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Books for my Son (leisure reading)

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I posted this exact question a year or two ago, and I'm sorry to say that my challenge continues. Hoping the high school board makes the difference...

My son reads the same books over and over. He turns his nose up at most everything new I pick up at the library. I keep searching the "customers who liked this also liked..." feature on Amazon, no luck. Part of this is personality - he tends to show disinterest in just about every new activity we might suggest. But I have another theory that I have yet to test, and that is that he is growing up - he doesn't play with any of his toys anymore. So I think he might be ready for some adult literature. However, I don't think he's ready for all of the themes/content present in adult literature, so figuring out what to offer him is difficult. 

He's 13 and will be starting 9th grade this fall (one year young). His most recent reads are Masterminds series by Gordon Korman and Codename Conspiracy series by Chris Ryland. Favorites from the past include Mysterious Benedict Society, Kingdom Keepers series, Peter and the Starcatchers books, and the Left Behind youth series. 

Hoping to get him enjoying some fresh new reads this summer. I've suggested the adult Left Behind series, he says no. I've suggested Joel Rosenberg - I think he would like it although I can't say I'd be okay with handing over one or two of those. He says no. I suggested Frank Peretti, he's not interested. 

I am out of ideas (probably because most of the fiction I like to read is, well, girly...). My husband doesn't read so he's no help. Please!! Suggest some (clean) fiction for young teen boys who are maybe ready for some more advanced plot structures and language. 

If you are familiar with Masterminds or Codename Conspiracy, what genre would you call those? Even knowing what genre to search would help... 

TIA :)

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Maybe the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

The Ranger's Apprentice series and Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan

Percy Jackson series, Kane Chronicles, Heroes of Olympus, and Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan

Eragon series by Christipher Paolini

H.I.V.E (Higher Institute of Villainous Education) series by Mark Walden

The Genius Files by Dan Gutman

Chasing Vermeer/The Wright 3/The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

The Theodore Boone series by John Grisham; his adult books are pretty clean, too

Books by Gary Schmidt...Wednesday Wars, OK for Now

Hatchet and sequels by Gary Paulsen


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If you are familiar with Masterminds or Codename Conspiracy, what genre would you call those? Even knowing what genre to search would help... 


Light thriller, I guess.

If he likes Gordon Korman's middle grades, he might also like his YAs - Son of Interpol, Losing Joe's Place, Son of the Mob, Don't Care High. (When dealing with picky eaters, we call this "food chaining", so let's call this "book chaining".)

The HIVE series is not a bad suggestion.

What themes/content do you think he's not ready for in adult literature? Is this code for sex? Or do you mean something else?

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Some books my 13 year old has enjoyed in the past year (those with an * were for fun/not school reading):

Animal Farm (he REALLY got into this one)*
Scarlet Pimpernel
Hound of the Baskervilles (he loved this one even though it was school reading)
Treasure Island
Fahrenheit 451*
Lord of the Rings trilogy*

My older son did a lot of short story reading at school this past year, and DS13 enjoyed several of those:  Harrison Bergeron, Lambs to the Slaughter, To Build a Fire, The Necklace, The Cask of Amontillado.

I am fairly conservative in what DS13 reads and none of the things on this list raised my eyebrows (I cannot speak for Lord of the Rings books as I have no interest in those whatsoever).  

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These have been hits with my 3 sons and my 2 nephews when they were that age. I'm pretty conservative about what my kids read as well. 

The Thirty Nine Steps by Buchan   (adventure novel or thriller depending on the website you check)

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (tell him to trust me on this one even though a woman is the main character LOL! and others in the series, though I can only vouch for the ones written in 1960's and 1970's as we didn't have the later ones in the house)

These are adventure/mystery.

Lighter reads, but enjoyed by my 10-18 year olds this spring - Framed and Vanished by Ponti.





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I would second a lot of the above suggestions. 

Both my boys have also enjoyed a series called Bodyguard by Chris Bradford that sounds similar to some of things you’ve mentioned. I haven’t read them so don’t know if they have things that might concern you. 

I’d also say though that my 14 year old son does the same thing. He does read a lot of new things but he likes to read books he’s read over and over that are “below” his reading level. And I did the same thing at about the same age. I think part of it was for comfort. It’s hard being a young teen and sometimes well-loved books can just be comforting. 


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These are some suggestions from my 14-year old daughter who likes the same types of books as your son. About a year ago, she was going through books so fast that we both realized she needed some more advanced writing, but not necessarily mature themes.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Redwall series by Brian Jacques (this might be a bit young, but the good thing is that there are lots in the series!)

The Ascendance and Mark of the Thief Trilogies by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Watership Down by Richard Adams

 A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Best wishes!


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Adventure/Thriller/Intrigue -- Upper Elementary/Middle School level (same level as the Gordon Korman books)
- other books by Gordon Korman and/or Ryland
- 39 Clues series (various authors; book #1 (Bones) is by Rick Riordan; book #2 (One False Note) is by Gordan Korman)
- Spy School series (Gibbs)
- The Westing Game (Raskin)
- Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (Grabenstein)
- The Genius Files (Gutman)
- Fablehaven series (Mull)
- Chronicles of Prydain series (Alexander)
- Tiger's Apprentice; Tiger's Blood; Tiger Magic (Yep)
- The Shakespeare Stealer -- and sequels (Blackwood)
- My Side of the Mountain -- and sequels (George)
- The Black Stallion (Farley) -- shipwreck survival, taming a wild horse, climax of a 3-way horse race...

Adventure -- Middle/early High School level
- Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (Riordan)
- Harry Potter series (Rowling)
- Adventurer's Wanted series (Forman)
- Alex Rider series (Horowitz) -- a 14yo British secret agent
- The Eye of Minds (Dashner)
- Ranger's Apprentice series; Brotherband series (Flannagan)
- The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers; Diggers; Wings (Pratchett)
- Leviathan series: Leviathan; Behemoth; Goliath (Westerfeld) -- rollicking fun steam-punk/alternative history WW1 setting
- The Twenty One Balloons (du Bois)

Adventure and/or Mystery -- High School level
- True Grit (Portis)
- And Then There Were None (Christie)
- Murder on the Orient Express (Christie)
- The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Gilman)
- The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
- Watership Down (Adams)
- Earthsea trilogy: Wizard of Earthsea; Tombs of Atuan; Farthest Shore (Le Guin)
- The Thief -- and sequels (Turner)

Historical Adventure
- Shadow Hawk (Norton) -- late ancient Egypt
- Hittite Warrior (Williamson) -- ancient Israel/Hittite
- Ides of April (Ray) -- ancient Israel/Rome
- Beorn the Proud (Pollard) -- Viking
- Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal (Reilly) -- 1500s/Queen Elizabeth I
- The Master Puppeteer (Paterson) -- 1700s Japan
- The Samurai's Tale (Haugaard) -- 1700s Japan
- Blue Fingers: A Ninja's Tale (Whitesel) -- 1500s Japan
- Midshipman Quinn series (Styles) -- early 1800s/Napoleanic Wars
- The Winged Watchman (Van Stockum) -- WW2, based on true people's experiences
- Escape from Warsaw (Serrailler) -- WW2, based on true people's experiences

Sci-Fi Adventure
- The Time Machine; War of the Worlds; The Invisible Man (Wells) -- early sci-fi
- The Martian Chronicles (Bradbury)
- R is for Rocket (Bradbury)
- Foundation (Asimov)
- I Robot (Asimov)
- Alas Babylon (Frank)
- Star Soldiers (Norton)
- When the Tripods Came -- and sequels (Christopher)
- Circle Trilogy: Black; Red; White (Dekker)
- YA book: Among the Hidden -- and sequel (Haddix) 
- YA book: The Giver -- and sequels (Lowry)
- YA book: House of the Scorpion (Farmer)

Adventure and/or Mystery -- older classics
- Sherlock Holmes short story mysteries (Doyle)
- Call of the Wild (London)
- The Sword in the Stone (White)
- King Solomon's Mines (Haggard)
- Captain Blood (Sabatini) -- and others (Sea Hawk, Black Swan, etc.)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (Orczy)
- Around the World in 80 Days (Verne)
- Mysterious Island (Verne)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury)
- Out of the Silent Planet (Lewis) -- first of the Space trilogy, but works well as a stand-alone (the next 2 are stout going for a young teen)

Adventure Non-Fiction
- Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—The Wrold's Most Dangerous Weapon (Sheinkin)
- Code Talkers (Bruchac)
- Soul Surfer (Hamilton)
- Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation) (Hillenbrand)
- Kon Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft (Heyerdahl)
- Dove (Graham) -- sailing around the world solo
- The Colditz Story (Reid) -- true WW2 escapes by British allies in a top security German POW camp
- The Forgotten 500: Untold Story of the Men Who Risked all for the Greaest Rescue Mission of WW2 (Freeman)
- Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage (Lansing)

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39 Clues since it is similar level and has many authors including Gordon Korman who your son already has liked and then might lead him to other books by others who wrote for the series. 


But if this is pleasure reading and he enjoys reading the same book many times I don’t see that as a major problem. 


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"Itch" trilogy by Simon Mayo - this is about a Grade 7 kid who discovers a yet undiscovered (highly radioactive) element and a crazy manhunt that ensues. It takes place in the UK. It's very much a thriller and my kid loved it (probably better than Gordon Korman but he likes those too)

"Beetle Boy" and "Revenge of the Beetle Queen" by Leonard - this is also a "light thriller" for middle grades.

I second "Hittite Warrior" (Williamson).

Also all the Jules Verne books, like "Journey to the Center of the Earth", "Around the World in 80 Days", etc

"Hatchet" series (they are short though)

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