It’s hard to find books that tweens will want to read, but these ten books are not only some of the best books for tweens, but books that adults will want to read as well. In no particular order, they are:
So You Want To Be A Wizard, by Diane Duane. While hiding from bullies in the library, Nita Callahan finds a book called “So You Want To Be A Wizard.” When she takes the Oath inside, it sparks an epic adventure to protect the Earth from the Lone Power. This book is an interesting mix of science fiction and fantasy, with wizards, space travel, aliens, and mystical “Powers” which are something like angels. It’s very well-written and epic, and it’s the first book of a series which so far has nine books, with a tenth upcoming. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan.
Percy Jackson is all set to go on vacation with his mom, Sally, but after a series of bizarre incidents, he ends up at Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for the children of Greek gods, where he discovers that he is the son of Poseidon and promptly sets off on an epic quest to prevent war in Olympus. This is an immensely popular book, and for good reason. It’s very well-written and funny, with just the right balance of sober, complex concepts and gleeful twelve-year-old humor. As a bonus, an entire generation of kids is now surprisingly well-educated on Greek mythology.
The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket.
The Baudelaire children, Klaus, Sunny, and Violet, are tragically orphaned in a house fire and sent to live with the nefarious Count Olaf, who wants to steal their inheritance. This book is depressing but incredibly funny at the same time. Almost nothing good ever happens to these children, but the bad things that happen to them are humorously over-the-top, and the book is filled with asides and monologues by the author. One of the books in the thirteen-book series has two full pages of solid black ink, to illustrate exactly how dark a specific room was. Another book has the children being forced to work at a lumbermill, with gum being their only meal aside from dinner, and the two-year-old youngest child being forced to scrape bark off of logs with her teeth.
Sandry’s Book, by Tamora Pierce.
Four orphaned children discover that they have ambient magic, which means that their power comes from everyday things like thread and plants, and are taken to Winding Circle Temple, where none of them fit in. They slowly bond over the summer, while the temple prepares for an upcoming earthquake. Tamora Pierce is an excellent writer with great female characters, however, most of her books deal pretty frankly with sex at a PG-13 level. The Circle of Magic, which is the series Sandry’s Book belongs to, however, is appropriate for elementary-school children, apart from some minor horror and violence themes.
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones.
Sophie Hatter is resigned to the fact that she will never be as lucky as her two younger sisters. Then the evil Witch of the Waste shows up at her hat shop and turns her into an old lady. Figuring she has nothing left to lose, Sophie sets off to find her fortune and ends up on the doorstep of the infamous Wizard Howl, where she becomes his cleaning lady and discovers he’s not all he’s cracked up to be. This is an incredibly funny book, my favorite out of all Diana Wynne Jones’ books. She has several others which are excellent, but this book is one of the cleverest and best-written.
There are many other great books for tweens, including Redwall, the Tiffany Aching series, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Shannon Hale’s books, and Gail Carson Levine’s books, but I will cover those another time. I hope your tweens enjoy these books, and discover a lifelong love of reading.