Readers, today’s guest is feeling stuck between two chapters of her reading life, and I’m here to help!
13 year old Noa Hewlett knows what she’s looking for in a story, but as she starts to step further into the YA and adult sections of the bookstore, she’s struggling to discover the right books for this stage of her reading journey.
Whether you remember being in Noa’s shoes, you’re guiding your own kids or students through a similar transition, or you’re finding yourself in an in-between reading space, today’s episode has tips and strategies to help any reader find their way through a period of bookish transition.
Noa and I talk about books for readers of all ages today, and I leave her with a long list of titles and authors that she can trust to deliver the reading experiences she’s seeking.
There’s still time to share your Bookish Gift Recommendation Request for our upcoming episode! Submit your request right here.
You can keep up with Noa and the rest of her reading family on Instagram.
NOA: She sort of gets a book list from lots of like online sources and she'll be like, "Oh, these are like must reads for our generation." [ANNE LAUGHS] And I'm like, "Okay." [LAUGHS]
[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]
ANNE: Hey, readers, I'm Anne Bogel and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 347.
Welcome to the show that's dedicated to answering the question that plagues every reader: What Should I Read Next?
We don't get bossy on this show: What we WILL do here is give you the information you need to choose your next read.
Every week we'll talk all things books and reading and do a little literary matchmaking with one guest.
ANNE: Readers, now that My Reading Adventures is out, I am having the best time seeing how kids and sometimes grownups are putting it to use. My Reading Adventures is the kids' counterpart to my bestselling reading journal for adults, My Reading Life.
My Reading Adventures is aimed at the 8 to 12-year-old set, and it's full of fantastic book lists and space for young readers to track what they've read and what they want to read, with engaging features like an emoji-based rating scale and fun activity pages.
My Reading Adventures makes a great gift for back to school or the upcoming holiday season. Gift it by itself or pair it with one of your favorite childhood reads. Buy My Reading Adventures anywhere books are sold or ordered today at modernmrsdarcy.com/kidsjournal. That's modernmrsdarcy.com/kidsjournal.
Readers, sometimes it's hard to know where to go next in your reading life when what you've always loved just isn't working the way it once did. Navigating awkward reading transitions isn't only a teenage rite of passage, but today's guest, 13-year-old Noa Hewlett, is right in the middle of her first major literary transformation. Readers, she reached out, and today I am here to help.
Right now Noa feels stuck in that often challenging gap between the middle-grade shelves she's lived to for years and the more grown-up sections of the bookstore. Perhaps you well remember this painful in-between space yourself. Perhaps you've washed your own kids, students, or young friends make this leap.
Most of us will navigate an awkward readerly transition or several in the course of our reading lives. My mission today is to offer a helping hand, equipping Noa with tips and strategies to step into the next stage of her reading life. Plus, recommend a stack of titles that will take her on the kinds of literary adventure she loves, and launch her in some new directions.
Let's get to it.
ANNE: Noa, welcome to the show.
NOA: Hi, thank you for having me.
ANNE: Oh, the pleasure is mine. Our whole team has been so excited about you coming on ever since we heard from your mom in our What Should I Read Next submissions. I think you know what she told us but I'd love to hear it in your own words. So Noa, tell me a little bit about yourself and your reading life.
NOA: I am 13 and I'm like right in the middle of that stage where children's books get like too boring for me but YA can be like a little on the edge, you know? So it's been like a struggle trying to pick up books for me that really like fit what I want to read.
ANNE: Many readers listening who are adults remember going through that transition. And it's not always the easiest. I mean, how's it going for you?
NOA: It's fine. I've sort of just like lost interest in a lot of like just reading in general because I just don't find things that are interesting to me very much anymore, which is a struggle because I do love reading. It's just difficult to find something that I want to read.
ANNE: Well, we can't have that. I think you know that I had a kids' reading journal come out August 2nd, and we've just had a lot of fun thinking back on like our childhood reading selves, if we're adult readers. We have a lot of kids who listen to the show. Hi, kids. If you're closer to Noa's age than mine, we're so glad you're here.
NOA: That's nice.
ANNE: You may have noticed that sometimes adults get this like warm, fuzzy, distant look on their face whenever you bring up their own childhood reading memories. And they're like, "Oh, I remember when I was 13." [NOA CHUCKLES] Do you ever witness adults getting like all warm and gushy?
NOA: Yes, my mom does that often.
ANNE: Do you happen to know about a book or reading experience your mom just really loved as a kid?
NOA: She loves the book Mandy by Julie Andrews. And then she gave it to me, and then I read it and I was like, "I don't know why you love this book so much, but you know, okay."
ANNE: Your mom said really nice things about you. Do you want to hear what they are?
ANNE: Well, she said, first of all, she cannot keep up with the good recommendations for your reading. That you read faster than she can find new books for you to read. She said that you're a wonderful student. You love music. You love theater. You've studied some cool stuff: Voice, guitar, ukulele, steel drums. That sounds fascinating.
And you were just telling me about your musical theater experience this summer. She said you were the lead in your school play. You're funny, witty, and smart, that you're a great big sister, that you love hanging out with friends.
ANNE: And she said that of course you love reading.
NOA: Yeah, that's all accurate. [CHUCKLES]
ANNE: Okay, when did you start reading, Noa?
NOA: I've been reading ever since I can remember honestly. Well, my first really like chapter book experience that I can completely remember was the Nancy Clancy books, which is Fancy Nancy, but she's like older. Mo'ne Davis. The biography of Mo'ne Davis. She was the first girl who went to the Little League World Series. And both of those were just enough for me to go from like picture books to chapter books. And then I did and I never stopped.
ANNE: That's amazing. We have that Mo'ne Davis book on our shelves here in the book [inaudible 00:05:40].
ANNE: You're surprised?
NOA: No, yeah. I've never seen anybody else who have read it.
ANNE: I know that after our first visit to Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, that I've been wanting to visit for a while, and my family went on our way back from the beach and we gave them a ton of money because everybody bought something. And there are six of us. My son picked out that Mo'ne Davis book.
NOA: Oh, sweet.
ANNE: So I blogged about our first visit to Parnassus and what everybody bought. So I think that's why it's especially memorable because then I wrote about it. But if I wanted to find the year, listeners, I can just search the blog archives and it is there. [NOA CHUCKLES]
Okay, well, I'm so glad that you found another reader now. Because it's fun to connect with people who love the same things we do.
NOA: That's a great book, especially to-
ANNE: What did you like about it?
NOA: Well, girl power, number one.
ANNE: Number one.
NOA: She really made like her way to like fit in with the boys. And that was fun because I have three brothers. I related a lot to her because I have been playing with my cousins and my brothers and my dad since I was like really little. And also I love baseball.
ANNE: Do you have a team that you root for?
NOA: Cubs, usually. [LAUGHS] And the Phillies.
ANNE: You just made a lot of friends and a lot of enemies, oh, in just one easy three words phrase.
NOA: The Cubs and the Phillies. Unless they're versus each other, then I went for the Cubs.
ANNE: All right, you gotta have your loyalties.
ANNE: So I imagine this isn't the only time you've left a book that taught you something new, and yet at the same time was also really relatable.
ANNE: We're just going to tuck that away for later. I have to tell you, I've been looking forward to talking with you. And I was telling my four kids last night—the youngest is 12 and the oldest is 19—I said, "I'm talking to Noa, she's a 13 year old reader, and this is the stage that she is at right now in her reading life."
And I told them what your mom said, how finding books for that stage where you feel like you're outgrowing middle grade, you're not really at home in YA, you're navigating the transition and like all my kids groan and they're like, "Oh, that's so hard." And said, "I know, that's why we're talking."
It sounds like for a long time you've been really comfortable in the world of middle grade books and reading.
NOA: Yes. I sort of skipped the whole small chapter books after like two and went straight to middle grade because once I caught on to reading I just kept going.
ANNE: Yeah, some readers do that.
NOA: Yeah. Like I read too fast to have smaller chapter books like entertain me anymore. So I sort of went straight from like Mo'ne Davis to like a 300-page book that I stayed up all night to finish. It was The Mysterious Benedict Society.
ANNE: Oh, fun.
NOA: I loved that book. And I stayed up all night to finish it. But it was like 300 pages and my mom was like, "Noa, how did you even do that?" [LAUGHS]
ANNE: So when your mom says that you read faster than she can find something new that you'll enjoy, that's what she's talking about?
NOA: Yes. [CHUCKLES]
ANNE: Okay. So it sounds like your mom plays a really big role in your reading life.
NOA: Well, I probably wouldn't read as half as much as I would if she didn't go to the library as often as she did.
ANNE: I'd love to hear more about that. So I know that your mom is really active in helping you choose what to read next. How does that work right now?
NOA: Well, it's like laughably simple. But she usually goes to the library and then she goes into either the middle grade, like between middle grade and YA, and then she picks a few that she thinks I'll like and then she brings them home. And then if I liked them, I read them. And if I don't, I don't. [CHUCKLES]
But when we lived in New Jersey, which was about a year ago now, we lived near the Cherry Hill Library. And the Cherry Hill Library is massive. It has a very big like middle grade section. And she actually like literally went through the entire middle grade section like A to Z and picked out all the books that she thought I would like. And then [LAUGHS] I read most of them. She like actually went through the library. I always thought that was funny.
ANNE: Okay, so your mom is going through trying to see what may appeal to you. Do you know what kind of thing she's looking for? Like what kind of things appeal to you in books?
NOA: I don't know if she knows particularly what I'm looking for because, I don't know, I guess we've never talked about it. But I think she finds things that... she like reads the synopsis and then if she thinks I would find it interesting, she picks it up.
ANNE: Noa, I don't know if this is news to you, but many adult readers who love to read can see that their children read and read often and read happily if they have a book that they're excited to read in front of them. And so often a parent's job is to get those books that kids are excited to read on the coffee table or the kitchen counter or the library book basket so that they have something to read. But like, oh, Noa, I've been in your mom's place and I feel this.
Okay, so Noa, we know that you love fantasy, history, music, reading about relationships, but not romance. That is not your thing, correct?
NOA: I'm okay with romance as long as there's plot also.
ANNE: Some of the genres you like are fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and you love to read about characters that are likable and relatable. Like main characters, you can look for.
NOA: That's sort of like makes or breaks the book for me like 90% of the time. If the main character isn't like emotionally driven or like deep or like I can't relate to the main character, I don't usually finish it. Complexity is one of the things that I look for in all characters and all stories.
ANNE: Okay, so you're looking for new books that grab your interest. And those are hard to come by these days.
ANNE: Noa, this is a common problem and it can look different ways in different readers' lives. And I'd love to hear where this system is breaking down right now. Are you like going through books that your moms bring home from the library and they're like working less and less frequently?
ANNE: What do you feel like is missing? Like what do these books not have that you're looking for? Or what do they have that you don't want in your reading life?
NOA: All of the children's books that she seems to bring home, I feel like, or like middle grade, the way it's written seems too like simplistic.
I love The Percy Jackson series and I love the story and plotline and how emotionally nice the characters are written. It's written toward a group of like 9 to 12-year-olds. While I know that's how the book is written, it's hard to catch my interest because it speaks so plainly. But also like old classics. Like the story is brilliant, it doesn't catch my interest in how it's written.
I read a lot of old Sherlock Holmes books for a long time. [CHUCKLES] Just like the old language... I sort of like skip over the words. Like naturally I just skip over words that I don't know. And just those books are kind of like full of those.
ANNE: Okay. So you care about craft? Like you want a good story and you also want writing that is also appealing to you?
NOA: Yes. I don't want to feel like I could have edited the book and it could have been better.
ANNE: And with Sherlock Holmes, are you attracted to the mystery genre?
NOA: I like mysteries sometimes. I don't like mysteries that like draw themselves out through like millions of pages. Just get it over with, you know.
ANNE: Okay. So it sounds like you were interested in trying some classics. But reading Sherlock Holmes with a gap in vocabulary between 2022 Iowa in Sherlock Holmes' time and place, that just didn't work.
ANNE: Okay. You also mentioned that you have friends you trade book recommendations with and that friends have gotten you into some way books that you described as fun, but often basic. Would you tell me more about that?
NOA: Well, me and my friend, she's sort of gets a book list from lots of like online sources and she'll be like, "Oh, these are like must reads for our generation." [ANNE LAUGHS] I'm like, "Okay." [LAUGHS] And so she'll read and then she'll be like, "Noa, this book is so good." She like usually has a copy so she'll give it to me. And I'll read it and I'll be like, "Yeah, you were so right. This book is really good." Or I'll be like, "Wow, that was really boring." [CHUCKLES] There's usually isn't an in-between.
Like she handed me The Song of Achilles, and that's one of my favorite books now. But she also handed me The Love Hypothesis which sort of fell flat.
ANNE: I didn't know 13-year-olds are reading The Love Hypothesis. Is that because I'm old and out of touch with what 13-year-olds are reading?
NOA: Well, it like blew up on TikTok. I think that's where she found it from. [ANNE LAUGHS]
ANNE: I've heard that one's pretty spicy, Noa.
NOA: Yeah. I had to skip like three chapters. I like the story. I feel like I didn't get enough backstory from like Olive's life before. Like we didn't get the buildup before the romance.
ANNE: Okay. Noa, I have not read this book, so I don't know about that. But actually, listeners, I have listened to a long podcast about this book because The Overdue Podcast guys, Craig and Andrew, did a collaboration with a Heaving Bosoms romance podcast on Overdue and so I wanted to listen to that before we talked. I listened to all their collaboration episodes recently, in addition to just the regular listening I do of that show, and the book they discussed was The Love Hypothesis.
They were pretty hard on that book. So I do have some idea of what your critiques may have been though I have not read it myself. Okay. So you said in your own words when you wrote us before you came on that you like romance, but not all the sex, and you don't want it to be "the same boring story" is how you put it.
NOA: Well, cliches are fine if I like and know the characters like beforehand. As long as I have like a good set view of the main character before it gets into like the same old trope I've seen over and over again, if I'm totally in love with the character, I could read the same boring trope over and over and over again. It's just the backstory needs to build up before we get the same thing I've already read. It needs to be unique.
ANNE: Okay. Noa, here's what we're going to do today. We're gonna talk about books you loved and books you didn't, then I think we're going to talk about some general recommendations for finding books. I have a couple of really specific things you could do that I think may be helpful to you. And then I'll give a few of my own recommendations for what I think you may enjoy reading next to help you bridge this divide between middle grade and YA and adult reading. You're ready to do this?
NOA: Sounds awesome.
ANNE: Okay. So Noa for the show, you chose three books to share that you love as a reader. How did you choose these?
NOA: Well, I sort of went through all of the books that I contemplated buying for myself so that I could read them over and over again. Because usually I get books from the library and then I'm like, "Wow, that was amazing." And then I want to continue to come back and read it.
That's something different that I found with a lot of people I've talked to where they're like, "If I read a book, like a really good book, it sticks with me, but I would never read it over and over again." My view has sort of been, if you really, really love it, it makes you want to come back to it over and over again. Like it never gets old once you read it.
ANNE: I'm a re-reader myself. So you don't have to convince me. I love this. Okay, what a great way of choosing! So tell me about the first book or books you love.
NOA: Well, the first ones were The Percy Jackson series. I loved The Percy Jackson series. I love Greek mythology, and it combined it with a protagonist that was just like me. Like he was 12 when the books first started. He was sarcastic and funny, and I loved him. He was great.
And then we had a girl who I related to who was blond and smart and she sounds just like me. And then they went on a fantastical quest that I've always wanted to go on. And that sort of sold it for me. And then it just kept going. Like there were just like so many others that continued the content that I kept wanting to see.
And then other series is that are connected like The Kane Chronicles and Magnus Chase series, both of those were amazing because it combined like Norse mythology stuff that I like with people who I relate to.
ANNE: Very nice. So you're a re-reader, Noa. How many times have you read this series?
NOA: The whole series through like three times, but the very first Percy Jackson book, yeah, the very first one I've read like 50. Just like flipping through in like different chapters and stuff.
ANNE: So you must love this a whole whole lot.
ANNE: Do you tend to enjoy series? I mean, would you be happy to discover a series that has just one book after another with the same characters encountering new adventures?
NOA: Yeah, as long as it doesn't get old. If it could have been confined to one book, I would prefer if it did.
ANNE: You and me both. You are not alone there. [NOA CHUCKLES] Okay, now you've hinted at this a little bit, but Noa, tell me about the next book that you really love.
NOA: The next book I really loved was The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
ANNE: Recommended by your friend.
NOA: Yes. She came up to me one day and was like, "Noa, this has been on my must reads for a really long time, but I'm just kind of scared to read it. So would you read it for me?" And I was like, "Sure, you know. I've heard a lot of good things about this book, I'll just try it out." And so I read it and it was just really good.
It took Greek mythology and instead of like The Percy Jackson series where it like recreated it into like modern day, literally took the story of Achilles and Patroclus and just told it like it would like a modern storybook. It presented it in like a feasible way where like that actually could have been how they live their lives. And that was very nice and interesting to me.
ANNE: When you said it was really good. You almost sounded surprised.
NOA: Well, a lot of things that I've gotten that were labeled as YA, I haven't liked very much. But I had heard a lot of good things about this one, so I decided to give it a look.
ANNE: Noa, tell me about the third book you love.
NOA: The third book I loved was The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu. I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing your first name right. I really liked this book. It sort of combined a lot of my favorite things. It was a bit of a feminist book. It was about composing and music. If it was historical fiction. Those are like three of my favorite things.
It follows the story of... I think it was Beethoven's sister. It turned out that she like wrote a whole bunch of like music that ended up with Beethoven's name on it. And I was like, "Wow, that is so interesting," like that actually happened in that they found her rare handwriting on documents that were like said that it was his writing. Oh, it was Mozart. It wasn't Beethoven. It was Mozart.
It also put that sort of fantasy spin on it. They also have like this magical quest where they go into this world and then there's like danger and etc, etc. It was really nice to read for me.
ANNE: That's very interesting. Now, tell me about a book that wasn't right for you.
NOA: The book I chose for that was You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook. I think the thing that really just put me off was how real the main character seemed while also being put in an absolutely terrifying position, being peer pressured into doing something terrible. That's like one of my worst fears. I don't like that at all.
And it just sort of like hit really close to home, and I was like, "Books are like an escape for me. And so I don't really want to read about something terrible happening to someone who could be me in a couple of years." Because the main character is like 16 and I'm 13.
ANNE: Duly noted. [NOA CHUCKLES] This makes sense. Okay, so I just crossed a few books off my list that I had been just jotting down as we went along here. [NOA CHUCKLES] Good to know. Thank you very much. Noa, what's the last book you read?
NOA: I've picked up quite a few. But the last one was probably either Under Wildwood from The Wildwood series.
ANNE: Is that a series that you've read maybe more than once?
NOA: I read it like a year ago, and I really liked it. And it sort of just like crossed my mind recently. And I was like, you know, that was a really good book series. I should reread it. So I asked to get it from the library, and then we did.
ANNE: So Noa, you loved The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Kingdom of Back by Maria Liu. You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook was not for you. It was too realistic and too dang scary. No bad things happening to teenagers in your books, please and thank you.
And then lately you've been reading the Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy again. So we're going to talk today about what you want to be different in your reading life, which is basically new books that grab your interest. And you're looking to branch out beyond middle grade. Noa, I have to say this. Great middle grade books are great for readers of all ages.
NOA: It's true.
ANNE: And also, even though I am in my 40s and I love a good middle grade book, I don't want to be reading always in the same section of the bookstore because I really enjoy variety in my reading life. And Noa, I think you do too.
ANNE: So we can love middle grade with our whole heart and still really want to branch out. And that is what we're here to do today. So let's talk about how to do that.
So, Noa, I said I had a very specific tip for you to get started. And that is... Oh golly, I just realized how boring this is gonna sound. But do you pay any attention at all to literary awards? I think you know what they are. Like the Newbery, the Caldecott. There's probably a bookshelf with Caldecott in your kindergarten library. Do you know anything about the Alex Awards and The PRINT Awards?
ANNE: This is something that you can do on your own, your mom could do it, you could do it together. You can hit up the Google like before you even set foot in a bookstore. So there are tons of awards put out or there are tons of literary awards out there, including a whole slew put out by the American Library Association.
And we know that you have a lot of trust in and respect for your library. So I don't hate that they're who puts out The PRINT Awards and the Alex Awards.
So these are the two I want you to pay attention to. The first Michael L. Printz Award. This is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. This is the big YA book award. For books to win this award, they have to be really great in both story and the writing. And we know you care a lot about both.
So it does not necessarily mean, "Oh, this book is an award winner, that means I'm going to love it. That means I should read it." That's not at all what I'm saying. But what I am saying is what they do every year is they narrow down all the YA books from last year.
Now, they don't consider every book. There are so many great books that you will love that very few people have read, that we talked about them flying beneath the radar. That is a real thing. But also like they're looking at a lot of different books this committee. And you get to read about the winners. And then they choose honor books as well. You can also see what the nominees are, like what books were considered for the award.
This one work comes out the end of every January. When the 2023 award is announced it will be for books published in 2022. But you can look just at a glance at the winners for the past... they've been putting this award out since the 90s. So you can look at a whole slew of winners year by year and also the honor books from each year.
And what this does is narrow down all the books on the YA shelves at the library into a very manageable selection. And I know that you like to choose books based on like reading the books description on the books that your mom brings home. Every book description on this site has just a really short paragraph that says, Here's the gist of what happens in this story. Here's what this book is about.
So for example, the 2022 winner was Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley. What they say to describe this book is, Daunis is a half Ojibwe, half white former hockey player/aspiring scientist, never feels fully settled in either her reservation or the outside world. She finds herself even more torn when she witnesses her best friend's murder..." Okay, so you can see right now maybe this is not the best book for you.
NOA: Yeah. [CHUCKLES]
ANNE: But other books that won for 2022 were Angie Thomas's book, Concrete Rose, Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, Revolution In Our Time by Kekla Magoon and Starfish by Lisa Fipps. But you can go through and see all the previous winners going back many, many years. There's lots of books here.
So because you're 13, and I think you're interested in finding YA books that you do actually, like I think that's good for you. But the award that I really would urge you to pay attention to is the Alex Award. Have you heard of this before?
NOA: I've never really paid attention to awards before?
ANNE: Does that sound like pretentious or does that sound promising?
NOA: No. Honestly, I never even thought about it. But it sounds really nice because like people have already read it. And that's why it had an award. [ANNE LAUGHS]
ANNE: Okay. The one I love for you is the Alex Award. These are given to 10 books every year that are written for adults and also have special appeal to young adults. And when they say young adults, they mean ages 12 through 18.
The way you're describing your reading life and some of your frustrations with YA books, I think these adult books that are great for readers your age is perfect for you. But not every book is right for every reader. There are definitely going to be terrible things happening to kids and maybe some sex scenes in some of these books. And you're gonna read the description and talk to your mom about it and be like, "Oh, that's not one for me." But like, "Wow, this sounds amazing. This one does."
So some of the 2022 winners for the Alex Awards were The 100 Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin, The Rose Code by Kate Quinn, and a book that I actually think is great for you. It's called Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, because it's science fiction.
So here's the description. Let's go with their description of Light from Uncommon Stars. They say, "The lives of a young transgender runaway, a violin teacher who sold her soul to the devil and a refugee...
NOA: Oh, my gosh, I know that one.
ANNE: Have you read it?
NOA: I picked it up I think a while ago.
ANNE: Well, this is the kind of book that you're going to find... Not all science fiction, but an adult novel that can have special appeal to you as a 13-year-old. Also, one of these books... I know you said the Greek mythology was totally a coincidence, but one of the books that won last year... Well, I guess it's this year. One of the 2022 winners, there we go, is called Lore Olympus. It's by Rachel Smythe.
This is a contemporary graphic novel that depicts the love story of Hades the god of the underworld and Persephone the daughter of Demeter and Goddess of spring. So it's a modern-day retelling of a Greek myth as a graphic novel.
NOA: Oh. Yeah. I've heard of that one. I haven't ever picked it up but I have heard the title before.
ANNE: So I do think that could be a way to discover books that you might not know about otherwise, or that you might not think were for you just because they're not in that section of the library where you always look to get your books.
And then something else that I think is worth mentioning is remembering not just what you might want to read in YA, but what you might want to read about anywhere is always something to keep in mind. So you love fantasy, history, music, sci-fi, looking for books in those categories could be really good as well.
Noa, I would also recommend checking out those library endcaps also when you or your mom are at the library, seeing what librarians are highlighting that they want readers to really notice, especially if they're arranged by theme. Like it wouldn't be surprising to discover an assortment of music books at the library.
NOA: Oh, yeah.
ANNE: Or books set in a certain location or identified as great summer reads or holiday break reads. You know, check those out. And maybe look for books outside the places that you've always been looking.
Noa, I know that you're moving from middle grade into YA and beyond. As we've been talking, I keep thinking of the wonderful authors that you could really grow up with as a reader because they write in all those genres. And I wonder if you found an author whose style you just really loved, that you could enjoy reading their middle grade, their YA. And then as you get older, they'll still be there for you.
NOA: Um, okay, I have not found someone like that, but I have found one whose books have never failed for me.
ANNE: Oh, yes, please.
NOA: Tamora Pierce. She is amazing. And I have loved every single book she's put out. I got The Song of the Lioness Quartet for my birthday from my uncle like three years ago, and it was amazing. And so I just kept reading all her books. It just kept getting better. I haven't found something that someone just keeps but is currently putting out books because she's older. Those books came out a while ago.
ANNE: Let me just run a couple of authors by you that you and your mom can track. So V. E. Schwab writes middle grade YA and adult novels. So you and your mom know when you go look for these, she's also published under the name Victoria Schwab. It's still her. Same author. One of her recent books was The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, which I think might be a good fit for you.
She has several series, This Savage Song and the sequel. The Darker Shade of Magic series that I think could feel good for your reading tastes. And I know you're gonna want to know that V. E. Schwab can write.
NOA: I've definitely heard of it. I think it's on my list but I haven't read it yet.
ANNE: Jacqueline Woodson is an author who writes such beautiful, sophisticated works for many different ages and stages of life. I think she could be amazing for you.
Rebecca Roanhorse writes a really interesting kind of fantasy, science fiction works often inspired by indigenous mythology. She writes middle grade, she writes YA, she writes adults.
Elizabeth Acevedo is an amazing YA author who writes complex, emotionally resonant characters. She's writing her first adult novel, so I'm really excited about that. Neil Gaiman could be one who writes-
NOA: Oh, I've heard of Neil Gaiman.
ANNE: He's worth checking out. And he does write adult books that I think you would find are beyond you right now, that you would want to shelf those for a few years. But I also think he would write books that can make you very, very happy as a reader.
ANNE: So that's another thing. I think finding authors who write across a variety of stages just could be really a nice bridge as you know that you're going to continue to evolve as a reader.
And now let's see if we can do a couple specific recommendations. Okay, Noa, there's one big question I have. I know that you would love a good series, the science fiction, maybe dystopian with emotionally engaging characters. I have the head start of 30 years on you, so that is definitely a difference between us. There are a lot of really popular, even beloved YA dystopian series.
And what I'm wanting to know is, I'm wondering if they're perhaps not on your radar because they haven't been in stock at the library or they haven't jumped out at you or your mom, or if you've feel like you've tried a whole ton of them and they've just not been right for you.
NOA: Well, I've read quite a few of the big ones. Like I've read The Hunger Games. I really loved The Hunger Games. I've read Divergent. It was like eeh. I guess I haven't really looked very hard for dystopian stuff in the library.
Oh, I really liked Ready Player One also. That was sci-fi and dystopian, which is cool. And the sequel, The Ready Player One, was also cool. But-
ANNE: I was wondering what you thought about that. I haven't read that one yet. I was excited to hear it was coming out. And now it's been a couple of years and I still have not read it. Okay, there are so many directions we could go.
First of all, Noa, I want to give you a good series with fantasy vibes. I'm a little concerned that this one... that I think you may really love may also feel a little young to you. I think our producer Brenna is gasping right now because she loves this series as an adult, has read it many times.
I read these as an adult because well Brenna talked my son into it. And then I had to get in on the action because everybody was so excited about it. But that is the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. There are so many books here.
This is a crime caper fantasy with fairies and magic. There are so many antics. The writing is really good. Actually, Eoin Colfer has written for many ages. But at the heart of the series is a 12-year-old whose name is Artemis Fowl. So obviously, you know, destined to be-
NOA: The chosen one.
ANNE: ...the slam-bang protagonist. Yes. He's a millionaire, a genius, and a criminal mastermind. So he thinks when he kidnaps a fairy nothing bad could possibly happen. These fairies are dangerous and looking for trouble. [NOA CHUCKLES]
This series continues for seven or eight books. I think it could keep you happy for a long time. I think you may actually want to read it again if it really sticks with you.
This is a series that has won all kinds of Children's Book Awards for like six to eighth graders. And while I know that is you, I also know that you're looking to read some literature aimed at older kids and not necessarily children's books that are beloved by adults. But I still think that this could be that kind of gripping, don't want to put it down, can't wait to find out what adventures these characters will be up to next kinda book that you're looking for. Smart and fast pace. How does that sound?
NOA: It does sound fun. I mean, I have to try it out.
ANNE: I was just thinking about YA like retellings that are messing with the classics and fairy tales and all that. And there's so many different directions you could go. I wonder if you would like Naomi Novik or Brigid Kemmerer.
Oh my gosh, I just remembered a series I promised my kids I'll tell you about. Let's do that. Let's go there next.
So Marissa Meyer writes sci-fi fantasy. I think The Lunar Chronicles may actually be YA. But many kids read it when they're a little bit younger. Look it up. Check it out. I think that could be fun. There are five or six books in that series. You go through them really quickly. Their fairy tale retelling.
So the first is called Cinder. So I think that could be a fun series for you. But the one I wanted to make sure you know about that I think is maybe more your speed, at least according to the books we've talked about today that you really love, is The Renegades series. This is a trilogy, each book is a nice, pleasant 500-something pages.
You talked about girl power with Mo'ne Davis.
ANNE: So we have that here again. This is about a girl named Nova, who lives in this world where superheroes and supervillains are battling it out for who will truly rule the people. Nova is mad at the good guys because she feels like they really let her down.
NOA: Heck, yeah.
ANNE: So she wants to set out for revenge. Yeah, she wants to infiltrate the good guys and bring them down from within.
ANNE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm not gonna tell you anything else. It's a trilogy. I think you'll like it.
NOA: I'll try it out.
ANNE: Another one I have in mind that may not be on your radar is The Lady Janies series that's written by three authors, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows. The first book is called My Lady Jane. The second book is called My Plain Jane. Do you know anything about these books?
NOA: No, I've never heard of those.
ANNE: Okay, this is historical fiction, a very strong magical twist. As in a very few of the events in this book actually happened. It's mostly an excuse for them to make up zany fantasy plots and involving people that transform into horses at night.
I think you may enjoy this because it's fun. It's inventive. It's clever. It focuses on some areas that you have really enjoyed in the past, like historical fiction and fantasy.
The protagonists here are 16ish years old. And My Lady Jane is based on a historical queen, Lady Jane Grey. She ruled England for something like nine days a really long time ago, and that ended badly. So in the very beginning of the book, the authors say, "Apologies to England because we are about to do egregious things to your history to make it turn out better for Lady Jane and to make it a lot more fun for the reader."
So in this book there's a young king... Well, they both have problems and they need each other to solve them. [NOA CHUCKLES] And no, they do not fall in love with each other. So there is a little bit of love in this book but there's obstacles that love because the person that Jane is supposed to marry, even though she really, really doesn't want to, turns into a horse every night, because that's something that people do in this book. And I think it might be-
NOA: Of course. Of course.
ANNE: Of, course, they do. See, you've got the spirit. So I think that could be fun for you. So there are three books in this series. Oh, I don't know if you've read Jane Eyre yet?
NOA: No, but my mom has talked about it and she wants me to read it.
ANNE: Okay, I think you may enjoy that. I wouldn't usually say "yet" to an eighth grader, but I think you may enjoy that. And I wouldn't say that to every 13-year-old, Noa. I don't want anybody to hate a book because they read it before it's time. But the second book in this series, My Plain Jane does the same kind of like massively messing with the story, but with Jane Eyre.
NOA: Ah, okay.
ANNE: Okay, so those are two very different series that both have a magical tie. You mentioned that you gave Sherlock Holmes a try, and that it wasn't a fit for you. But I do wonder if a YA mystery series that was actually written in this century might be fun for you. And there's one that's Sherlock Holmes-inspired. It's by Brittany Cavallaro. And the first book is called A Study in Charlotte. Is this a book that you've tried or you've seen around?
NOA: I don't think so. It sounds interesting though.
ANNE: Okay. There are four books in this series right now. The first one is called A Study in Charlotte. In this book there's a character whose name is Jamie Watson, who transfers to this fancy Connecticut prep school called Sherringford, which I'm probably saying wrong because maybe you're supposed to say it the British way. But Jamie is on a rugby scholarship. And that's where he meets the eccentric Charlotte Holmes, who is obviously the ancestor of Sherlock.
So Charlotte, it seems, has inherited her great great grandfather's keen eye and also unpredictable temperament, and Jamie is like, "Yeah, I am staying away from that girl." But then they are suspected of harming a fellow classmate, so they have to team up, just like Watson Holmes had to do back in the day and solve the case in order to clear their names.
So I should tell you that the crime in this first book is that they are accused of murder. So that's not the main point of the book but that's probably worth knowing since we talked about bad things happening to teenagers. But the tone of the book is not dark. This is clever and witty. It's very zippy, not as outrageous as The Lady Janies, but plenty of fun.
NOA: The murder gets me when it seems like real enough to happen. But I think that's just far enough out there that it won't mess with me.
ANNE: And finally, you mentioned you tried some classics that hadn't worked for you?
NOA: Yes. It was mostly like the flowery language that I didn't really get. But-
ANNE: Mostly what I want to do, Noa, is much in the same way we talked about the Alex Awards, just to invite you to consider, especially as you're really wanting books whose writing you love, like your stories don't get old that have been around for a while.
You've talked about YA titles, contemporary YA titles being basic, and not really loving some of the writing, the story sounding simple. I was thinking of older books. And there's a book by Dodie Smith, who actually wrote 101 Dalmatians, that's known as the original YA novel.
ANNE: I know, right? [NOA CHUCKLES] It came out in 1948. It's called I Capture the Castle. I mean, according to the design of the book, it's written as the diary of a 17-year-old girl. Her name is Cassandra. She has a really eccentric family living in an old English castle that is literally crumbling.
And this is her diary about her days. And they're full of stories that are funny and poignant. It's a world you don't know where people are drinking tea all the time and entertaining visitors and you know, trotting off on foot to visit friends. But she's talking about growing up in the strange stuff her family is getting up to, and how sometimes she has writer's block and it's hard to figure out what to do with her words since she's dreaming about her future while dealing with being a 17-year-old.
And I just think it might not be right. You might be like, "You know what, this is not the gripping story." It's not action-packed, but it might be interesting to see what you think of it.
NOA: I'm okay with simple as long as it's interesting.
ANNE: Well, that is for the reader to decide. But I think it might be fun for you to have the opportunity to check it out and decide. Okay?
ANNE: All right. Noa, we have talked about so many books. I hope our conversation today lead you to some authors, some parts of the library, some titles that you might not have discovered otherwise and gives you some resources that you can use in your reading life, not just for this year of your reading life but for well down the road as well.
Noa, of all the titles that we talked about today, is there one that is coming to the top of your mind that makes you think, "Yes, I want to read the next"?
NOA: The superhero one sounds really cool. And also I can't believe I never ever thought to look at the medals, like ever, like never even crossed my mind. But I'm definitely going to do that now.
ANNE: I love The Renegades. Sounded like it appealed to you. I can't wait to hear what you think. And I hope the medals, as you said, lead you to lots of fun and exciting titles for you.
Noa, I really enjoyed our conversation. Thanks for coming on the show today.
NOA: Me too. Thank you for having me. [CHUCKLES]
[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]
ANNE: Hey, readers, I hope you enjoyed my discussion with Noa. I'd love to hear what you think she should read next. Give her a shout at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/347. That's also where we list out the full list of titles we talked about today.
We love to see what you've been reading lately. When you share a post or a story about what you're reading next or the titles you heard about on our show, be sure to tag us. Follow along with the show's account on Instagram @whatshouldireadnext and me @annebogel.
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Thanks to the people who make this show happen! What Should I Read Next? is produced by Brenna Frederick, with production assistance by Holly Wielkoszewski, and sound design by Kellen Pechacek.
Readers, that's it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening.
And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, "Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading." Happy reading, everyone!
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Books mentioned in this episode:
• Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
• Nancy Clancy books by Jane O’Connor (#1: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth)
• Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name: My Story from First Pitch to Game Changer by Mo’ne Davis
• The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
• Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
• The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
❤ The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (#1: The Lightning Thief)
• The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan (#1: The Red Pyramid)
• Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan (#1: The Sword of Summer)
❤ The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
❤ The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
▵ You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook
• Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy
• Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
• Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
• Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
• Revolution In Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon
• Starfish by Lisa Fipps
• The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
• The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
• Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
• Lore Olympus, Vol. 1 by Rachel Smythe
• The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce (#1: Alanna: The First Adventure)
• The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
• This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
• The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab (#1: A Darker Shade of Magic)
• City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
• Jacqueline Woodson (try Brown Girl Dreaming)
• Rebecca Roanhorse (try Trail of Lightning)
• Elizabeth Acevedo (try With the Fire on High)
• Neil Gaiman (try The Graveyard Book)
• The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (#1: The Hunger Games)
• The Divergent series by Veronica Roth (#1: Divergent)
• Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
• Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (#1: Artemis Fowl)
• Naomi Novik (try His Majesty’s Dragon: Book One of the Temeraire)
• Bridgid Kemmerer (try A Curse So Dark and Lonely)
• The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (#1: Cinder)
• Renegades by Marissa Meyer
• The Lady Janies series by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows (#1 My Lady Jane)
• Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
• A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
• I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Also mentioned in this episode:
• Participate in our gift recommendation episode
• Overdue & Heaving Bosoms podcast collaboration on The Love Hypothesis
• The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
• Alex Award