WSIRN Ep 16: Fascinating premises in dystopian fiction with 12-year-old Grace Martin

It’s Tuesday, which means a new episode of What Should I Read Next!

Today’s guest is Grace Martin, a 12-year-old bibliophile who lives with her family outside Chicago. Grace loves Harry Potter, dystopian novels, and strong plotting and she’s incredibly well spoken about her taste in literature. I also chat a bit with Grace’s mom Lara about raising readers and helping kids choose good books for themselves.    

What Should I Read Next #16: Fascinating premises in dystopian fiction with 12-year-old Grace Martin

Books discussed in this episode:

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Warriors Series by Erin Hunter
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Divergent by Veronica Roth
All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson
Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia by David Eagleman


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  1. Anne says:

    This show reminds me how much I would enjoy hearing a baby/toddler/child as a “guest” on your show. Obviously the parent would be the one communicating the preferences for a very young child. My kids are 2.5 & 1 so I am always thinking about what they should read next!

  2. Helen Harris says:

    I just listened to this episode and I have to say it was one of my favorites! I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of Grace: she’s read so much already and there is such a wonderful world of books for her to explore! Congratulations to her parents for raising such a well-spoken, well-read young lady. I also loved your book recommendations for this episode. All three suggestions were immediately added to my Goodreads “To Read” shelf 🙂

  3. Allison says:

    Grace, your reading taste sounds just like mine! I have a couple of recommendations for you! One is Tailchaser’s Song, by Tad Williams, and the other is the Ghatti’s Tale series by Gayle Greeno. They both feature cats (or catlike creatures) as significant characters, and were very good stories. I’d classify Tailchaser’s Song as fantasy and Ghatti’s Tale as sci-fi that feels like fantasy. Check out the reviews and see what you think. 🙂

  4. Kimi says:

    I homeschool my 3 kids, ages 18, 13 and 3, and my 13 year old son is the one that most often listens to the MMD podcasts with me. It has opened up a new dialogue for us on the subject of reading, and today’s podcast was just wonderful!
    My 2 older kids are voracious, but not necessarily adventurous, readers. Today my son was really interested in the Bradbury short story and Age of Miracles (as was I). I love that this is connecting us in a whole new way as we are learning to discuss books from a different perspective than homeschooling, but more as peers and fellow readers. I also love that he is widening his range of choices and learning that you don’t have to be bound to a certain genre.

    I’d also add that he fell in love with reading in a similar way. His father read him the Prydain Chronicles and he still reads them over and over.
    He also loved the Redwall series. It might be a bit young, but the 22 book fantasy series is about a society that consists of animals and their structures.
    Thanks again! Looking forward to next Tuesday!

  5. liz n. says:

    Anne, I cannot believe that, based on Grace’s love of the “Warrior” series, you didn’t recommend “Watership Down.”

    *Scoffs in indignation*
    *Turns on heel to make dramatic exit*
    *Takes much-loved and worn copy of ‘Watership Down’ with.”


  6. Martha says:

    Absolutely LOVED this episode! And as others have already mentioned, ‘Watership Down’ immediately came to mind as I heard Grace beautifully describe her enjoyment of the Warrior series:-) This podcast is truly one of my new favorite things about Tuesday’s and I look forward ro listening in every week during my commute, thank you!! The bonus podcast with the ‘She Reads’ ladies was a lovely surprise too! Here’s hoping there’s more! Obviously, I immediately signed up for their newsletter as well.
    AND I’m happy to report that I JUST signed up for the book of the month club using your generous code, thank you! I can’t wait to get my first book box!!

  7. Jamie says:

    OH MY GOSH!!!
    (yes, I am yelling at you. ha!! :))
    I was giggling and smiling the whole way through. I want to be Grace’s best friend.

  8. Nellie says:

    Grace! You are amazing! I strive to be the kind of reader that you are and I’m 41! My 9 year-old son loved hearing you talk about his favorite series, Warriors! You clearly speak his language. I’d love to hear from you again. Totally recommend Watership Down. We’ve gone through all of E. Nesbit’s books. Five Children and It might appeal, although it’s not dystopian, but magical and fun.

  9. Tammy Breitweiser says:

    Thank you for the incredible book offers! With the podcast and your recommendations I never have to worry about the TBR list getting small. 🙂 Inspired choices all the time! It is wonderful to have a community of readers that enjoy the same books as I do.

  10. Ann M. says:

    As a librarian I typically get kids who are “forced” to read via a school book report and have no idea what they would like to read. Kids like Grace always bring joy to my heart. My 12 year old self would have loved to have had a podcast such as yours as well as someone to talk with about books. So awesome that you included her! A couple of recommendations: The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard and The Lunar Chronicles Series by Marissa Meyer. Thank you for such a great podcast.

  11. Beth says:

    I’ve got an eleven-year-old son that reminds me a LOT of Grace — so I appreciated the recommendation on the Warriors series! I’m going to check it out for him!

    When Grace mentioned puzzles in Goblet of Fire, I immediately thought of The Mysterious Benedict Society. It’s got the boarding school (like Harry Potter) and the mystery and it’s a really fun read.

  12. Tam says:

    I really enjoyed The Martian too. It reminded me a bit of Robinson Crusoe and My Side of the Mountain.

    Only “All Summer in a Day?” Read more Bradbury! His short fiction collections are pretty good, especially for a budding writer. The October Country and The Illustrated Man are favorites of mine; although The Martian Chronicles is pretty fantastic too.

    Speaking of science fiction legends, Ursula LeGuin has the Catwings series.

    • Ginger says:

      Yes! I came to the comments to recommend both The Martian Chronicles and Ursula LeGiun as well! And I happily see you beat me to it!

      I also haven’t read Green Ember, but a friend and her children with excellent taste have and enjoyed them, in the same vein.

  13. Andi says:

    As I was listening to the last time episode, I contemplated emailing you to suggest you interview someone younger (such as my 13 yo daughter. Apparently, my wish was your command, and you didn’t even know I was wishing it!

  14. I highly recommend The Ice People by Rene Barjavel. I read it as a teenager & an adult. I’ve loved all of his books. He was a French author and I read the originals. I hope the translation is good. The story is fascinating.

  15. VanessaMeryl says:

    I think she would really enjoy Station Eleven. It’s not YA but I know you have recommended it before and it’s about a young woman in a dystopian world. I couldn’t put it down!

  16. Joni says:

    Loved, loved, loved this episode and will definitely be sharing it with my dystopian and HP loving teens! Grace, I love the way you thoughtfully discuss books! Yay for kid episodes and I hope for more! Thanks, Anne and Grace!

  17. Angela says:

    LOVED this episode! Listened with my daughters and we all want more. More kids on the podcast please! Thank you Anne and Grace.

  18. Chelsea Brewer says:

    I plan to read all of your suggestions! One of my favorite dystopian novels is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It may be a little adult for Grace, but on the other hand, I read it for the first time in my 9th grade English class.

  19. Heidi says:

    I love this podcast and look forward to my opportunities to listen to them (which are sort of hit and miss right now, hence why I’m a couple of episodes behind). I loved this episode so much that I finally had to stop lurking and come comment. The whole conversation was so fun, I loved hearing how articulately Grace was able to speak about the books she’s loved and why she loves them. I don’t have any suggestions for what Grace should read next, but I’m adding the short story and both of the books you mentioned to my TBR list!

  20. Miriam says:

    I also have a 12 year old daughter who loves dystopian fiction, we both love Lunar Chronicles by Marisa Meyers. Not only are they dystopian, but they retell fairy tales. She also has enjoyed The Selection series by Keira Cass.

  21. Fun listen I have a recommendation that I’m fairly sure Grace would LOVE. My 12-year-old son and I loved The Keepers by Ted Sanders. It’s creative and so well-written and the books are long (500+ pages), which I always loved as a fast-reading kid. The second one just came out and was as good or better than the first. It’s the kind of book I hope gets more attention.

  22. Melissa H says:

    I discovered the Paper Magician series by Charlie N Holmberg last summer after the first book was featured on Kindle Firsts, I think Grace would enjoy them! I devoured all three, they are very well written and the plots are sound. The magical world these characters live in is unique and I found it to be well rounded without the author over-explaining the premise or the details of their environment.

    An author I love is Robin McKinley, she retells fairy tales with a twist. All of her books are rich with detail and her characters are incredibly well developed and nuanced. The plots are all familiar, of course, but she manages to build on those well known stories in an unexpected way. Spindle’s End is her version of Sleeping Beauty and I have read it at least five times, it is one of my top ten favorite books.

  23. Oh my Goodness! As a child, I was fascinated by the movie that was made of the Ray Bradbury short story, All Summer In A Day–it haunted me, and even into adulthood, I wondered what the book title was!! When I heard you describe it to Grace, I was floored because I finally knew the story name! The story wrecked me as a child, and made me so sad for the character, but I think I will still want to read this story–despite my avoidance of overly sad stories. Grace is so articulate and smart – this was a lovely podcast episode as always! Thanks for helping me discover a childhood story after so many years, Anne! 🙂

  24. Miriam says:

    The Giver by Lois Lowry is a great Children’s classic dystopian novel so should be accessible to a 12-year old but not baby-ish in terms of the themes. I read it last year and it was a 5 star read for me!

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