Book recommendations for young fantasy fan

My sister Boodle asks for  gift book recommendations for her granddaughter:

Could you perhaps help with some new ideas of books of intelligent fantasy?  
She is 13 now and reads mostly adult level books now although we have to be a little sensitive about really graphic sex I guess! 

I am giving her a used copy of Hamilton’s mythology…are there more mythology works I should introduce to her?  And do you think I should start giving her some Ray Bradbury…and which ones would you recommend?   Other fantasy sci-fi that is not too gory?

Has she read the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials books?  Those are definitely for the ‘young adult’ audience, but Pullman is very smart, and people will find as much there as they look for.  His great invention is the daemon, a kind of animal familiar/other self belonging to every human in his world.  I suppose 13 might be an awkward age for these books, though, too old for the kid fantasy stuff and too young for the cool references to Gnosticism and medieval history.  Worth a try anyway.

Bradbury may seem a bit tame and quaint for a 13-year-old.  How about Slaughterhouse-Five?  I know a lot of rather different people who would put that on their list.   My other favorite sf might be too nerdy/geeky for her taste, or in the case of Kelly Link, too creepy. 

If she’s actually interested in mythology, then I would recommend Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, whose characters include, for example, a sinister one-eyed dude named Wednesday.  Gaiman is an engaging and humane writer with a sense of humor.

I never read Edith Hamilton, but if her book is not full of gore and sex, I wonder what myths she can possibly have included–the time Dionysos got smashed and ruined Olympus Bridge Night with his careless bidding?  The story of Hephaistos and Aphrodite’s divorce litigation, with the famous wrangling over the appraisal of the smithy tools?  The Odyssey is a good story, Metamorphoses has the myths and is quite interesting in its way but not so much of a page-turner.

Gentle Reader, please offer your own thoughts!

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28 Responses to Book recommendations for young fantasy fan

  1. Tyler says:

    I’m guessing she’s too young for the zombie apocalypse?

    The most entertaining sci-fi book I read recently was World War Z by Max Brooks. But it is possibly too gory.

    Otherwise, Slaughterhouse Five is a safe bet. It’s required reading anyways, you know?

    • lippenheimer says:

      Well, Ty, I haven’t read Zombie Apocalypse but it sounds like something a 13-year-old would enjoy. Of course, Shelley’s and my favorite reading at that age would have included The Godfather, Clockwork Orange, Fear of Flying

      Say, do you know how to make the comments unmoderated? Or to have them listed in a sane order? (It looks to me like they’re now set to have the most recent at the top, or maybe that’s a special messed-up view for the blog owner).

  2. Tyler says:

    Should have clarified, World War Z is the zombie apocalypse book. It’s fun and well written, but I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with the genre, so I’m biased.

    And the comments look like they are displaying properly on here, they just might show up weird on your moderator screen.

    • lippenheimer says:

      OIC. I’ll see if the BGL has it…there do seem to be a ton of zombie stories lately, maybe they’re the next vampires.

      And the moderation thing? It’s weird, your last comment didn’t need to be approved, though all previous ones did…so confusing.

      Sounds like Boodle’s going with Neil Gaiman–you might be amused by American Gods, esp. if you’ve been to House on the Rock…there’s a funny scene there.

  3. Megan Kasten says:

    The Margaret Hamilton book was a favorite of mine when I was a teenager. It is an anthology of Greek myths, and was used as reference in one of my English classes. Only a true mythology geek would choose it without being told to do so. That’s my girl!

    And good call, Roy, I think she would love Neil Gaiman! We got The Graveyard Book on audio for a road trip, and it was terrific — better yet, it was one of the few I’ve ever heard “read by the author” in which the author’s voice sounded just right. His magical, wistful style paired with engagingly practical protagonists is truly charming without veering towards cloying. (Trust me, I hate cloying. If you read my tirade on Mitch Albom, you already know this.) Don’t be put off by the fact that the book opens with the murder of a toddler’s entire family. I can’t imagine such a scene being handled in a more artful and sensitive manner for this age group than it is by Gaiman. I was just looking for more books by him for our next road trip. He has written and illustrated a lot of graphic novels, which my boys would peruse again and again, but Boodle’s granddaughter would eat alive in 10 minutes or less.

    I think the aforementioned teen has already read all of the Pullman books in the “His Dark Materials” series, and well as the Madeleine L’Engle entourage. What about I,Robot? I bought that for my son last year, and he liked the part that he read. (His ADHD is great for starting books, but finishing is a much greater challenge.) I think she is quite ready for some Asimov (I think it was Asimov…), and his work is usually absent the gratuitous sex that is found in almost any genre that her ability would allow her to read.

    I think I was about her age when I read several of the Orwell books – Animal Farm, 1984…can’t remember what others. I also read Lord of the Flies at about the same time, although I found it appropriately horrifying.

    She may also enjoy “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, which is the basis for the movie “Blade Runner”. If anyone has read it more recently than I have, you may remember better than I if it is shockingly inappropriate for a precocious 13-year-old.(Sorry, I don’t know how to underline titles here, so you’ll have to live with my quotation marks.)

    I’m thrilled that my niece shows signs of sharing my taste in non-girly books; I’ll think of more as soon as I log off…

    • lippenheimer says:

      Megan, I’m surprised you didn’t recommend the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

      Anyway, we had Graveyard Book as a read-aloud and enjoyed it…the illustrations are good too, but it might seem too kidsy for a teen. Gaiman is actually a local writer here, has lived near the Twin Cities for 15 or 20 years, though obviously not from here originally. American Gods has a lot of Upper Midwest local color, and is much better than its sorta sequel, Anansi Boys.

      I’m surprised today’s kids can still like Asimov, but of course I adored him myself as a teen, read his whole 2000-page autobiography.

      • Megan Kasten says:

        Lucky you that you might run into Neil Gaiman at a bookstore. I think American Gods is one that was recommended to me for Nico by a 20-something sci-fi fan.
        I belonged to a great book club when we lived in PA, and we read Ender’s Game, which is intended to be a YA book, I believe. It’s a bit disturbing, but no more so than any Harry Potter book, and certainly not as disturbing as Lord of the Flies, so I think it would fit. It’s the beginning of a trilogy, I think, so it would keep her busy more than one day!
        Of course there are the Tolkein books, but should I assume she has already burned through those?
        As for The Hitchhiker’s Guide books, consider it recommended, and it heads a long list of books that I should have remembered…and Boodle, I think she would love the goofiness of any of the Douglas Adams books. They might even require the use of a dictionary, which she probably does not consult very often.

      • lippenheimer says:

        [no idea why this got stuck here instead of after Misah’s, where it belongs. I’ll figure this out eventurally.]

        Wow, it is awesome (or asome, as one of my young friends spells it) to hear from you, Misah!

        Although I have been, off and on, an sf fan all my life (to a smaller degree fantasy) I have never heard of most of the writers you mention, so maybe I’ll look a few up. I guess most of what I’ve read is either before your time or kind of weird (though Chabon’s Yiddish Poclimen’s Union won the Nebula). Do you know Ursula K. LeGuin? She is one of my favorite writers, regardless of genre, and has written both YA and extremely adult stuff (by which I don’t mean gratuitous sex and violence, but a maturity of intellect and ethics that is alien to a lot of sf writers lost in permanent adolescence).

        Who would you say are your favorite writers overall?

    • lippenheimer says:

      Ender’s Game was kinda cool but a bit too Mormon for my taste. Not sure that “less disturbing than Lord of the Flies” is such a great endorsement; it’s also shorter than War and Peace and easier to understand than Finnegans Wake.

  4. Megan Kasten says:

    OMG, my comment is longer than the whole blog….I try to be concise, but it’s just not how I roll.

  5. Tyler says:

    Once you approve a particular commenter, they can comment freely afterward. It’s like a little spam filter.

    Also, I forgot to mention that I loved Jurassic Park when I was that age. Though I’m not sure how well it has aged given that the movies killed the novelty of it.

    • lippenheimer says:

      Jurassip Park was 2/3 of a wonderfully scary book. It all started to fall apart, with that inane mathematician being allowed to rant endlessly before the raptors mercifully shut him up.

  6. Megan Kasten says:

    “Once you approve a particular commenter, they can comment freely afterward. It’s like a little spam filter.” You’ll regret that shortly.

    • Tyler says:

      Was that Congo? That movie was gahdawful.

      • Megan Kasten says:

        Yes, Ty, it was Congo. Never saw the movie, for the reason you mentioned — everyone who saw it said that it was tripe. The book was pretty good for what it was, though, typically charachter-poor, but with lots of excitement. I would have enjoyed it at age 13.

      • lippenheimer says:

        Don’t know Congo, but did read Eaters of the Dead, which is a Beowulf vs. the Neanderthals novel (I’m not kidding). Mildly interesting.

  7. Misah White says:

    Hi all, my mom sent me this way, and being an avid fantasy/sci-fi reader, I think I can help out…..

    I think I started getting into the fantasy genre about 12 or 13, and with “older” books too. One of my favorite authors was Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies, The Midnighters, and Peeps to name a few of many. I enjoyed all of his books, but I’d probably start with the Uglies trilogy (although I guess there’s four now.. quartet? quadriolgy?) because those were my favorites.
    Another favorite was Libba Bray’s trilogy, starting with A Great and Terrible Beauty.
    I love the Steerwoman’s series by Rosemary Kirstein, but I don’t remember what age I read it at….. I think it was before high school… but I’m not sure. I don’t think theres anything too adult in it though. Still waiting for the rest of the series to come out..

    A few single books (not recalled by memory, but my handy check-out history from the library):
    Feed by M.T. Anderson
    A Crack in the Line by Micheal Lawrence
    Everlost by Neal Shusterman
    The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    What “strain” of fantasy is she into? This list isn’t the typical epic fantasy like Tolkien, but the books I read of that genre are a bit older.

    I am a huge fan of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and though I read it more recently, I don’t think the content is inappropriate for a 13 year old. I love Robin Hobb and George RR Martin, but I read Hobb’s books freshman year, and they were really exhausting for me emotionally (then again, I get too attached to characters….) and Martin is too adult. Maybe save for later? 😉

    Instead of turning this post into a novel (a possible unhelpful novel), what is her opinion of science fiction?

    • lippenheimer says:

      [I posted a reply that got stuck elsewhere on this page, so hopefully you’ll read it there!]
      Oh, and if there are four books it’s a tetralogy, I believe. Maybe you knew that and were just being coy; if so, never mind.

      • Misah White says:

        Well, since it was supposed to go down here, I’ll reply here as well.

        Westerfeld and Bray are both young adult writers, and my list of novels are YA too. But the rest are adult authors and they’re probably my favorites.
        Patrick Rothfuss only has one book out, but the next one in his trilogy is supposed to come out in the spring I believe. I really enjoyed the first one.
        George RR Martin is pretty big in the fantasy crowd, and his books are fantastic. They’re very real, instead of the typical “good guy/bad guy” set up.
        Robin Hobb and Rosemary Kirstein are also among my favorites, and to add another great female fantasy/SF writer, there’s Lois McMaster Bujold.
        Jim Butcher has a good urban fantasy series, the Dresden Files, too.
        Hmm… I also really liked the Ender’s Game books when I read them, though I haven’t revisited them yet.

        So much for favorite authors… this list is too long to be favorites!

      • Misah White says:

        (I’m worried this post will be published above my other comment, but perhaps it’ll end up in the right spot.)

        I forgot to mention that I do know LeGuin, I just haven’t read her books yet. But they are on my list.
        I should also say that Butcher isn’t the most talented of writers, but his stories are great and his writing style matures and improves a lot through his series

      • lippenheimer says:

        I will see which of these people are available on the Bling Guy Library…of LeGuin’s I’d recommend the Earthsea books in her fantasy mode and Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed in her more SF mode. Do not start with anything recent, something bad has happened to her mind.

      • lippenheimer says:

        I mean Blind Guy Library, not Bling Guy. Sheesh.

    • Megan Kasten says:

      I have heard from several friends that The Hunger Games is fantastic, as well as the others in the series.

    • beth mchugh says:

      Misah, I’m so excited to see your postings here! What great and beautifully expressed ideas you have! I will pass them all along to Kyran as gift ideas….this grandchild has read all of the Suzanne Collins works and really liked them, especially the Hunger Games trilogy, so that gives you a bit of an idea. She read all the LeGuin books even the adult ones I believe. You have given me some fine ideas to present! She reads a book every couple of days and the library can’t keep up…that was why I was thinking of suggesting she go back to classics, but they might not be intriguing and modern enough! Look forward to seeing your other comments whenever! Hugs! Boodle

  8. Miran says:

    I loved imagining you searching for books at the Bling Guy Library.

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