6 Great Books for Teens

 

blumePhoto: One of my favorite teen authors.

I was a weird kid and an even weirder teen. I often stayed up after lights out reading–it almost didn’t matter what. I would check out library books by the dozen. Back then, my favorites were Judy Blume, V.C.Andrews, Stephen King and (don’t tell my mom) illicit romances.

Even more liberating, I discovered that the librarian would not even BLINK AN EYE at the titles I’d pick. The first time I tried to check out an inappropriate book, my heart raced and my palms dripped…I just knew that Old Man Clardy (who, now that I think about it, was probably in his 40s–DANG IT!) was going to call the cops on me–or the very least, my Sunday school teacher. When I saw that he was barely even awake and gazed at my selections with all the vigilance of a late night convince store clerk, I had an eureka moment.

This, I told myself, was a taste of freedom. Nobody cared what I read. The sky was the limit! I burned through books like Chelsea Handler and vodka. Nothing was too steamy–nothing too scary.

I still remember my first time reading Stephen King’s The Shining. Entranced by Jack Torrence’s steady descent into madness, I lost track of time. The next thing I knew, it was 2:00 a.m. and I was exhausted. I turned off the lights and prepared for a long rest–which never came. Thanks to my vivid (and a tiny bit obsessive) mental reenactments of  Danny Torrence’s visions and Jack Torrence’s violent escapades, I couldn’t even close my eyes.

That jacket hanging over the chair? Not a jacket at all–it’s Jack, holding a croquet mallet, waiting for me to doze. The longest night in the world gave way to morning, and I showed up to 8th grade biology looking a bit hung over and a lot nervous. When I went back to the library, I silently gave Mr. Clardy the stink-eye for not protecting me from my own reading choices. What the heck? Wake up and do your job, man!

Anyway,  Here’s a list of my top 6
picks for teens.
 I’ve made an effort to pick challenging, but not too horrifying/graphic books for your Mancub or Watergirl. Some of them are a bit darker, so if your kid shies away from that, I’d definitely avoid Speak. However, I found it a compelling and heartbreaking read that has stuck with me ever since I opened the covers. Mancub has listened to The Shining on audiobook as we were traveling home from Arkansas, and he really liked it. At least I think he did. But he is MY kid…so keep that in mind before introducing The Kingster to yours.

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth

divergent

2. Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix  

hidden

4. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbi

tuck

5. Speak by Laurie Hulse Anderson

speak

6. The Secret Life of Bees by  Sue Monk Kidd

secret

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What is your top pick for your favorite teen book?

 

5 Easy Ways to Reconnect With Your Teen

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I picked up Mancub from school the other day and I’ll just admit it: it was tense. We had an argument that morning before school and it pretty much ruined most of my day. My stomach was in knots about it and my overactive imagination was running away with me. I pictured him never speaking to me again, joining a gang and getting in a rumble downtown. That’s where rumbles happen, people.

If I didn’t nip this in the bud, we were a Lifetime Movie waiting to happen.

I asked myself why we had that conversation. Why did everything go down that way? Why did everything feel so sad, so desperate? Where did my sweet little boy go? And, perhaps more importantly, where did his patient Mama go?

With school, work, band, church–sometimes it feels like the only time we talked with each other is when I’m asking him to wash dishes or checking on his homework. That wasn’t working out so well. We needed to connect positively–to make a deliberate effort to spend time together in a non-nagging environment…STAT. I’ve been watching too much Grey’s Anatomy.

When he got in the car, I didn’t take the normal route home. I was honest–I told him our argument had bothered me all day long.

Get this: he apologized.

Afterward, we stopped by Chipotle and I bought him a giant burrito (you know the kind–it’s roughly the size of a newborn baby). There are few things besides Water Girl and Minecraft that put THAT kind of a smile on Mancub’s face, and I love that smile. It’s sort of my world. I need more of it.

I’ve experimented to find ways to reconnect with Mancub, and I hope you don’t mind if I share it here.

5 Easy Steps to Reconnect With Your Teen

1. Have a weekly lunch or dinner date, just the two of you. Here’s the kicker: let him pick the restaurant. Even if he wants to go to the greasiest hamburuger joint or the most questionable Chinese food in town, let him. His arteries won’t likely clog from this one event. Let him be the boss on this. He has so little control in most areas of his life.

2. Make him breakfast. It doesn’t have to be fancy–you don’t have to make heart-shaped crepes or anything. Rice Crispies are fine, as long as you are there. Take a minute to say hi to your sleepy Mancub–bringing a food offering is a safe way to approach him in his early morning jungle.

3. Take an intererest in his activities. Mancub plays horn in the band and if it’s at all possible, I’m there at every concert and most home ball games. I cheer at a volume that frightens flocks of birds. He knows I’m there.

4. Share your interests with him. I’m an English professor, so I love books. I have little hope of converting Mancub to enjoy love poems written by the British Romantics, but I might be able to engage him with the hottest YA titles. We are currently reading the Divergent series. I put the audiobook on the car stereo when I pick him up from school. It’s sort of the only choice. We talk about the story–try to guess the protagonist’s next move. We make fun of him/her when she screws up. It’s a good time.

Here’s the link if you don’t already have this book series.

http://www.amazon.com/Divergent-Veronica-Roth-ebook/dp/B004CFA9RS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397669730&sr=8-1&keywords=divergent

5. If the teen won’t come to you, go to him. Sometimes I just hang out with him in his room while he’s on his computer and chat. When he asks me, “What’s up?” I just say, “Nothing. Just missing you.”

And I DON’T mention that his room resembles an Exxon bathroom. It doesn’t matter today. In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.”

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What are some easy ways you connect to your teen? Write your suggestions in the comment box below.