|Fort Popham Beach, Maine at sunset|
Tween to thirteen is an awkward age for advanced readers. Your child/grandchild/student has outgrown middle grade fiction but may not be ready for edgier Young Adult (YA) fiction. With the help of my kids, I've pulled together a list of somewhat recent YA books that are appropriate for ages 11 to 13. Follow the links to my reviews or Goodreads.
Red Glass was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. Sophie's family takes in six-year-old Pedro, who was the sole survivor of a border crossing from Mexico to Arizona.
Resau's Notebook series follows Zeeta and her Rumi-quoting, hippy mom across the world. Zeeta searches for her father and wonders about her ethnic roots. Her romance with a boy adopted from Ecuador is sweet and innocent. The Indigo Notebook is set in Ecuador and The Ruby Notebook is set in France. The final book in the trilogy, The Jade Notebook, is set in Mexico.
A Great and Terrible Beauty, is a Victorian Gothic fantasy set in India and at a British boarding school. Bray embraces diversity and strong female characters. She's funny too.
One of my daughter's favorites was The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy, which takes place in 1970s Berkeley, California. Two girls from different backgrounds become friends and enter a creative writing contest. Another good book for younger readers is Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress by Maria Padian. Brett is a sassy 8th grader who turns to her grandmother when her friends disappoint her.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a book I would have adored at thirteen. A girl enters her island pony in a race against magical, wild horses from the sea. The chapters alternate between her and a boy trainer's perspective. It's a bit scary, since the untamed horses can be vicious, but it's a great choice for horse lovers. The writing is beautiful and the atmosphere is enchanting.
My 13-year-old niece loved two books I chose for her. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman features a musical girl in an alternative medieval world with intelligent dragons. A sequel is due in 2015. Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a cyborg retelling of Cinderella set in New Beijing and is the first book in a series.
Jennifer E. Smith, Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen (only This Lullaby is edgy). There's a lot of talking and some kissing. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, set in Paris, is slightly edgier. My 16-year-old daughter still enjoys Dessen books.
Reluctant readers who play sports would enjoy Keri Mikulski's Pretty Tough series. The characters are in high school, but the romances are very innocent. Each book features a different sport. Another fun high school romance is A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker.
Undercover, a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, is contemporary YA fiction and Dangerous Neighbors is historical fiction. Beth's books cross over well to an adult audience and would be a good choice to read along with your child.
My son didn't read much YA as a tween, but he loved Isabel Allende's The City of the Beasts. This first book in a magical realism trilogy is set in the Amazon. The protagonist is a 15-year-old American boy who befriends a native girl. We also loved the first book in a Mexican border dystopian series, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Another dystopian book we enjoyed was Shift by Charlotte Agell. My son was also a fan of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials steampunk trilogy.
Reviewer's Disclosure: authors Charlotte Agell, Beth Kephart, Maria Padian and Keri Mikulski are friends/blog buddies. My agent edited Dangerous Neighbors when she was at Egmont. I received no compensation for my reviews.
If you have other YA suggestions for 11-13 year olds, please leave a comment.