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Your choices were good though. Better to show her there are alternatives to the royal witch slut way even if she doesn't read them immediately.

Sandi said...

I've done some research on literature written for adolescent girls, and most of the material out there is appalling! I think I would just add to two things to your list of complaints: 1) that if a girl wants to do anything adventurous, she must dress in drag, and 2) girls can be independent and curious until they grow up and learn how to be docile. Yuck. I did find that Robin McKinley and Garth Nix both write complex and exciting young female characters, but they're both fantasy writers. What does that tell you?

Mel said...

Um, what about 'Are You There, God, It's Me, Margaret?' That's a story about a 13 year old girl. Of course, it means getting into periods and touching those 'special' places and the exigencies of increasing one's bust, but there ya go.

Oh, and I like how you incorporated the official motto of my native state.

Carol said...

Tamora Pierce has agreat series of books that are perfect (and intended) for younger people. I enjoy them and I am 39. So they are well-written. And there is no inappropriate stuff. One book out of her series is "Protector of the Small" that is just the title I can remember off of the top of my head. Any of those books would be good.

Libby said...

I love your choices. But actually--as a few people already said--books for teens are way better than they used to be (when I was a teenager there was Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye...) In addition to some of the great stuff already mentioned here I'd add M.T. Anderson's Burger Wuss, Feed, and Octavian Nothing, and John Green's An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska. Oh, and Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat books, which might be a little racier than every parent is ready for for a 13-yo, but soon. (And Meg Cabot's not bad at all, despite the horrifyingly pink covers...)

Valerie said...

Check out The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and Amy & Isabelle by Elisabeth Strout. Both young adult selections.

BigAlice said...

Your experience reminds me of shopping for baby clothes for my new neice. Girls clothes were all pink, frilly, and/or flowered. Boys had the a glowing choice between dark blue, brown, and camouflage. And this was just the toddlers' clothing. Ugh.

Everyone's already posted such great authors and books already. Robin McKinley's not been mentioned so I will. The Hero & the Crown is a favorite of mine, as is the Blue Sword. The former was a Newbury honor book, if you'd like credentials.

Just as long as you don't give her Tess of the D'urbervilles, OK? Not until she's old enough to understand it in its historical context. Yes, well-written; yes, a classic, but I wanted to hunt down Thomas Hardy and rip his heart out, if only it were still beating. Oh yes, but the "hero" at least gets the girl's sister. Bah.

Catherine said...

I'm sorta shocked no one's mentioned "Spindle's End" though I did see a reference to Robin McKinley, the author. Great retelling of Sleeping Beauty (yeah, yeah, the princess thing again) by a Newberry Award-winning writer.

rams said...

Yep, Tamora Pierce, who said "In my books grownups do not get to kick ass. Boys sometimes kick ass. Girls always kick ass."

And Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men and two subsequent books about the little scunners. Crivens!

LaurieM said...

Oh boy. I say just skip the teen section. My eldest son, age 12, has moved straight into parent-approved sci-fi and fantasy like Eragon, the Myth Adventures, and Ring World. For a girl, I suggest anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and the Wizard of EarthSea Trilogy. At least, that's what I read at that age. Anne McCaffery isn't too bad either, though she doesn't hold up as one gets older.

Abby said...

Louisa May Alcott had some lovely stuff besides Little Women. I particularly loved Eight Cousins or Aunt Hill (same book, two titles) and its sequel Rose in Bloom.
I also loved books by Gene Stratton Porter, particularly Freckles and then Girl of the Limberlost. Both are old fashioned (having been written in the 19th century) but are lovely.
Just so you can tell these recommendations are still valid, I'm 25 and my 16 year old sister alos loved these books. They are timeless classics.

Jo said...

I'm voting "Jane Eyre" at that age...love story for the hormones and incredible prose a la Bronte! And you are right about the books for young persons...I shudder to think what will they become! To that end, my 10 year old has taken to reading The Yarn Harlot! :)

brewerburns said...

They sound like good choices to me.

Helen said...

Oh my. Our library has a MUCH better teen section than your bookstore.
There are a number of girls either secretly or openly becoming knights in imaginary historical pseudo-european countries (a la Tamora Pierce, and Mercedes Lackey). And of course dragon riding boys.
But there DO seem to be a dearth of boy oriented books.... unless you skip the "teen:" sections and go straight for classics (which you seem to have done admirably.)

I 100th the vote for you as fine uncle. You're doing splendidly and have great instincts for what to and what NOT to give your "niece".

Paisley said...

If you had presented me with those three titles for my 13th birthday, you would have gone straight to the top of the all-time greatest uncles hit parade.
If she likes the royal side of things she might appreciate some of Jean Plaidy's works (I was about 13 or 14 when I started reading them).

brewerburns said...

As an absolutely voracious reader I have three recommendations for you (for the future): Lois Lowry (The Giver, Number The Stars, etc.), Judy Blume (frank talk about sexuality, body changes, and the pressures of being a teen) and Phillip Pulliam (The Golden Compass.) I also have really vivid memories of reading The Bridge to Terabithia when I was in the 9-11 age bracket. It was sort of mind-bending at the time.

Judith in Ottawa said...

I suspected as much but you hadn't yet (I think) come out and declared the lack of boyfriend. I'm sorry my dear, and wish I could help. Just know you have a wealth of friends out here among the electrons.

And from the distant past my recommendation would be Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein. Yes, I was a math geek, why do you ask?

Rachel said...

If you need a guide Franklin, I suggest you try:
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate. I spent an hour in B&N yesterday looking for books for a girl about to turn 9 - fortunately they had 'Half Magic' in stock and I got that and a Klutz Press book. I spent more time trying to find books to read aloud to my 10-year old son and had no success. Yuk, yuk, yuk. Up 'til now we've been very happy reading books written between 1900 and 1955, by E. Nesbit and Edward Eager and Walter Brooks, etc. But he'll be moving into a different stage and I hate the current stuff that's out there.

Tactless Wonder said...

YA is an odd category. Never had it growing up...Remember bookstores don't give the whole picture, in a library there are a number of "boy" books mixed in, honest, not many, but they are there. It really is in the last few years that there has been a "girl book" EXPLOSION. Maybe it's to make up for the lack of "Sassy"-esque teen mags? I dunno.

I LOVED Jane Eyre when I was 13...If you haven't wrapped it up yet, jot a note/point out the page/chapter where Jane is a child and fights with her stepbrother and ends up in the "red room." For me, at that age, it's what made me read the thing twice in one summer.

DianeS said...

Sounds like you're pretty good uncle material to me. Those book choices were well thought out and I'm sure she'll love them (even if she doesn't let on...she is a teenager after all).

Marie said...

Unfortunately, the Teen section in most chain bookstores only represents a thin slice of what is being published for teens. If you can, next time try either a good, independent bookstore, or consider going to a library with a decent Teen section and asking the Young Adult librarian for recommendations. There are so many wonderful books for this age group (a number of which have been suggested in the comments) that you might not ever find in a chain bookstore.
(And yes, I am a YA librarian, and I never have enough time to read all the great books that pass through my hands!)

twig said...

Nicholas and Alexandra is a great book. I'm fascinated with the Romanovs and have read many books about them. The Massie book reads like a novel, but it's not. If only more history were written in such an engaging way. I just wish the ending would change.

Elizabeth said...

Perhaps I should read the books myself, and learn.

Ack! No! NOOOOOOO!!! I will throw myself upon those books before that!

These last two posts are just so, so descriptive of some of the yucky clutter that hangs around the corner of my brain. Thanks for helping me sweep it out, and God bless you for helping this young woman stand strong against that dreck that's being peddled to women lately.
(author recs cut for rantiness and irrelevance)

Lizbon said...

I third the vote for anything by Ursula LeGuin and would add The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper (a young-adult series and thus less sophisticated than the grown-up Guin, but lovely reading - it will make her want to move to Wales immediately). I believe at that age I was knee-deep in adult sci-fi (LeGuin and Arthur C. Clarke), Tolkien (of course), and mysteries (I had just discovered Agatha Christie.

Lizbon said...

PS. It is my belief that all you have to do to be a good uncle (or aunt) is to treat your niece or nephew like a person - a full human being, even though they are small and often cranky. And we know you'll do that, so not to worry.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that no one's mentioned Sherlock Holmes yet. There's also Watership Down and I also add to the recommendations for the Wizard of Earthsea trilogy. There's also some other Bronte books such as Agnes Grey and Villette that I enjoyed. And for a *cough* romance *cough* I still really enjoy Georgette Heyer's Regencies. Well-written, lively, and the female characters have, well, character. I also remember reading Go Ask Alice on the playground during 6th grade (true!) and it scared the crap out of me. No illicit substances for moi, TYVM. Sue F.

Delurking said...

When I was 13, all the kids were reading The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby. Yes, I went to Cat'lick school (can't you tell?).

Now I'm an uncle myself. None of my nieces or nephews ever liked the books in the "teen" section. Christmas gifts for the nieces this year included one of the Herriot books for the 13-year-old and "The Zombie Survival Guide" for the 16-year-old. They each loved their gifts!

Mel said...

I don't know how you like to find your reading material, but I'm getting a lot more satisfaction out of Powell's, our local indie. Their selection of knitting books is a little weak at the nearest branch, but they certainly carry a wider selection than the cash cows publishers thought to pay off B/N with.

Anonymous said...

Try "Animal Farm" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." Also Scott O'Dell's "Island of the Blue Dolphins."

Auntly H said...

Lots of great memories in these recommendations and some new ones I want to check out as my nieces are around that age (maybe that's just an excuse).
Also, I want to recommend Cynthia Voigt. I read everything she wrote when I was an early teen.

Violetsrose said...

Any of the Paul Zindel books - especially "pardon me you're stepping on my eyeball" - wonderfuls tuff about growing up and dealing with all the stuff life throws at you - VERY highly recommended

Ginger_nut said...

next time your buying for a young teenage girl, check out Tamora Pierce's books. She tries to break from the crappy female stereotypes.

LauraJ said...

Robin McKinley, very much, and Heidi Vandevelde (Heir Apparent). Meg Cabot is actually pretty good, as even her heroines have a well-developed sense of self-parody, and my preteen son enjoyed the princess series (as did my father). For boys or girls or men or women, Naomi Novik's _His Majesty's Dragon_ series is first rate (though it has relatively few female characters, those who are there are strong). It's got talking dragons who kick Anne McCaffery's fascist ass,cannon, Honor, and moral development.

kbsalazar said...

But Franklin, this is what uncles (and cousins) are FOR. To introduce the idea that the world is larger than the immediate family, encompasses more ideas than can be stumbled across between one's breakfast table and the front door, and to give gifts with the whiff of challenge, taboo, (or at least the non-conventional) about them.
Keep at it. Stretch those little minds before they lose the ability to stretch at all. -k.

Ella said...

I think you made perfect choices. My daughter hated the choice of books when she was 13 and sought out books on the civil rights movement and the second world war. My son who is 14 reads primarily adult books, Dan Brown,Tom Clancy etc. There's not much else out there besides Harry Potter and he gave those up half way through the fourth book.
I have had luck with the Newbury award books, if you need ideas for next year!

Marcy said...

Yes, as everyone else has said, you will be a terrific uncle. Uncles need to broaden their niece/nephew's experience.
When I was thirteen my big brother gave me a book of Tolstoy's short stories. I have loved them ever since. I spent high school reading Russian lit under the desk.

And what is there to do about boy's literature? My younger son will probably want to read about princesses, but not the older one. And the schools wonder why boys don't read anymore.

Bumbershootska said...

I looooved "Nicholas & Alexandra"! What a good choice for a young lady!
As always, a wonderful blog read:)
Thanks Franklin!!!

Mary Lynn said...

Oh, Franklin, at least you didn't have to take her clothes shopping . . . which would just re-enforce the idea that 13 year olds are supposed to dress like sluts.

My DD turned 13 on the 3/9. She loves the Eragon series and Artemis Fowl series of books. For her Easter basket (I don't do lots of candy for the kiddos), she is getting the cd from Wicked and the book Wicked . . . which is probably sacralegious but is probably better for her acne prone face than a 1 lb. chocolate bunny.

You made great choices.

J. said...

yes good choices all around

I agree with all the Tamora Pierce ideas - great feminine characters always breaking out of the gender roles assigned to them

Cornelia Funke - Inkspell and others are all great.

Eric Wilson - Canadian mysteries all really good

Lois Lowry - again mentioned by others earlier but I enjoy the characters in her books especially the The Giver

Kathryn Lasky - Memoirs of bookbat - a fabulous read about challenging authority when it is wrong and you know that there are other ways to do things

Louis Sachar - Hoot, Holes, etc - all great

Janet Lunn - Canadian historical fiction - The root Celler and the Hollow Tree are good

Patricia Reilly Giff - Nory Ryan's Song and Lily's crossing

I am a big fan of WWII survior books and really like Behind the secret window by Nelly S. Toll, Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serrailler and Who stole Pink Bunny

Okay I will stop now - it's the teacher part of my brain that always wants to share great literature with others.

Jennifer said...

What a joy to read everyone's recommendations. I have to say I am frustrated with the division between "girl" books and "boy" books. I think that both boys and girls need to read books with both strong male and female characters. The increased division between girl toys and boy toys, girl clothes and boy clothes is frustrating. I don't know how I would handle it if I had children.

Anyway, as an adult I love reading young adult literature. And I will admit that my tastes run towards the "fantasy" genre. I was happy to see that so many other people love Tamora Peirce. Wonderful books. I also highly recommend the Blue Sword by Robin McKinely. I would also recommend Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.

I would have loved an uncle who gave me books for my birthday.

Kristen said...

The dearth of books written for teens is such a painful situation, for all involved. Ugh.
Love your blog and read it regularly, hope that spring comes quickly to Chicago.

Deborah C. said...

Franklin, you will be an awesome uncle. Your book choices are thoughtful, and a much better choice than the mental mcnuggets peddled to the YA audience. My eldest DD (now almost 15) has enjoyed the Tamora Pierce, Artemis Fowl, and demi-god series very much. Also, have you looked at the book "Holes" by Louis Sacher? It's a Newbury Award winner, my daughter and I both read it and loved it. I have to second the votes for Ursula LeGuin's "Earthsea" trilogy plus one (she added a fourth book many years later). The female character in the second book is wonderful, and that was the book I kept returning to. The James Herriot books were also favorites of mine when I was that age.

FiberQat said...

#7 is unfortunately true. Geeky girls at that age (unless they're knock down drag out stunning) rarely attract boys. I should know; I was one. Boys don't like to be shown up as dumber than their girlfriend at that age.

Very good choices. Consider the unabridged versions of Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book" stories too.

Anonymous said...

I think you made some excellent choices (speaking as a grown woman with a strong memory of year 13 - read "immature"). I have to agree with some of the other comments that Terry Pratchett's "Wee Free Men", "A Hat Full of Sky" and "Wintersmith" are fantastic. If/when I have a girl, I will definitely read these with her since although, technically, the heroine is a witch, witchery involves being competent and capable (not spells), she's not really that bothered about the boyfriend, and it's set in England. Besides its so funny I have hardback copies of all three for myself. :)

p.s. just in case you weren't sure, having a problem with the trends in girly teen lit does not make you a bad uncle, it makes you a great one.

Julie McC. said...

Get on Lake Shore Drive and come to Hyde Park. 57th Street Books has one of the best children-teen-young adult book sections you'll find, not to mention their literature, mystery and science-fiction/fantasy departments.

Annabella said...

Some of my favortie books from "childhood" were by Cynthia Voigt. Though some of them are a bit more depressing Homecoming & Dicey's Song are decidedly not about princesses, witches, or sluts. My absolute favorite (that I'd still read) is called "Jackaroo" - about a girl who becomes a 'Robin Hood' type, fighting injustice and stuff. While she does eventually get married, she marries the guy SHE picks, not the other way around. At least that's how I remember it.... perhaps I should go re-read.

Anonymous said...

i just finished reading "hotel paradise" by martha grimes, a mystery with a 12 year old girl as the protagonist. i loved it. i'd recommend it for any girl who loves to read.

wendy

Knitress said...

Oh, how we all love books!

You're going to be a great uncle, btw. Good choices.

A lot depends on Violet's reading level. But here are some books that the 13 year olds I've known enjoy:

Tolkien, LoTR
Anne McCaffrey: Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums are the best, although I enjoyed the others at this age and so did my goddaughter.
Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stovenall: Sorcery and Cecelia (and its sequel); this is a really fun version of Regency England with magic.
Philip Pullman
Terry Pratchett
Cynthia Voigt
Watership Down
Timothy Zahn (science fiction, plot driven, suspenseful, g-rated)
Naomi Novik (muchMUCHMUCH better than the usual dragon books.)
Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series
Agatha Christie and other classic mysteries
Douglas Adams
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

Anonymous said...

You are such a joy to read!

I have a daughter....the same can be said for movies, tv shows.

Lavendersheep said...

In my teens I started reading Jane Austen & LM Montgomery. I read every Anne of Green Gables books there were, which leads a girl through being the smartest in her class to going to college, then university and after having a successful writing & teaching career then settles down with a man. Not bad for nearly 100 years ago.

Thank you so much for your post, I agree completely

Emy said...

One of my college friends now works in a library, and blogs about this. She's got age-specific recommendations on her side bar, which may help you out:

http://motherreader.blogspot.com/

(Amusingly enough, hers was the last blog I read before coming here today.)

Lee Ann said...

Robin McKinley's a fantastic writer, and her heroines are truly remarkable young girls. Fighters, all, but in a good way. Her retellings of fairy tales are also fantastic: "Beauty" is one of my all-time favourite novels for "young adults," and I re-read it as an Old Adult. They may be princess stories, but the young women in them are the true definition of inner royalty as opposed to outer willyoubemyonenightstand.

Sweetie, if I were a guy, I'd be on a plane to Chicago right now.

Windsornot said...

Being that my obsession with all things royal started at age 13 right at the time that Chuck and Di were getting married (oops, dropped my age there), those are all excellent choices, and stuff that I read at that age-- except the Princess Michael book, as that must be a more recent publication. They didn't have that out back then, 'cause I would've read it! ;-) But yeah, some of the teen stuff is blithering fluff, and sometimes girls need that, but it's better that you appealed to the side of her that respects that she is old enough and smart enough to read an adult book. 13 is a weird age, but it's a transitional age, and your choice of books, in the end, respected that transition. Don't worry, you'll be a fine uncle. It's different when the kid is in your own family, vs. being someone else's kid. No, really, it's true.

Anonymous said...

Delurking to make book suggestions:

1) Anything by Marion Zimmer Bradley, especially the Darkover novels (although there is some sex talk that might make some parents nervous I started reading them in middle school)

2) Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy (pretty heavy unitarian allegory, but I love it anyway, much as I love The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe).

Kate A. said...

My brother gave me Nicholas & Alexandra for my 13th birthday, and I credit that gift with changing my life - it was a direct line from that book to the PhD in Russian history that I'm finishing this spring.

You made great choices, and having thought about them so much makes them that much more worthwhile.

roggey said...

Good for you, in showing Violet there are other views and works out in the bookstore. Even if she doesn't cotton to them immediately, I'm sure she will (as I did) grow tired of the SOS in teen lit.

Then she'll try to figure out what else there is to read about young women and opportunities (I went from HQ Romances to reading Stephen Hawking books). And you've provided a guide for her.

And it's nice to read you're feeling a bit better, too.

CarolineF said...

I see there are well over a hundred remarks ahead of mine so you have really hit the nail on the head (or something). I am forty-mumblemumble and I think that your summary of what's read by teen girls is not so terribly different from what was out there for us in the 70s - maybe there were a few more alternatives then than now, but the narrative was similar. The upshot usually was that despite the witches, princesses, and sluts, the nice girl usually got the guy in the end. Especially if she had long eyelashes. Unrealistic expectations entrenched. Sigh. My daughter is only 5 so I have some time to plan ahead for this wave o' crap...

CarolineF said...

Sorry I should add: I agree especially with Pride & Prejudice (I read it in 7th grade english while the teacher yelled at the boys) and the Philip Pullman set that starts with The Golden Compass. I am assuming she's done Harry Potter already because if not that is really great stuff too.

Sahara said...

There are very good books featuring non-white teenage girls but, unfortunately, you'd have to go to a 'black' book store. The nature of literary segregation is disgusting.

As teens are not producing the TV shows, designing the clothes and writing the books for themselves, adults are, it reinforces for me their lack of concern for anything other than making a dollar. I bet their own kids are virtual orphans with credit cards.

Lexy Girl said...

I think I first read Mists of Avalon when I was 13... but I'm pretty odd, so there.

A really wonderful collection to gift, and I agree, even if she isn't inclined to read them right away having them on her bookshelf may just raise her curiosity and get her to indulge.

good job!

Stephanie said...

As the mother of three daughters who are all reading voraciously through the teen years, I have a couple of suggestions, though I bet someone smarter than me got there first.

1. There are tons and tons of good books for teens, but they are not advertised, much the way broccoli is not advertised but McDonalds is.
ASK A LIBRARIAN.

2. Anything that won a Newbery award or was nominated or was carried around by anyone connected to the Newbery awards. Anything.

3. The Alex Awards go to the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences. Excellent.

4. Stargirl

5. Elsewhere

6. Sisterhood of the traveling pants. (All of them are just fine.)

7. The Royal Diaries Series. The alleged diaries of famous princesses. Cleopatra, Anastasia, Sandok, Weetamoo...princesses from all over the world. Awesome.

8. Julie of the wolves.

9. The Forest Wife. Robin Hood, retold from a feminine/feminist perspective.

10 Mercedes Lackey, particularly "The Last Herald-Mage" trilogy, which has a gay main character presented in an exceptionally normal and non-remarkable way.
(There is no attempt made to teach tolerance or to breed understanding. It is not a public service announcement, the guy is just gay. Very good. I cried.)

Kathleen said...

OHHH - yep. Try watching 3-6 grade TV (and beyond). It's all a parent can do not to cry...but I digress.

Next time, refer to great Books for Girls: More Than 600 Books to Inspire Today's Girls and Tomorrow's Women
by Kathleen Odean before buying. It gives wonderful suggestions by age and topic of interest.

Lousy uncle? are you kidding? you actually care enough to NOT feed her the crap that most preteen/teen girls are given, just because people don't want to work harder to find something good. rahhh!

Flavaknits said...

My sister looked at these "books" for her God-daughter and decided they were not suitable (Quote: there are enough gym-slip pregnancies without encouraging anymore!)
When I was 13, my uncle bought me a Badmington raquet (I kinda showed interest), several months later he borrowed it, never returned it, and it showed up the following year as a present for my sister! Salt in the wound - our birthdays are the same date, and I never got a present from him that year!
You'll be a fab uncle - you buy books for goodness sakes!
And my uncle - hes a grumpy old sod, but we're great friends!

Danielle White said...

Oh yeah, I have 'lousy' uncles, too! All they ever did was teach me how to build things, how to start a camp fire, how to identify birds, how to milk cows, how to think for myself, how to use tools, how to make cool food like homemade sausages, how to ride horses, how to fish, how to design things, how to drive, how to.....

You get the picture. Long live 'lousy' uncles!

GailB said...

Don't think about it so hard, the part that matters is that you CARE!

Lumie said...

Your choices were great. As an older sister of preteens. I tend to read a lot of children and teen books. Garth Nix is a good author for either sex and Tamara Pierce is wonderful for girls. Both authors avoid the traps that sell most books for the teen audience.

Michelene said...

I'd like to add Robin McKinley's Sherwood to the list. I think it's a crime that neither The Blue Sword or The Hero and the Crown have been made into a movie. My 13yo is working her way(rapidly) through the list from the Mayor's Book Club at lincolnlibrary.info.
Undead is HOT. All my daughters liked New Moon and Twilight. They also liked A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels by Libba Bray(the protagonists are are witches, but like the women from Mists of Avalon) When I could hand a book to them and they would read it without question, I had them read the Newberry winners. What about the Eyre Affair by Jasper FForde? Funny stuff, that one.
Myself at thirteen? I hated girly lit. I was into Bradbury, Clarke, and Asimov. I still read Dandelion Wine first thing every summer. The movie version of Pullman's The Golden Compass comes out in December. I pray it's better than the Eragon movie. (Well is does have Daniel Craig going for it.)

Kristine said...

As the person more or less in charge (perhaps in death-grip) of the YA section at the chainbookstore where I work, I have some recommendations. Forgive me if these already got mentioned, and consider them seconded. :)

First off, I actually like Meg Cabot's books. Yeah, they're popcorn, but Mia makes good choices for the right reasons. She's fiercely independent, but swoons over her boyfriend -- but doesn't let him make her into something she's not. The couple of times she tries, he thinks she's weird.

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jacqueline (sp) Moriarty is a fantastic epistilary(I really can't spell today, sorry) novel that is a total antidote to the TTFN and TTYL nonsense that Lauren Myracle passes off on otherwise sensible girls.

Kai Meyer's series...can't recall the titles now, maybe Water Mirror? -- might be a little young, but they're excellent.

Anything Carol Plum Ucci wrote. Anything. And her books work well for boys, too.

Chris Crutcher also, on both counts.

Laurie Halse Anderson's books are wonderful, especially Speak, although the subject matter in that one can get touchy.

Someone said the "Uglies" series and the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" -- yes to both.

And at 27, I switch back and forth between Meg Cabot and Joan Didion and Umberto Eco with ease...it's just a matter of what I feel like reading today. Just sayin'. :)

Pheelya said...

I totally understand your frustration with YA literature. I am a library media specialist in an elementary school and it is so hard to find middle school level books that have good content for my higher readers that doesn't have some sort of smut or female "concepts" that are aged!

I can offer some sites that review YA literature that you can take a peek at before hitting the bookstores next time :)

www.schoollibraryjournal.com

www.cbcbooks.org

http://www.librarians.info/YA/yareviews.html

Hope you find those helpful!

Guinifer said...

I can give you wonderful recommendations for boys. I read most of what my boys read, and I was an "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret." Try The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. http://www.amazon.com/House-Scorpion-Nancy-Farmer/dp/0689852231/ref=pd_bbs_sr_4/002-7794248-8590435?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174105294&sr=8-4
Also, Diana Wynn Jones and Garth Nix are excellent The Artemis Fowl series might be young for her but they are very clever.
Also. Jane Austen....

Guinifer said...

Oh, by Garth Nix - The Silmarillion has an excellent Heroine. Oh I still love her! That series is on my bookshelfe right next to the Golden Compass.

Sue F. said...

she may be a bit too old for Jane Langton's Hall family series, The Diamond in the Window et al, or Julie Andrews' The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.

Katie said...

In the vein of knitting and books for teens, I recommend "Chicks With Sticks: It's a purl thing" - it deals with relatively realistic issues of teenager-hood, as well as offering knitting patterns and coming-of-age advice.

Elemmaciltur said...

Thank you for taking such a step. I can't stand these new teen "literatures" either.

M said...

I am going to print up your comments today and save the book suggestions for when my four year old is thirteen. Now all she wants read to her is Richard Scarry's Best Story Book Ever.

Laurie said...

I have to second Lee Ann's suggestion -- Robin McKinley! Not only Beauty, but also and especially The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and (for the spinners) Spindle's End.

That Laurie (who will be checking out Chicago next week!)

Debbie said...

Franklin, I agree with you on the topic of slim book choices for this age group. I have a 14-year-old son and a 13-year-old niece who is a biblioholic (she gets that from her aunt - me). Here are some authors/titles that might suit in coming years:

J. Fitzgerald McCurdy - The Serpent's Egg (1st in a trilogy)

Kenneth Oppel - Silverwing (1st in a trilogy, but there are other good books by this author too)

C. S. Lewis - The Chronicles of Naria (7-book series - try just one at a time though)

Cornelia Funke - The Thief Lord, Inkheart and Inkspell

Eoin Colfer - the Artemis Fowl series

Christopher Paolini - Eragon (I haven't read this one yet, but my niece devoured both it and the sequel, Eldest, so they must be good)

Jeanne DuPrau - The City of Ember

Then, of course there is the Harry Potter series. Thankfully, I won't be at Knitting Camp when the next one is released. Last time I had to wait until I got back home as I had pre-ordered a copy! Poor planning on my part.

Good luck - and you will be a great uncle.

Anonymous said...

At 13, my daughter started on our library. Particularly the Heinlein. She's turned out ok, and still loves to read. She is not a princess or a slut, tho he is a witch (wiccan).

Your choices are great. And you're right about the boys-- tho we do tend to do the 50 Boy's Life Science Fiction books for our pre-teen and young teen boys.

Tehemina said...

Alright, I had to say something.
I know there's thousands of suggestions, and many of them excellent, but I just have to add one:

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

Awesome book, with all the requisite fun and romance and fantasy.
I'm all for Louisa May Alcott and Madeleine L'Engle too (she's great at describing awkward adolesence)

I'm expecting my first child in May, (it's a boy) and we asked that instead of gifts, people bring their favorite childhood book. That way, the little guy has a library all set before he shows up.
Hope your girl likes her books!

Geogrrl said...

Although they are traditionally considered "boy's" books, I would also suggest the following books which I read and loved at that age:

"Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" by Jack London

"Kim" by Rudyard Kipling

"Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson

I remember first reading "Jane Eyre" at about 13 age and loving it. I admired her inner toughness; the way Jane would take whatever was thrown at her and keep going.

I also recommend a few less well-known memoirs that are perennial favourites--all are by Richmond P. Hobson: "Rancher Takes a Wife", "Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy" and "Grass Beyond the Mountains". The books are about him and his business partner establishing a ranch in the wilds of northern British Columbia in the late 1920s.

Geogrrl said...

Some more that came to me:

John Wyndham's Sci-Fi, the most famous titles being "The Chrysalids", "The Day of the Triffids", and "The Midwich Cuckoos".

Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy: "The Crystal Cave", "The Hollow Hills", and "The Last Enchantment"

There were a few mystery books by Rosemary Edgehill that starred Bast, a regular witch (as in human practicing Wicca). The titles that I read and enjoyed were "The Book of Moons" and "Bowl of Night".

Anything by Gerald Durrell, particularly books about his early days, such as "Fauna and Family" are an interesting and fun read.

Finally, might I suggest the Asterix and Tintin comics? My brother and I started reading them as kids and at 40-something we still collect them.

mehitabel said...

Okay, next time get yourself out of the chain bookstores and into a good indie--check booksense.com for one near you. I worked in the kids/YA section of one, and I can tell you there are a LOT of good books for teen girls, and boys, that don't buy into all the sexist junk. By the way, we had the Princess Diaries books in the Middle Grades, not YA section, Meg does some good stuff for "real" teens. Try her Mediator series.

Knitting Painter Woman said...

Everyone benefits from having a friend or relative who gives them things they don't quite understand. Gifting such lofty, adult books will be perceived, I think, as a compliment. An accessible adult anthology of poetry or art prints would have the same effect. Great work.
(Traveling Pants is nearly a cult favorite. even for 20 and 30 somethings...)

Marg B said...

Franklin, I really hope all these comments are giving you the self-confidence you deserve because anyone with half a brain can see by the choices you made that you are a very caring and thoughtful uncle.

Don't dismiss all teenage books just because there is a lot of crap out there. I'm now in my 30s and find there is nothing better to read than good quality young adult fiction - and yes it does exist! In addition to the authors already mentioned, may I suggest Australian authors John Marsden (great for boys also, especially 'Tomorrow, When The War Began') & Robin Klein, and Britsh author Phillip Pullman, especially 'His Dark Materials' series.

Teresa C said...

Man,oh man! This post created a reaction. Even this lurker is posting a comment.

I have three daughters aged 21, 19, and 15. While they have read some of the crap on the young adult shelves, I always encourage them to stretch. Jane Eyre has always turned out to be a favorite. And now anything by Jane Austen. The great films that have been made of some of these books helps.

I think it is great that you didn't go with what is the norm these days and got some great books. Now, how can you get her to read them?

Hannah said...

Franklin, this is exactly what is going to make you an excellent Uncle.
The teens years are a tough time for book buying. It's a tough time for anything really if you ask me. Your selections were wonderful though and even if she doesn't read them as a 13 year old I bet that she will read them eventually. One of the best things you can do for a girl that age is treat her like she's not a kid, which is what your book selections say.
I'm also going to put in a plug for Clan of the Cave Bear - great, great books. And also the older Nancy Drew series, nothing hooks a girl like a good series and Nancy Drew, while there is some romance and girly nonsense, mostly focuses on being strong, smart and capable.

paula said...

My god, man. Can you be funnier? Sadly, the reason it resonates is because everything you said is true and continues to be even as women get older. I'm told I need to "dumb myself down" if I ever hope to get a man at "my age (37)." The thing is, I'm not sure how long I could keep that up as evidenced by the last debacle a few months ago –– otherwise commonly referred to as "the three month relationship." In any case, you are going to be an amazing uncle simply because you even bothered to consider these things while performing the everyday act of choosing a birthday gift for a co-worker's young daughter. This thoughtfulness is what counts. :-)

ellen said...

A couple book ideas:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

Coincidence they are both by authors named Smith but they are winners!

Heather said...

Island of the Blue Dolphins
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, series
Last Days of Summer
Are you there God, It's Me, Margaret
(anything by Judy Blume)
The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funk
Ella Enchanted
Anything by Gail Carson Levine
Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson
And my personal favorite... A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She may be a bit young for it yet, but still good to have on the shelf.

Your instinct to fall back on the classics is a good one. I agree that the teen book section contains lots of dreck, but there is really a lot of good literature written for young adults, too. You just have wade through the crap, or if you like, ask me for my 15 year old daughters book list, she's standing here dictating to me faster than I can type. She has good taste.

Mari said...

You cannot possibly go wrong with Jane Austen, but there is a limited amount of her books, though... :)
Louise Rennison writes ironically, and my gorls laugh whie reading them. Rennison makes fun of that slutty-princess-attitude, and laughing is always good for one.

Laura said...

Meg Cabot is certainly popcorn whereas the Brontes are a full, satisfying meal. However, popcorn is occasionally what is called for.

Personally, I love Shannon Hale's books. New, princessy, and not too fluffy.

But, then, I like Madeleine L'Engle, too, so it might not be to your taste...

I think she'll enjoy the books you picked out eventually if not now. Sometimes it takes a while to have enough real life experiences to relate to great literature.

Kathy said...

You've gotten lots of good suggestions, but I think you should just provide good literature and not worry too much. Perhaps my age (50+) is not relevant, but I read voraciously - hated Janes Eyre and Austen - loved Sherlock Holmes. I saw strong women in my family as my role models and didn't need books specifically about women to reinforce them. One of my favorite books is Artemis Fowl - he's a real bad, smart kid and delightful to read about, but there are also strong females in it too. I think you can find strong women many places if you look.

imogen said...

Wise choices I think.

Personally, at that age I loved (and 10 years on, still love) fantasy novels, especially with a strong female lead. I was recently reminded that Tamora Pierce was a big favourite - I'd recommend her Wild Magic series. (Ha! someone else recommended Pierce too!)

She's been mentioned in comments as well, but Jane Austen is also great.

Others have mentioned "Go Ask Alice" - confronting, sad, definitely a good one to read. Similarly, "So Much To Tell You" & the sequel - both John Marsden (as I recall).

doulicia said...

Methinks you hit a nerve, Franklin!

Jenn said...

When you'd said "witch" I thought you'd come across the Sweep series. Anyway, huzzah for you! I know you're done and not in need of suggestions, but perhaps you don't mind my mentioning A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for next year?

Jejune said...

G'daaay (does that sounds Aussie enough for you? ;)

I know you've had a million suggestions for good authors for teens, so here are some more to pad it out a little - Australian writers that my two Aussie teenagers love are Jackie French, Garth Nix, and John Marsden. Marsden is especially gripping and wonderful - doesn't pull any punches, and writes well for boys too.

Natalie Servant said...

Books that I haven't seen mentioned that I read first ages ago but also still love are:
Little, Big (John Crowley)
Winter's Tale (Mark Helprin)
The Hounds of the Morrigan (Pat O'Shea)
Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles
anything by Guy Gavriel Kay & Charles de Lint

Janet said...

I'll add to the 187 other comments which I have just scanned - I didn't see any mention of The Diary of Anne Frank. Perhaps I missed it.

catsmum said...

a bit of teen rubbish will be okay so long as she also gets to read good stuff. All your choices are admireable.
Other suggestions? Tamora Pierce, Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay.

Holly Bernice Cox said...

I was twelve when I read Isabel Allende for the first time , it's not too young. I have to say Mum read the "Nicholas and Alexandra" and thinks she might find it boring.There is a pretty good biography of "Henrietta Maria" by Alison Plowden .A very sassy woman ,royal and it would never leave Violet feeling the life of a royal is anything other than "interesting".Holly.

Nerdy Knitter said...

This is so late in coming, but I read every last one of the comments and didn't see anyone mention some of my favorites (I'm a librarian, and used to be a children's book editor in NYC):

ANYTHING by Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia is magical, but she's got so many other titles out there that are worth reading as well)
ANYTHING by Natalie Babbitt (Eyes of the Amaryllis is fantastic, as is Search for Delicious, and Tuck Everlasting, and....and...)
ANYTHING by Cynthia Rylant (okay, she's a little more complcated because she has easy-to-reads and beautifuly, moving YA novels, but you'll know them when you see them; I think A Fine White Dust is really thought-provoking and wonderful)
ANYTHING by Angela Johnson (Toning the Sweep is absolutely beautiful; she's also a poet, so if Violet goes in for poetry, she can check that out, too)

I'd like to second a few authors whose names only came up once:

Susan Cooper
Lloyd Alexander

Sorry this took me so long to get out there--not that you've been waiting with bated breath for MY opinion, but I really love these authors. They're so incredibly gifted.

Congratulations on being such a thoughtful gift-giver, Franklin.

Kate said...

Yes yes yes Tamora Pierce. I reorganised my bookshelves the otherday and as soon as I saw my vast collection of her books on my shelves my mind jumped to you and your pink-n-silver glitter covers fiasco. I recently re-read all of Tamora's books that I own, and although they're not Lord of the Rings, they still hold up very well.

Princess huh. I'd much rather be a knight. Alanna rocks my world, plus, rich character development and morals without force-feeding.

babs said...

I've skimmed the responses and none of you have mentioned the Patricia Wrede books. (Or you have and my brain has gone blurry). She's got a great series called the Dragons Series. It was recommended to me by one of my students. Begins with _Dealing with Dragons_ and goes on from there. Really funny, the girls and boys and everyone are interestingly drawn. Cimorene I would've majorly identified with when I was 13, and Morwen is one of my favorite characters. (Very no=nonsense.). They do fall in the realms of the fantasy, but they're not terribly wifty. She's also got Regency type romance/magic stuff that she writes with someone else. It begins with _Sorcery and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot_. I haven't read it but Nancy Pearl in _More Book Lust_ recommend it. She also has a whole section on YA lit. However, it makes you want to read more, so warning.

The other ones I would recommend are Richard E. Peck's "Blossom Culp" books. It begins with _Ghost Belonged to Me_ (though it's a male narrator), and goes on with _Ghosts I have been_. There are four. It's good, funny, Blossom's a riot, and it's what I'd call "Lite Occult." Time travel, stories. Nothing too extreme. _Voices after Midnight_ is also a good standalone book.

L.M. Montgomery stuff is good: both the Anne and Emily series are good. The Anne ones are major commitments, though. Louisa May Alcott is good too. Jane Langton's Hall Series are excellent, but hard to find. They begin with "Diamond in the Window" though they might be a bit too youngish. Good literature stuff. Philosophical.

The Sisterhood is pretty good, too. As are _The Westing Game_ and _From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler_. I read both of them around that time. Also, Paula Danzinger's stuff is pretty good too.

When I was 13, I read a weird mix of fantasy, like Lloyd Alexander, and the "issue" books of the 80s like the one called _About David_ where her best friend commits suicide. I was ridiculously precocious at times.

But, kudos on the good choices and I've been there. My second cousin just hit 13, and I bought her a little blank blook with butterflies. (which is also a suggestion). I think I received my first journal when I was 14 or so. Keep it small, so they don't feel like they have to "fill it up."

And don't buy her the awful historical romances, if they still exist. The ones I'm thinking of were named "Laura" or "Roxane" or "Felicity." And had a picture of the girl on the cover. And the choice was always between a safe choice and a dangerous one. Like a Puritan settler and a Native American, a Tory and a Spy. I read one. Feh.

I echo most of the choices made on the comments.

ailikate said...

I know I'm late to the party, but can't resist adding my own 2 cents (and probably writing my own post about all the books listed above that I adore).

The Goats, Brock Cole: Good for a girl or boy, it's all about being an outcast, which is something all teens go through.

Juniper and Wise Child by Monica Furlong, Quest for a Maid by Frances May Hendry, and The Juniper Game by Sheryl Jordan: Witchy books, but with a more realistic settings and no easy spell-casting. The Furlong and Hendry are historical, more focused on herbalism and wise women; Jordan is a mix, with most of the action taking place in the present. Don’t be put off by the ridiculous cover on The Juniper Game.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene and Pocket full of seats by Marilyn Sachs: Realistic historical fiction set during WWII, with intelligent female leads making tough choices.

Maniac McGee, There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock and just about anything else by Jerry Spinelli: Spinelli is also the author of Stargirl, which has been mentioned several times, but his understanding of teen angst is dead on.

Also, anyone who liked Roald Dahl as a kid will probably like his short stories as a teen or adult.

Okay, off to write about how much I like all the books listed above!

Janet said...

An award winning book which might be suitable is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

J. FitzGerald McCurdy said...

Seeing my name come up on your blog, I was curious about the context and decided to investigate. I was impressed with your comments and all of the comments people sent you. They are right. You will make a "great uncle." Parents and "uncles" are right to be concerned about what their kids are reading. Even great publishing houses are becoming more interested in publishing "reality" stories than they are in promoting literacy and in publishing good books. I read in our newspaper recently that a New York based paper changed the title and author's name of a Booker Prize winner and sent it off to twenty publishers. It was unanimously rejected. Next, the paper took the novel that had won the Nobel Prize for literature; changed the title and author's name, and sent it to twenty publishers. It, too, was rejected. What does that say?
Worried about a growing trend to absolve young people from taking responsibility for their actions, I gave up my professional career as a lawyer to write books for young readers (aged 9 and up). My goals were to promote literacy, entice boys to read, and create strong girl characters and heroines that boys would respect and even admire, and that girls would hopefully emulate.
I now receive thousands of letters from young readers around the world (curiously half boys; half girls). So, I am hopeful that we can make a difference, that we can promote literacy (which affects every aspect of society) by writing stories that boys will be eager to read, with characters with whom both boys and girls will identify. Sites like yours are great.