A teen, or a teen's parent, is standing in front of you and wants a stack of books to bring home. They don't know what they like, but they want something interesting. What do you give them?
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. The author notwithstanding, the book itself is so much bigger and better than the movie by the same name. There's an entire universe spawned off of this one little book, and many teens who read this first book are hooked on the remainder of the series.
- Game of Minds by James Dashner. Video games that result in real-life murders. This book will keep kids who game turning pages faster than you can imagine. It's by the same author as The Maze Runner, so those who enjoyed the movie may have extra motivation to try this book.
- Illuminae by Amie Kaufman. If you can get your hands on the audio version of this book, DO IT. The audio is so well done, if I still had a middle school library to tend I'd be playing this loud and proud to get all the kids hooked. As it is, this is an excellent science fiction story told from multiple points of view.
- Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. Again, if you can obtain the audiobook, do so immediately. Even without, this magical historical paranormal story will keep readers hooked. It's entirely possible to read this second installment in the Diviners series without reading the first one, and there's great information about the history of racial discrimination and homophobia in the United States. An extremely well-done story.
- Rose Under Fire by Elisabeth Wein. This is another historical fiction, but its focus is World War II in Europe. It's well-written and well-paced.
- A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. Looking for a book that takes place on another continent? How about one with excellent, lyrical narration? Look no further. This is a great fantasy story that will hook readers in and keep them coming back for more.
- The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. I had way too many kids come up to me and say they wanted books "about kids who deal with really hard stuff." The main character in this story is in jail because she killed a person after she escaped a cult where her hands were cut off by her father as punishment for attempting to escape before. Kids who like books about tough stuff won't be able to put this one down.
- Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. This is a great strong-girl pro-feminist book about a girl who refuses to bow down to the fat shamers, and once she tries to take on the pageant world, finds herself facing more of her fears than she expected. Also, there are Dolly Parton drag queens.
- The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. For teens who enjoy procedural shows like Bones, CSI, NCIS, etc., this will be a perfect match. The story is a bit predictable but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. A less "adult" thriller for teens.
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is not a book for everyone, but it's an important book that should be ready by everyone. The fact is that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be assaulted by the time they turn 18. Melinda's story is everyone's story, and since it's practically a guarantee that every reader will be a Melinda or know a Melinda, this book is a must-have.
Teens have a lot of opinions about what they do and do not want to read, so I much prefer to speak with them and hand them a stack of books more suited to their preferences, but this is my backup list in case I don't get much information on what they enjoy. What are your go-to teen books?