“I’m thirteen, I’m a girl, and I like fantasy and some science fiction. What should I be reading?”

This is a serious question, posed on behalf of my recently-minted teenage daughter. She’s read a significant amount of young adult fantasy and fantastic fiction, and had some read to her (because we like reading aloud and some books “speak” really well). She isn’t terribly fond of hardware-oriented sf, though she has read the original Ender’s Game (the short version, not the novel) and a few other tidbits. She likes what she’s read of Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles, which she borrowed from the school library and later bought because she had to own it). She’s a budding Trekkie (TOS and TNG).

Her taste is pretty eclectic. She’s read Twilight because everyone else is reading it, but Bella’s passivity drives her crazy, and most of the other “ya/teen” vampire stuff leaves her cold. She much prefers the work of Cornelia Funke, especially The Thief Lord. She’s been reading Sean Stewart’s “Cathy” series, which has immortals in it, and she likes Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s “Shadow Children” series, both of which are science fiction.

She reads plenty of non-genre stuff too, especially if the story has some mystery to it, like the “Pretty Little Liars” books. Then there are the books that I don’t quite understand why she likes, like “The Clique” series, which she reads avidly . . . and then spends days being enjoyably outraged at the stupid/irresponsible behavior of the teen characters and their parents.

She’s wary of leaving the Teen section of the bookstore for the uncharted territory of the SF section, and I’m woefully out of touch with what on the SF shelves is appropriate for younger readers and what on the Teen shelves might pique her interest. (We spend a lot of time in the manga aisle as well, but that’s a different set of difficulties.)

I’m seriously looking for recommendations here—school lets out in three weeks and she will then have a lot more free time for reading.


There must be a solid female character who isn’t just for show. She has to be, if not feminist/egalitarian, at least not silly (Podkayne of Mars failed to meet my daughter’s standards, and she’s struggled a great deal with the silly portrayals of girls in the otherwise amusing and exciting “Ordinary Boy” books.) On the other hand, if there are no female characters in the book at all, that’s okay but doesn’t always create a long-term connection (so, alas, though my daughter has read the first Earthsea novel, she has no desire to continue the series).

Fantasy is probably better than SF but she’s tired of dragons and isn’t sure yet if she likes zombies. Vampires are okay, but she’s read the back cover copy on a lot of teen vampire books without buying any and says they all sound alike.

Prose can be somewhat dense or complex but shouldn’t be impenetrable. She had no trouble with Poe, for instance, but Austen is too hard.

I’m thinking short fiction, to let her try different writers, but she likes longer storylines so she’s thinking novels, though not bugcrusher-sized.



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