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The Tween and Friends Top 14 Reads in 2014

Many Friday nights I have anywhere from 2 to 5 preteen girls hanging out at my house. Not all of them are readers, but two of them are very fervent readers. In fact, I was surprised recently to learn that The Tween’s BF had almost 5 times the AR points as her, which is astounding when I think about how very much The Tween reads. Though to be fair, The Tween still reads largely in the MG category, which means her books are often worth fewer points, while the BF reads a ton of YA books which can tend to be worth more points. Also to be fair, The Tween reads a lot of the ARCs we get for TLT to give me her point of view and they are, of course, worth no points. Anyhow, it’s always interesting to talk to the kids that come to my house about books. Last Friday I had The Tween and Friends put together a list of their Top 14 Reads of 2014. For the purposes of this list I didn’t not limit it to new books, but just wanted to see of all the books they read between them what they liked best in 2014.

1. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

This should be surprising to no regular TLT reader. The Tween was crazy about this book and we even took the BF to Tween Reads to meet the author, where they both got their own signed copies. I also listened to this on audio because my daughter was such a huge fan and to be honest I really liked it a lot. When I ask The Tween why she likes it her #3wordbooktalk is “magic, hopeful, happy”.

2. The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

The Tween actually just read this book this past week. I sent her off to the Scholastic Book Fair and she came home wanting 3 books: The Neptune Project, The Spider Ring and the 3rd book in the Land of Stories series. She bought both The Neptune Project and The Spider Ring, both of which she read immediately. She commented frequently that it was “sad” and that she “wants to speak to dolphins” while reading. In the end she said, The Neptune Project is “one of those books that just really gets to you and make you realize that you have a good life.” Note: The Spider Ring technically has a January 2015 publication date but it was sold early at her school’s Scholastic Book Fair.

3. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

The Tween’s BF LOVES this series and since I do too, we talk about it a lot. She thinks she is weird because she “likes bloody books”, but I keep assuring her that lots of people do which is why mystery and horror are so popular. We even talked a little bit about why people are drawn to these types of stories and how they help us process the darkness of life in a safe environment. Not that she cares about any of that, she just thinks the books are incredibly cool.

4. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

One of the best things about this new group of Tweens is that they are just now finding both the Harry Potter and Twilight series. So while I was there to experience it the first time, it is fun watching them experience it for their first time. The BF is a HUGE fan of the Twilight series. Although I will be the first to point out some of its flaws (I can’t stand the scene, for example, where Edward disables Bella’s vehicle to stop her from doing something she wants to do under the pretense that he is protecting her, it genuinely enrages me), I can’t help but remember the appeal for young teens who are just starting to think about romance.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This year I took The Tween to a Dallas meet and greet for the movie. Then I took her and her friends to see the movie. AND THEN she read the book. That’s right, she did it totally backwards. But her and her friends were compelled to read the book after watching the movie (which is also true for If I Stay), which is why I am a big champion of book based movies. The Tween didn’t cry at the movie (I sobbed like a big baby) but she did cry reading the book. All of the tweens said they liked the positive relationship in the book and that was why they were drawn to it.

6. Savvy by Ingrid Law

It was the BF who insisted this book be put on the list, neither The Tween or I have read this one yet. But that same girl who likes bloody books, she said she liked this book because “it’s one of those feel good books”. A reminder that readers aren’t drawn to just one type of book and we can take what we know about our readers and introduce them to new types of books as long as we keep them connected to the appeal factors of our audience.

7. The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer and Brandon Dorman

This is one of The Tween’s favorite series at the moment. She won’t stop talking about it and – shhhhh don’t tell – I went ahead and bought her book 3 for Christmas. Land of Stories fits nicely into the twisted fairy tales genre that is really popular at the moment, but The Tween also says she really likes the good brother/sister relationship.

8. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I was really impressed when they brought up this book because I know that 1) it’s not something they had to read for school and 2) neither one of them saw the movie (The Mr. and I went but did not take The Tween). That means that they discovered this book on their own, and yes probably sparked in part by the movie advertising, but they chose to read it and connected with it. The appeal factor for them was that it is “different than most stories.”

9. Leisl and Po by Lauren Oliver

The Tween is a huge fan of Lauren Oliver, who happens to be the first author she met in person on what our family refers to as Lauren Oliver day. She got a signed copy of Leisl and Po probably two years ago, but read it for the first time this year where she really became a fan of fantasy. In fact if you ask her, she’ll tell she is a “fantasy girl.” The appeal factor here is once again the relationships. The Tween states that Leisl and Po “taught the meaning of having a good friend.” I mean if you’re cool with your good friend being a ghost and all.

10. Dark Life by Kat Falls

Dark Life is unique in that it takes place underwater and that was its primary appeal. I thought this was an interesting addition to their list because this book definitely flew in under the radar, but they thought it was unique and interesting. Given their interest in this book I’m going to get the new Atlantia by Ally Condie into their hands.

11. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

I was very excited to see that this book made their list because it’s an interesting story about finding yourself and being true to who you are with a mix of both the science and the arts in there. It also features a unique inter generational relationship. The Tween said it was a “happy” book. I think it strikes the perfect balance between being reflective and funny.

12. Dead City by James Ponti

I feel like the only thing I need to say here is this: Zombies! With this title and Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi, zombies continues to be pretty popular in MG lit while it seems to be fading some in the YA genre (although there were some really interesting twists on the zombie genre this year in YA lit titles like Dark Metropolis).

13. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

This is a book The Tween had tried to read earlier but didn’t find engaging at the time. To be fair, it is a fairly complex read where you have to pay attention to details and be able to put a string of clues and puzzles together and when she first tried to read it she was probably too young. So I’m glad that she tried again and this time she had a completely different experience with the book. Now I’m hoping I can finally get her to read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (my childhood favorite) which I think has a lot of the same appeal factors at the Mysterious Benedict Society series.

14. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Unlike me, The Tween frequently re-reads books. I have only ever re-read a handful of books: The Westing Game (which I have read well more than 10 times) and It (which I have read 3 times) are two that come to mind. As a general rule, I’m not much of a re-reader because there is always something new I want to read. The Tween, however, can often be found in her bedroom reading a book that she has read before. Some of the books I know she has read multiple times includes A Snicker of Magic, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Baby Mouse and, of course, Wonder. It’s interesting to note that she loves Wonder because it “taught a meaningful life lesson.” And I swear I did not pay her to say that.

Other titles that they read and loved this year include Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, and Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz.

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