Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Twilight, Breaking Dawn A Fine Day for a Good Book

A while ago I wrote up a list of alternative titles for teen and tween girls who got stuck in the Myers' mire. Elaine, one of my readers, has asked me to repost it here. I've updated it a bit too with even more great reads.

Books for older teens (i.e. they feature sex, sexual assault, pregnancy or drugs or they're simply sophisticated from a narrative standpoint)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: let's start with first principles, here, folks. Published in 1948, this book pretty much invented the YA genre. It's still crackles with sexual energy and naive despair after all these years. The 2003 film version wasn't bad either.

Before Wings by Beth Goobie: A 15-yr-old girl who has an aneurysm in her heart goes to summer camp where she engages with spirits who haunt the lake at night. Goobie is one of the most insightful and lyrical YA writers out there. She should be giving writing lessons to every aspiring novelist.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Melinda is raped at a party during the summer before high school and spends her freshman year as a social outcast. What might otherwise be yet-another-problem-novel is made rich by the depth of Melinda's character and the cutting authenticity of the high school environment.

Seven for a Secret by Mary C. Sheppard: Set in a Newfoundland outport in 1960, this book tells the stories of three teen cousins as they unearth the secrets of their pasts and face the sometimes harsh realities of their futures. The narrative voice of 15-yr-old Melinda is spot on with the warmth of the Newfoundland dialect. The book is part of an ongoing series based on the "One for Sorrow" nursery counting rhyme.

The Corner Garden by Lesley Krueger. I reviewed this novel a few years back and loved it. Toronto author, Krueger, stitches together the life of a troubled teen with that of her aged neighbour who has not yet come to terms with her own teen regrets as a Nazi sympathizer in 1940s Holland. This novel is a YA/Adult cross-over.

Feed by M.T. Andersen: A YA dystopia that actually has the courage to be a dystopia rather than carrying a saccharine message of hope. The characters in the novel receive everything they need through the feed that is implanted in their brains. They can order and buy any kind of experience they want. The only problem is the "they" gets lost in the "want."

Sights by Susanna Vance: How's this for a first sentence: "I was in the womb eleven and one half months, came out fat, durable and gorgeous." Baby Girl was born with the Sight but it doesn't let her see her own future. She and her Momma have fled her dad and now she's starting high school all sore-thumbish in a new town. Reading this book is ticklish, like drinking icy ginger ale on a hot day.

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty: Jessica spends a year missing her best friend Hope. No, it's not quite an allegory. It is, however, a smart, sassy look at high school written by a writer for Cosmo Girl. Like the Twilight series, it also includes an irrational attraction to a bad boy, but this love interest is sorta-kinda ok in the end and, most importantly, he doesn't want to eat anybody or read their thoughts. Some may lump Sloppy Firsts with other teen fluff like L.B.D: It's a Girl Thing or Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging but I found it to be a cut above. So did ole Whatzernamenow, the Harvard freshman who infamously plagiarized it a few years ago. Second Helpings, the sequel isn't so bad either.

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl by Martha Brooks: This, from the epigraph attributed to John Gardner: "There are really only two plot lines: a stranger rides into town and a stranger rides out of town." In the book, a community nurtures a pregnant teen who lands in their midst. Sometimes the setting feels like a throw back to, uh, I dunno, a combination of Leacock's Mariposa and a the estrogen-laden bear-hug novels of Carol Shields. In the end, it proves twice over that it takes a village to raise a child ... and that it takes a child to bind a village unto itself.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly: This historical murder mystery won the Printz Prize in 2004. It's engaging and literary and I am not quite done it yet, so I can't say more.

Saving Grace and Rules for Life are two exceptional YA titles written by Fredericton author, Darlene Ryan. Both are gritty works of realism and feature heroines struggling with major life events that have fractured their identity and have limited their choices.

Books for your 11 and 12 year old girls who are reading Twilight despite your admonishments
Before Wings by Beth Goobie: See above. I love this book so much I accidentally gave it to my niece two Christmases in a row.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: It's short, simple and, oh-so, profound.

Everything on a Waffle, The Canning Season or just about anything written by Polly Horvath: Do you know the novels of Horvath? She's crackles with dark humour and creates some of the most memorable supporting characters out there.

The Emily Series by L.M. Montgomery (need I say more?)

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan: A pro-(quirky) family, pro-creativity, pro-happiness book for emerging teens. Imagine. It's also great, whacky reading for the home-schoolers out there.

Howl's Moving Castle or Witch Week or just about anything by Diana Wynne Jones. Diana Wynne Jones is round about one of the best fantasy writers for children ever but let's not get into that now, shall we? We could alway save fantasy and sci-fi for another list, another day.

Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman. OK, so I have a thing for fantasy when it comes to my late, middle readers. I put this one on the list because of the love interest in it--you know, in order to appeal to the Twilight readers.

Speaking of fantasy, the novels of Tamora Pierce are fantastic reading for tween girls. I've read the Protector of Small quartet, but I have a young friend who can recommend all her novels. Another author of girl-centred fantasy is New Brunswick writer K.V. Johansen. Her Torrie Quests series will initiate the tween reader into her richly developed other world.


That's it for now. Care to share any Twilight tonics? That's what the comment box is for.


  1. grateful, for once, that i don't have a girl. so i don't have to pry twilight from her eager hands.

  2. I get asked the Twilight question all the time - and I'm not even a practicing librarian yet. I love that you've suggested The Emily series by L.M. Montgomery - so perfect. I'm curious about
    I Capture the Castle. Will have to check it out! Thank you for posting this!

  3. Anything by Philip Pullman! Especially the Dark material serie and the Sally Lockheart one. For older teens probably, his descriptions of the victorian England are not for impressionable kids. Don't judge by the movie though, it's one of the worst adaption I've seen.

    (I arrived here through Dani's post).

  4. I've noticed that I failed to thank you here after you posted this list. So sorry! I really appreciate it.

    DD read a few from this list before finding other books through some friends. She really enjoyed Surviving the Applewhites. Polly Horvath is great and so is Beth Goobie. She read through the Hunger Games trilogy last summer and the Skulduggery Pleasant series too. She's been looking again for new material, so I'll suggest she try a few more of your suggestions. Many thanks again!


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