Tween Book Recommendations That Don’t Suck

Is it me, or has the book selection for tween readers gotten really good since we were kids? When I was growing up, the genre pickings were slim. You made a huge leap from kid books to adult books kind of quick. There are some classics, like “Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood,” The Little House series, and “The Westing Game,” but generally? Not much. They were either trashy fiction or over your head. Once Girl Child really started to become a more advanced reader when she was in the 4th grade, I realized how awesome the choices had gotten for this age group. Tween book recommendations can be hard to find, in my opinion, so I sat down with Girl and Boy Child and together we compiled this list of the ones we’ve loved to share.

Tween Book Recommendations

Tween Reading Recommendations

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is an instant grabber.

(note: These are Amazon affiliate links. Help a sister out!)

39 Clues (various authors) – Want to keep your young tween reading challenging, well-written books with decent vocabulary words for a year or more? 39 Clues. Quick Synopsis: When orphans Dan and Amy’s beloved Grandmother dies, they find out their family is historically very powerful and are in a centuries-old race for 39 Clues that are supposed to make them the most powerful people in the world. They just have to find the clues first and outsmart all their crazy and dangerous relatives who are also in the hunt. There are TEN books in this first series. They just keep on going. Boy Child can’t get enough of them.

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody – A very fun re-imagining of the Robin Hood story centered around a 13 year old boy named Will Shackley. Quick Synopsis: While his father is away fighting in a Crusade, Will is forced to leave his sheltered home and joins a group of bandits you may be familiar with in a forest perhaps you’ve heard of. A great adventure for both boys and girls.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool – This has been one of my favorites Girl Child has read in the last five years. Such a powerful story that goes back and forth between two times in history. That can be tricky, but the author has done it extremely well here. Quick Synopsis: Abilene Tucker is sent by her father to live in the town where he lived just before World War 1 – Manifest, Kansas – during the Depression. She finds an old cigar box full of mementos and sets out to find the story behind each one. What starts as a child’s imagined mystery evolves into a beautiful story about the past, it’s secrets, and the healing that can happen once revealed.

N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley – There are five books in this series, and they’re all hysterical. Quick Synopsis: A group a geeky fifth graders run a spy network out of their school: the National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (Get it? N.E.R.D.S.) Each kid has something typically considered a recipe for awkwardness, like braces, asthma, etc. However, they’re the heroes of the whole operation because through the awesomeness of science, their braces, inhalers, and other “nerdy” accouterments become their strengths. Nano-braces, anyone?

Wonder by RJ Palacio – This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Never mind that it’s a kid’s book. The story centers around a boy named August. Quick Synopsis: August has cranio-facial abnormalities that up until we’re introduced to him at the beginning of the book prevented him from attending a regular school. But, he’s ready to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and wants to be treated like an ordinary kid. Told from different perspectives by the people in his life, this book is like a reader’s manual on kindness, compassion, and seeing people for their inside, not just their outside.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – I loved this book. It’s a mystery, and is SO well-written and interesting. I would read with Girl Child and then sneak off and read ahead after she was asleep. Quick Synopsis: Miranda and Sal are best friends, but when something happens to Sal, he starts to withdraw from her. Other things are happening around Miranda that leave her wondering what is going on. She gets a note scrawled on a piece of paper and the mystery unfolds. Where is her spare apartment key? What does the crazy guy on the corner have to do with everything?

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner – Twists and turns and American history. Quick Synopsis: Anna, José and Henry are kids. They are also strangers stuck at a Washington DC airport in the middle of a snow storm. The news reports say the flag that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner” has been stolen. Can they come together and figure out the mystery? With a cast of memorable characters and nice amount of page-turning intrigue, this one was a quick, absorbing read.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein – Another mystery, this one is packed with funny, eccentric characters, and a race. It’s kind of a Willy Wonka meets board games story. Quick Synopsis: Kyle loves games, and Luigi Lemoncello is his hero game maker. Mr. Lemoncello is also the designer behind the new town library. Kyle wins a coveted spot for an overnight inside the library, but come morning – the doors stay locked. Kyle has to use all his game skills to find an escape. It’s all in good fun, but it will keep your reader guessing.

The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley – a wonderful fantasy series with a sense of humor. The scenario is similar to the TV series by the same name, however this is the G-rated, non-horror version. Quick Synopsis: After orphans Sabrina and Daphne are sent to live with their enigmatic grandmother, they discover they are descendants of the Brother’s Grimm, and their fairy tale books we all know are actually case files. They come from a long line of fairy tale detectives. What does that mean? You meet a familiar cast of characters as the girls try to keep the fairy world and the real world from crashing into each other.

Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy – Rock n Roll connection alert! Colin Meloy is the lead singer of The Decemberists. This fantasy series reads like a love letter to Portland’s Forest Park and the Wildwood Trail. Three HEFTY books in the series, it’s for a more advanced tween reader, and certainly entertaining enough for adults to enjoy, as well. Quick Synopsis: Prue and her friend Curtis find a secret world full of wild creatures, mystics, and figures – all with dark intentions. Can they save the freedom of the woods the locals call Wildwood?

The school year is gearing up, and those reading logs don’t fill themselves. Hopefully these older reader / tween book recommendations help you out!