Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Books for young teens by Savita Kalhan

A few months back I volunteered at my local library to start a teen reading group, and I'm happy to say it's going strong. I've got twelve kids in the group from four different schools, five boys and seven girls, and new friendships have formed, as well as lots of book recommendations between them.

When the kids arrive, our table in the corner of the library is covered in library books for them to look at. They all read the blurbs on the back of the books and the opening pages, and then decide which of the books they want to read first. Interestingly, when they return for the next meeting, they have often felt that some of the books have not matched the blurb on the back of the books when they've come to read them. They felt that they were led to expect one thing and the book turned out to be very different to that, which put them off the book a bit.

The teen reading group has been shadowing the Carnegie, but not all the books have been suitable or appropriate for the group - their words, not mine! I don't believe in censoring books. I was never censored or my reading overseen by an adult. Because the reality is, kids will not read something that they feel is too "old" for them. Although the teens in my reading group have really enjoyed some of the books, they have also put down books that they felt were a bit too much for them. It's great that they tried them and I know that they will come back to some of them when they're a little older.

The majority of the kids in the group are aged 13, so they are young teenagers, going from middle grade to teen. Young adult books are a little beyond them at the moment, again this is coming from the kids themselves.

They like all genres and are happy to try any book that I suggest. I'd love to be able to compile a long list of books that have a broader appeal for that particular age group. I do have a list, but I know it can be better, so I'm asking for suggestions and recommendations in the comments section please.


Becca McCallum said...

This sounds like a great idea.

Jim Dean said...

Oh, this sounds fab!

Off the top of my head:
A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master
Ironheart by Allan Boroughs
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
Ms Marvel:No Normal (if they're happy with a graphic novel) by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

All are fab reads and would lead to interesting discussions, I think, as would Katherine Rundell's upcoming The Wolf Wilder!

Savita Kalhan said...

Ooh, thanks, Jim! All recs greatly appreciated!

Katherine Roberts said...

That's interesting, because I also think that teen market (12-14) has been largely ignored by publishers, being older than "middle grade" but not yet YA - perhaps because it doesn't really have a dedicated shelf in the shops? I know my book "Spellfall" was published for 9-12 but read/enjoyed by 12-14, judging by the reviews and fan letters. It's out of print now but been on my mind recently since I have just finished the long-awaited sequel "Spell Spring" (and if I can find a publisher for it, there will be a third book too...)

Joan Lennon said...

Your group sounds like a lot of fun, Savita! Jim mentioned Katherine Rundell's upcoming Wolf Wilder - I'm doing an event with her at the Edinburgh Book Festival (Silver Skins and Wild Wolves, ages 10 - 14, 2:00 - anybody in town that day, you're welcome to come along!) and just got hold of an advance copy - really looking forward to reading it! My book is called Silver Skin and works for that age group too! Too many exclamation marks, but I'm pretty excited.

Eve Ainsworth said...

I'm not sure if it's useful but I know that my book 7 days has been received we'll in schools because of the themes and is classed as teen (therefore younger ya)
Sarah Crossan Apple and Rain and Sally Nicolas also good

Piper said...

I've been running a teen book group for 5/6 years at my local library and love it. It's gone through many incarnations. We've never been able to read the same book (apart from Coraline) due to not having a book group budget for teens and therefore not having enough copies for everyone. At the moment I have 7 teens from 3 different schools and a variety of ages; I have two teens going into year 7 in September and 3 going into year 10 and the other fit in between.

I would love to share activity ideas or book lists with anyone. I currently work in themes, so I'll choose scary books for Halloween or books with hearts on the cover for valentines day with activities (e.g. origami heart bookmarks) to match the theme. I've slowly been turning my blog into a teen book group themed blog to share ideas. Or I'm curious where people get their ideas from?

Some books that have gone down well recently, aimed at younger teens:

Coraline - Neil Gaiman (Halloween, group read) Activities include colouring in and sticking buttons for eyes!
Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan (Carnegie shadowing)
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens (Spy theme)
Phil Earle books - Demolitian Dad/Bubble-Wrap Boy
We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean
Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Children's Classics like Secret Garden and The Railway Children
The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley (group read over Christmas)

Even if they got put off by books you selected the important thing is that they're exposed to books, they can see what's new or what they might have missed, and that they're reading for pleasure rather than forced to read :) Good luck with your book group :)

Savita Kalhan said...

Katherine, good luck with finding a publisher - I'll look out for Spellfall! And the third one too! There does seem to be a real need for books for younger teens.

Joan, Rooftoppers is on my list, and now Silver Skin too. Good luck with your event!

Eve, I'll definitely check out 7 days. My group loved Sarah Crossan's Apple and Rain.

Piper, thanks so much for your comments and suggestions. We don't have a teen book budget but the head librarian has been brilliant at sourcing books from across Barnet for us. I like to give the kids a choice, but there have been books that we've all managed to read over a few moths by sharing. I will definitely check out your website and I'm happy to share ideas, but just so you know, I'm very new to this, a novice really, and only a volunteer, so not a trained librarian. Thank you for all your recommendations.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Eve, your novel 7 days has just been read and loved by a thirteen year old girl at my school, after bring read and loved by a sixteen year old. Just thought you'd like to know. :-)