A Reading List (From My Preteen Self)

hello all,

As a teen girl, I have gone through my fair share of phases. For example, there was my middle school war with cheerleaders, “screamo” music obsession, and a short-but-sweet athletic phase. Reading, however, will always hold a special place in my heart. As any library-card-carrying member of the bookworm club will tell you, it’s escapism at its best. Of course, my reading list as a kid was pretty heavy on magic. (Also, spunky young heroines who were mostly princesses.) Want some suggestions for the younger humans in your life, or maybe just to connect with your inner twelve year old girl? Read on!
Stargirl Jerry Spinelli
You’ve got your friendly narrator, Leo, living in his sad, conformist little desert town, when his Manic Pixie Dream Girl shows up and creates a sensation in the school. Drama ensues.
Once Upon a Marigold Jean Ferris
I read this book a ton of times (the binding is even all worn down on my copy) partly because it is so absurd and kind of sarcastic. The front cover promises that it is “part comedy, part love story, part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink.” Basically, a teenager lives in a cave in the forest with a troll and falls in love with a princess, whom he basically watches Twilight-style with a telescope. He then leaves the forest to win her heart. The ending is predictable if you’re old enough to catch the sarcasm, but sometimes it’s nice to be sure of your happy ending.
The Underland Chronicles Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games is currently making the rounds as YA-obsession of the moment, at least until the movie hype dies down, but before that series, Suzanne Collins gave us the very very dark tale of a New York boy who falls through a laundry vent into a subterranean world populated by mutant animals and discovers his destiny. My fifth grade teacher read most of the series aloud to the class and I got ahold of every book to read ahead. (I mainly did that because I was an impatient brat, but it was a good series.)
Our Only May Amelia Jennifer L. Holm
May Amelia is the only girl in her immigrant pioneer family in 1899, and gets into trouble pretty much constantly. The narrator’s voice is very unique, but unfortunately that involves never, ever using quotation marks for dialogue. Other than that, the novel’s plot tends to get mixed in my brain with A Year Down Yonder, despite being set 40 years and half a country apart. Despite this, I probably read the book five or six times as a kid.
The Goose Girl Shannon Hale
This was my favorite book for years, hands down, no questions asked. The protagonist, a shy princess, gets married off to a prince in a faraway land. However, on her way to this faraway land, her bodyguards try to kill her so that her maid can marry the prince. She escapes and gets a job taking care of geese, learns how to communicate with birds, makes friends for the first time ever, and then saves the kingdom. SO MUCH DRAMA, okay?
The Harry Potter series JK Rowling
If you don’t know about this, I can’t help you. However, the fabulous Lucy Knisely put them into comic form, and it’s pretty cool.
Ella Enchanted Gail Carson Levine
This was made into a pretty mediocre movie about ten years ago, starring Anne Hathaway. The book is really nothing like the movie, and has a really strong-willed, smart protagonist. Based off of Cinderella, Ella is cursed so that she has to obey any command given to her, but she goes ahead and takes control of her own life anyway. Plus, it’s got trolls/magic/fairies/etc, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, I loved that stuff.
A Mango-Shaped Space Wendy Mass
Thirteen year old Mia has synesthesia, which makes the book interesting in itself. However, what I really liked about the book at the time is what the book says about how people deal with feeling like they don’t belong and grief after a death, because they’re so universal. It’s pretty damn heartwarming.
Think you don’t have time to read? Think again. Or, share your favorite books in the comments!
-Rori