A GOOD READ: Some quirky teen reads

Looking for Alaska by John Green - photo SUBMITTED
Looking for Alaska by John Green
— image credit: photo SUBMITTED

Many, many teens (and lots of adults, too) are flocking to fantasy stories similar to The Hunger Games and Twilight series.

But not everyone wants to follow the trends. Many teens like reading alternative fiction or realistic fiction, instead of fantasy. Libraries have lots of suggestions for those teens, too.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac may appeal to an older, more mature teen looking for a quirky, intellectual read. Written in the 1950s, On the Road is particularly interesting right now because of the recent release of the movie version and the renewed popularity of poetry among young people. (This may be a surprise — poetry with teenagers? — but ask Port Moody Public Library about its Poet Laureate Contest or any local high school about the popularity of slam poetry.) On the Road is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that could serve as an inspiration for young poets. Although there are many stories surrounding the writing of the book, the best known is that the book was written in a three-week span on a continuous scroll of paper, hence its breathless flow of words. Warning: This book contains drug use so is most appropriate for older teens or young adults.

Other quirky books to read would include The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Catcher in the Rye. These are what the cool, “indie” kids were reading in the ’70s and ’80s, and are worth trying again with today’s teens.

If the teens in your life want realistic fiction, John Green is the latest sensation. Many reluctant teen readers are drawn to his books and are well-rewarded for their efforts. His books are compassionate, well written and appealing. And they are commonly passed from teen to teen in the same way the early Harry Potter books were. His first book, Looking for Alaska takes place in a hip boarding school in Alabama, where the main character, Miles, meets Alaska, a fascinating, attractive and eventually troubled girl. His latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, about a girl with cancer, is topping the bestseller charts. Green, in this reviewer’s opinion, is every parent or teacher’s dream. He appeals directly to teens where they live, i.e. online, by hosting a popular video blog (or vlog) and at the same time encourages his followers to read. He lists all his favourite books, including The Great Gatsby, and sends teens off to try them out for themselves.

Some realistic teen fiction deals with difficult issues facing young people. In Reasons to Be Happy, Katrina Kittle writes about peer pressure and the challenges of trying to fit in against a background of eating disorders and the death of a parent.

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King shows Astrid Jones in her unloving, pressured life coming to terms with who she really is, a lesbian. Authors such as David Levithan or Alex Sanchez also write for gay teens and are wonderful resources for teens with questions about their sexuality.

In If I Stay by Gayle Forman, the main character must deal with a catastrophic accident that shatters her idyllic if complicated world.

Tyranny is a graphic novel by Lesley Fairfield that deals honestly and sensitively with anorexia and bulimia, and would be a great book for anyone struggling with such issues.

Other realistic fiction is more lighthearted. Swim the Fly by Don Calame follows Matt and his two best friends in their ridiculous quest to see a girl naked by the end of the summer. And Halifax writer Vicki Grant has been described as John Grisham for the skateboard crowd; look for her funny and thrilling books such as Res Judica or Quid Pro Quo.

Many other fine realistic or quirky books are out there for teens to discover. We encourage families and teens to find what’s right for them. Try one of Port Moody Public Library’s book lists for teens or ask a friendly librarian for suggestions.


A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Vicki Donoghue works at Port Moody Public Library.



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