Recently a few friends asked me for some recommendations for some good young adult novels for teen and tween that were also clean. I realize that as the mother of a three year old I am an odd choice for recommending teen lit but I legit love the young adult genre.
My favorite Sunday School grade to teach is middle school girls and I need to be able to speak their language, y’all. Because seriously, it’s like an entirely different language. When I was in middle school we called boys that we were crushing on “boyfriends” but apparently kids these days call them “bae.” I thought all of the young girls I know were going around talking about Beyonce all the time. I don’t even know.
Anyhow, these are a few of my favorites:
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- The Katie Parker Production Series by Jenny B. Jones – This is a great faith-based series. It is well-written, very funny and really relatable. It follows Katie Parker as she moves in with a foster family and explores the way our choices affect our lives. (For all you deal lovers like me, the first book in this series is currently free for kindle!)
(Other books by this author I recommend: The Charmed Life Series)
- The Anomaly Series by Krista McGee – This is also a faith-based series that is in the dystopian fiction genre. It takes place in post-apocolyptic America and in true YA fiction there is a bit of a love triangle and non-graphic violence.
(Other books by this author I recommend: First Date)
- The Selection Series by Kiera Cass – This is a dystopian fiction series that has the Prince of the region choosing his bride via a Bachelor-style reality show. This series is not a faith based series but it is clean and chaste, free of sex and language but does contain a bit of violence with themes of war-torn countries. (ETA: A few people on our facebook page mentioned that the third book in this series has minor sex themes, although no sex takes place, and that they wouldn’t recommend it for the younger tween set, around age 10.)
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – I have loved Jerry Spinelli ever since I was a kid reading Maniac McGee. Just recently I was sitting at a friends house and her daughter handed her a tangled up necklace and I was all “LET ME GET THE KNOT OUT OF THAT LIKE MANIAC MCGEE!” She did not know what I was talking about. Also that has nothing to do with the book Stargirl. Stargirl is a a wonderful look at the ideas of individuality, popularity and non-conformity.
- The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie – This is another dystopian fiction novel (What can I say, these are really popular with the youngins these days. I know. I can’t get away with saying “youngin.”) There is a good bit of romance here but it is completely chaste, with the main themes of the book being uncovering truth and what you will risk for it.
My personal opinion is that literature is a wonderful way to open up conversations about tough topics with our children. Because I have been asked often by some fellow mama friends about a few particular books that are currently incredibly popular with the teen and tween crowd, I have included my thoughts on them below. These books deal with more mature subject matter but I believe may offer jumping off points for conversation if you choose to read them. The themes in these books are heavier but vague, with allusions to sex without using any descriptive language of the act. If your daughter is wanting to read one of these titles (or see the accompanying movie) I would recommend reading these books prior to or alongside her, in order to facilitate conversation about what is inside.
In the years I have spent working with teenage girls, I have found that they are surrounded by these issues and want to talk about them. And that while they might feel nervous telling me directly about their own experiences, they’ll definitely talk to me about all of their opinions on Augustus and Hazel from The Fault In Our Stars
(You can also check out these books on Common Sense Media to see exactly how much language, etc. is in them)
- The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth – You can’t avoid this best-selling teen book or it’s recently released movie counterpart, it’s kind of everywhere! I really liked this series and think that it is a good, safe read. Spoiler alert: there is a little bit of a question of whether or not the main characters sleep together in the final book, it’s purposely vague but it is included, which is why I listed this book here versus the completely clean books above.
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – This is another book turned movie that my mom friends who have teenage girls have asked me about recently. I enjoyed this book however, it is not faith based at all. It has heavy themes of cancer and leaves room for much discussion about life after death, as well as the intensity of the romantic relationship between the leads. I might let my teen read it but not my tween.
- The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang – This dystopian fiction series is based on the idea that humans are born with two souls inhabiting a single body. There are a lot of themes surrounding the idea of the greater good, personal responsibility, choosing between difficult choices and serving humanity. There is also a heavy emphasis on psychological means of control. (The third book in the series does not release until this fall so I can’t comment how the series progresses)
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman – This was an intriguing read as a thirty-something but I wouldn’t recommend it for tweens. It is heavy on the intense romantic relationship and a plays a bit on the Grease theme of “good girl goes bad to impress boy.” It also deals with mature themes such as sex (while not graphic, still slightly descriptive) and graphic descriptions of a car accident and death. Older teens may be fine to read it but I always err on the side of discussing books that have such a unrealistic portrayal of romantic relationships.
This is just a small sampling of popular fiction that I have read recently, I would really love for you to leave your favorites in the comments section so that other moms can benefit!
(And if you are in the market for some great non-fiction for your teen and tween girls, I highly recommend Speak Love by Annie Downs!)