Books are my favorite thing to give as gifts and when my nieces and nephews were young it never failed that they would get a book under the tree from Aunt Karen. I tried very hard to match books with their interests but I learned an important lesson in gift giving through the years -- books will be better received by even reluctant readers if you pair it with something else. Here's a gift guide with 10 books that teens will enjoy and a little something extra to wrap up with them.
Credit: Jenna Hatfield (used with permission)
When Rose's mother dies of cancer she leaves Rose a brown paper bag that is labelled "Rose's Survival Kit." Inside the bag there is an iPod, a picture of peonies, a crystal heart, a paper star and a paper kite. It looks at grief and loss but also love. Can love come out of loss?
Pair with: Assuming your teen already has a something to play music on, a customized iTunes playlist of songs that mean something to the both of you. If they don't have an iPod, the iPod shuffle is a reasonable $49.
Hannah Ward is a nineteen-year-old dancer in the Manhattan Ballet Company. Her life is devoted to ballet as she balances rehearsals, performances and backstage relationships. No ballet company is complete without some backstage drama. Then Hannah meets a musician named Jacob and she starts to question her devotion to dance. What would it be like to live a normal life?
Pair with: Tickets to a dance performance in your area. Depending on your area this could be a bit of a splurge item or not. I've personally spent up to $90 for tickets and a little a $10 for a spectacular modern dancer performance. If your local area doesn't have many dance performances look for DVDs about dancing, such as Center Stage.
Thirteen-year-old Conor awakes at seven minutes to midnight to find a monster outside his window. That would be unusual to many people but Conor is only confused because it's not the monster he's been expecting. It's not the monster from his nightmares, which have been occurring ever since his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This monster is more wild, more feral. What does it want from Conor? A Monster Calls is a special book, not just because of its content but because of its origins. The idea originated with Siobhan Dowd, who thought of it following her breast cancer diagnosis. After her death Patrick Ness completed the book.
Mal lives on the fringes of his high school social scene. He is not the happiest of boys, he feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere. But he loves the idea of the world and the idea that there may be more life out there. Then he meets Hooper, who claims to not be from Earth... and who may be going home very soon. But it's more than about aliens and whether or not there may be life on other planets. It's a book that will especially speak to teens who have an absent parent.
Pair with: For fun -- a map of the universe. For kids who will identify with the absent parent parts of the book? A coupon book full of things the two of you will do together over the next year to be cashed on their schedule.
I am breaking one of my rules here. I try not to suggest books that are not the first book in a series but my resistance crumbles with it comes to the Clockwork Century series. The series retells the American Civil War with a steampunk twist. And zombies. In this fourth novel features air pirate Andan Cly and his decision to be less... piratey. Can he manage to get past the Southern Forces and obtain the Ganymede, a prototype submersible?
Pair with: The other books in the series and check out Etsy for steampunk accessories. I have a fondness for steampunk goggles and vintage steampunk rings. Bonus: Promise the teen you'll go with them to see the Boneshaker movie when it hits theatres.
When sixteen-year-old Cat's best friend becomes the victim of what appears to be a vicious hate crime Cat is determined to find the people who did it and bring them to justice. That's not easy in a tight-knit small town where people stick together. Inspired by the true story of Matthew Shepard, Shine was one of the most talked about books in 2011. First it was labelled as a "dark" book in the Wall Street Journal and then it was accidentally named as a National Book Award finalist when it wasn't. It's been a rough year for this very worthy book.
Pair with: I can think of nothing better to pair this shirt with than a YA Saves t-shirt.
This creepy tale is actually excellent for both teens and adults. The novel mixes text and photography (creepy photography) to fantastic (and creepy) results. When a family tragedy results in sixteen-year-old Jacob heading to a remote island off the coast of Wales he discovers the crumbling remains of Miss Peregrine's School of Peculiar Children. It soon becomes clear that these children weren't just peculiar, they may have been downright dangerous. And is it possible they are still alive?
Pair with: Photo editing software so your teen can learn how to create their own creepy levitating little girl images.
The contestants for a teen beauty contest are in transit to an event when the plane crashes on a Lost-like island. They have no access to email and have lost most of their clothing, make-up and styling products. There are rogue waves, dangerous snakes and equally dangerous reality tv show male pirates. Can the girls survive the island with their evening gowns in tact?
Pair with: An ammo holster filled with lipstick like the one on the cover would be awesome. So would a course on survival skills or a water bottle survival kit.
You'll actually find The Night Circus in the adult section of the bookstore but it's got lots of cross-over appeal. Imagine a circus that comes without warning and opens at midnight. It contains things that you've never seen before, beautiful things that don't seem like they should be possible. They are they magical and unknown to anyone the circus is a battleground for two magicians in a contest that can only lead to death.
Pair with: A bright red scarf or other accessory, just like the rêveurs would wear to attend. I like this red snowflake scarf as it reminds me of the ice sculptures.
In dystopian Chicago, sixteen-year-old Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the age where she must choose which of the five factions she's going to join for life. Each of the factions represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. Bucking the family tradition of choosing Abnegation, Tris opts for courage and joins the Dauntless faction. Her initiation forces her to question everything she's known about her world, her family and herself. Selected as both the Favorite Book of 2011 and the Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction winner in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards this first book the trilogy is a great choice.
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