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Ideas for discerning (picky!) 13yo reader?

35 replies

SpringBluebellWoods · 21/06/2021 10:17

I’m looking for books for my 13yo dd who loves to read but is finding it hard to find things she likes. She is currently re-re-reading Terry Pratchett, has tried (and disliked) teen books like Everyone Is Lying and various other dystopian type novels, and has tried but rejected all the fantasy / sci-fi stuff that I read at that age (Asimov, Clarke, McCaffrey).

She doesn’t like scary / gruesome / angsty or anything with adult themes. I think she’d like murder mysteries if they were gentle enough, but definitely no rape / torture / graphic stuff. She’s very academic, so difficult is fine, but she has already read Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre etc. She just won’t read anything badly written.

She likes fact books, too, but is specifically looking for fiction if possible.

I had amazing advice from MNers last time I had this problem, so I’m asking again (a few years later).

OP posts:
mogtheexcellent · 21/06/2021 10:44

Has she read any Agatha Christie? I loved her books at that age. And they are not graphic at all. And she can watch the films/tv series as well.

I then went on to Victorian sensational novels like Lady Audleys Secret and early detective novels like The Moonstone. Also Sherlock Holmes.

SpringBluebellWoods · 21/06/2021 10:46

She’s tried Agatha Christie, but wasn’t very gripped. I can definitely see if The Moonstone works, I suspect it might. Thanks!

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Fivemoreminutes1 · 21/06/2021 16:29

No 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Truly Devious
Ruby Redfort
Agatha Oddly

JaninaDuszejko · 21/06/2021 17:01

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
Jeeves and Wooster by PG Wodehouse
The Pursuit of Love and Love in aCold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (I read this earlier this year and thought it was brilliant with lots of interesting ideas in it, should really be on english lit lists if we weren't so obsessed with books by dead white men)
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (main character has an arranged marriage to a much older man and it describes their very unsatisfactory sex and there's an attempted rape so you might want to check you are OK with that but otherwise it's about a teenage girl chasing an education)
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (maybe the short story rather than the novel which has sex in it)
City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende (it's years since I read House of the Spirits so you'd need to check the content but that migh5 be an option)
Aya of Yop City by Clément Oubrerie and Marguerite Abouet (this is a graphic novel, some consensual sex but nothing too graphic)

I've got a 13yo as well, I think the transition to adult books is hard, finding things with engaging stories but not too adult themes. I'm finding graphic novels are popular at the moment, the Heartstopper series was a big hit.

MadMadMadamMim · 21/06/2021 17:24

If she's read Austen and the Brontes try her on Georgette Heyer.

Extremely well written historically - and gentle, whimsical romances. I would have endless recommendations, but The Toll Gate or Frederica are a good couple.

SpringBluebellWoods · 21/06/2021 23:06

Thanks! That’s given me a list to start with, though she has read some of them (Flowers for Algernon short story was a real hit in lockdown).

@JaninaDuszejko, that’s exactly the problem., she could read anything but she’s wise enough to know that some things will be too disturbing or adult, and to ask me for help finding things that are challenging but age appropriate. Which is why I really don’t want to let her down.

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BlueChampagne · 22/06/2021 13:12

A bit of George Eliot? Daphne du Maurier?

Does she like historical novels? If so, Mary Renault, or Hilary Mantel.

SpringBluebellWoods · 22/06/2021 13:56

She’s not really enjoyed historical novels (even the kids ones, she didn’t really get in to Rosemary Sutcliffe). I haven’t read much George Eliot, and I remember finding Middlemarch hard going at 13yo, though I’ve re-read it since and enjoyed it.

She has read all the Sherlock Holmes novels, so I think would enjoy that sort of mystery without much gore.

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Beamur · 22/06/2021 14:01

I have one of these too!
She has recently read and enjoyed several books by Matt Haig.
Currently reading the Lovely Bones
Has also been feeding her feminist indignation with the Handmaid's tale and Difficult Women.

FelicityBeedle · 22/06/2021 14:06

How about the Chronicles of St Mary’s? Some sex and deaths but nothing too disturbing. Humour is reminiscent of pratchett at times

SpringBluebellWoods · 22/06/2021 14:06

Ooh, I have a small feminist, too. Invisible Women was a hit, is Difficult Women similar?

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SpringBluebellWoods · 22/06/2021 14:06

I’ve tried her on St Mary’s (my own comfort read) but she wasn’t keen.

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TheTurn0fTheScrew · 22/06/2021 14:10

mine's a big fan of du Maurier
also like The Go-Between

How about Nancy Mitford - The Pursuit of Love ? Or Barbara Pym? Celia Fremlin?

Beamur · 22/06/2021 14:13

Difficult women is a really good read. A series of chapters on different women, each who brought something to feminism. I really like the fact that they are genuinely difficult women! Not all their actions or opinions were good and it's been a really good way to talk to my DD about how feminism changes, how opinions change over time and about critical thinking generally. On the strength of that she's bought herself Jenni Murray's book. She wants to read Invisible Women, but I'm reading it first!

SpringBluebellWoods · 22/06/2021 14:17

Loads of ideas, thanks! I’m going to buy a big pile of secondhand books, and see what she goes for.

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ContessaVerde · 22/06/2021 14:21

Diana Wynne Jones

ContessaVerde · 22/06/2021 14:21

Alison Uttley, A traveller in time

minipie · 22/06/2021 14:23

Margaret Mahy

Catherine Storr

Leon Garfield (historical , so may not suit, but really well written)

Nicholas fisk (may be too young)

John Christopher (Tripod series)

Lynne Reid Banks

I have an 8 year old not a 13 year old but she seems similar in that she has reading ability well ahead of her age but prefers content on the younger end, definitely nothing heavy or scary. I’ve tried her on older books and she always gives up and reverts to the less challenging stuff. I’ve decided I don’t care as long as she is reading…

At 13 I was a very advanced reader but as I recall was mostly reading Point Horror and trashy airport novels… and Terry Pratchett.

minipie · 22/06/2021 14:24

Oh - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - wonderful book and perfect for this age.

SirVixofVixHall · 22/06/2021 14:27

I have similar issues with my dd who is 14.
She hates anything gruesome or disturbing, and I must admit that I am horrified at the stuff she has to read for school, sexual abuse etc. I read nothing like that at 14 and I was a very keen reader.
My dd has actually been put off fiction for this reason and has started reading travel journals and comedy, so I am looking at other people’s suggestions closely.
She might enjoy quite a few of the Persephone books ?

TheTurn0fTheScrew · 22/06/2021 14:44

All Creatures Great and Small? just lovely

yeOldeTrout · 22/06/2021 14:45

Doesn't like angst or horror but did like Jane Eyre ?

Does like Sherlock Holmes (which has a fair bit of horror on it)... ok, I'll try to work with that.

Dick Francis - the better rated ones. Not as formulaic as Christie.
Mirage Modern book
Mirage (James Follett)
Curse Workers trilogy
Full Tilt, Dervla Murphy
The Book Thief

SpringBluebellWoods · 22/06/2021 14:46

SirVix - In terms of non fiction, she’s really enjoyed the biography of Malala, Watching The English, some of the Dara O’Brien science books (a bit young, but fun) and also the Usborne intros to economics and politics. Also a few of the David Foster Wallace short stories based on a cruise ship and a state fair (but we pointed her to the easier / more suitable ones).

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SpringBluebellWoods · 22/06/2021 14:48

YeOlde - I read Jane Eyre aloud to her (it was our lockdown thing), and she misses out the scariest bits of Sherlock Holmes. But also, archaic language makes it less real, and therefor less scary. Thanks for your suggestions, I’ll have a look.

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MadMadMadamMim · 22/06/2021 15:53

Diana Wynne Jones is a great suggestion.

I'd add Neil Gaiman - try Stardust and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

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