10 Great Teen Reads
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Angst Insight1 of 11
By Alison Singh Gee
Can't figure out why your teen's holding your hand one minute and slamming her bedroom door the next? You're so not alone. To help you understand what's going on in the head—and body—of your adolescent-in-residence, we spoke with young adult writer Leila Howland Davis and a handful of dedicated Los Angeles Public Library sages to get reading recommendations for closing the gap. These 10 books, written for or about teens, will give you the scoop on what your not-so-little one might be going through.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower2 of 11
Written as a series of letters to an anonymous friend, this book follows Charlie, an introverted and fiercely intelligent high school freshman who, along with all the politics of high school, finds himself having to deal with depression. This book has "a very real teen voice," says librarian Elyse Barrere.
Good Enough3 of 11
This comedic story of a young Korean-American's struggle—pleasing her parents while trying to figure out what she wants and how to forge her own identity—was written by a real-life overachieving violinist. "The pressure from well-meaning parents feels universal," says librarian Candice Mack.
The Hunger Games4 of 11
"I think every teen, boy or girl, has devoured this edgy, thrilling futuristic tale by now," says author Howland Davis about this dark tale, whose 16-year-old heroine, Katniss, is strong, clever and resourceful. "Moms should join this conversation," she says.
How to Say Goodbye in Robot5 of 11
Bea and Jonah, the stars of this book, are outsiders in their Baltimore private school. This novel captures a moment that all teens experience, says Howland Davis. "When we live with our parents and very much still need them, but feel like our 'real' family—the place we really belong—exists with our friends."
Thirteen Reasons Why6 of 11
When this book's main character, Clay, comes home, he finds a package from his girlfriend Hannah, who committed suicide two weeks prior, along with a series of tapes she recorded outlining the 13 reasons why she killed herself. "Not an easy read," says Barrere, "but anyone who has a teen should crack this one open."
Will Grayson, Will Grayson7 of 11
Chronicling the friendship of three boys, one gay, one straight and one undecided, "This is a positive, funny book about what it means to really love someone as a friend," says Mack.
The Boyfriend List8 of 11
This book's leading lady, Ruby Oliver, is an Every Girl with Every Girl problems: boys, friends, parents. That is, until she's dumped by her boyfriend for her best friend, has her first panic attack and starts therapy. "It's laugh-out-loud funny," says Howland Davis, "but it's also a great reminder to moms of how crucial, heartbreaking and stressful early relationships can be."
Before I Fall9 of 11
Protagonist Samantha Kingston is gorgeous, popular and paired up with a great-looking boyfriend. But she's also self-consumed, snobbish and mean. The plot twist here comes when Sam dies in an accident, but is allowed to relive her day and reconsider her choices seven times—a fascinating look at the spectrum of teenage choices in today's society and an insight into how a "mean girl" can actually change.
The Member of the Wedding10 of 11
This 1946 classic (yes, still in print!) is about a young "tomboy" named Frankie, whose life is in flux as her brother's wedding approaches. "A mom with a young teen will recognize both Frankie's urgency to be understood and her resistance to change," says Howland Davis.
The Catcher In The Rye11 of 11
Since the book's publication in 1951, Holden Caulfield has been the definitive portrait of teen angst—cast from childhood, but not yet a member of the adult world. Being an outsider is at the heart of the teenage experience, and Salinger "captures the pain of being an outsider brilliantly," says Howland Davis. Not only a must-read for adults, this is also a literary teen favorite.