Just picture middle school… The f*cking worst, right?! Drama, social cliques, academic challenges, all the makings of a great book plot, but actually a living hell. We survived (barely), but as an angsty teen it’s so much more fun to read about other people’s worries and drama rather than live it ourselves. Escapism and social emotional development are two of the most popular reasons kids crack open a good book (even if they don’t know it). Literally turning away from the world and getting lost in another— it’s no wonder that sci-fi and fantasy books are extremely popular with teens (today’s reality isn’t that much crazier, right?). When you introduce an awesome YA or one of the best fantasy book series, our kiddos are set up for a summer of self exploration through reading.
We know the tween and teen years is a huge period of brain development— not to mention personality development. We promise the eye rolling and acting like you are the bane of their existence is just how teens work on separating their identities from those of their awesome mama. (It doesn’t make it any easier!) Getting hooked on a book series that focuses on this stage of development will help our not so little ones navigate this new uncharted territory. Teens gravitate towards books focused on issues they personally are really grappling with, whether or not we’re ready for it. This is where the shift from learning to read to reading to learn truly occurs.
There’s no easy formula for choosing a book series that works for every kid, but we’ve rounded up our favorites for older kids and teens that are sure to be a hit. Even the most reluctant readers will engage with at least one. And when all else fails, hand them the Harry Potter series, who doesn’t love that?!
Best Book Series for Tweens Ages 10-12
Adaptor of The Babysitters Club graphic novels, Raina Telgemeier has made a name for herself telling her hilariously funny (and so descriptive you can’t help but cringe) childhood memories through graphic novels. The Raina Telgemeier Collection is no exception, weaving in the real life worries and challenges of tweens, but also the moments we now look back on and laugh about. Friends, not friends, drama, and crushes, we love Telgemeier’s tell all attitude. Pro-tip, these books are listed as for 3-7th graders, but don’t let that fool you, the content is definitely more tween appropriate. Pro-tip #2, buy the set. After they read one they’ll be begging for the others. This set includes Smile, Ghosts, Drama and Sisters.
One reviewer commented, “I have 3 daughters ages 9-13 and they all love these books! They seem to pass them around and reread them. And the fact that Stacy had type 1 diabetes was super awesome!! I have 2 daughters with type 1 and I had no clue they talked about it in these books when I bought them.”
The A Series Of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket are not for those in search of happy endings. In the tween and teen years it seems like everything is always the end of the world, yet it never is. Snicket’s world shines a light on how things could always be worse as our kiddos dive deep down the rabbit hole with orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire as they experience one tragic event after another. We know, this sounds like the worst possible thing to give kids to read, but we promise they won’t put it down!
One mommy and teacher notes, “I love the whole concept and tone of the book, where an apologetic and erudite narrator regretfully informs us of tragic events, urging us at every moment to put the book down and walk away. It’s incredibly clever and entertaining, and is a perfect fit for classrooms—the fantastic vocabulary, clearly defined in the text, and the carefully modulated edge of darkness make it fantastic for kids ready to read above level by difficulty but perhaps not yet by content. For those who’ve seen the Netflix series—the first two episodes are a beautifully faithful reproduction of this book.”
Comparable to the feel good experience of our most beloved chapter books for kids, such as Little Women and The Boxcar Children, The Penderwicks transport our tween readers to a world of family, fun, and friends in the most endearing way. Escapism at its finest. Follow the adventures of four sisters and their father as they navigate life through family and friendship and the lessons they learn along the way. Wholesome without being boring, The Penderwicks series has been known to make its way onto a few of our nightstands as well. Even as kids books, these stories are as charming for us as they are for our LOs.
One reviewer commented, “Great series! I just read it as an adult and have purchased this paperback set for a 12 year old. It is a great young adult series which focuses on a family of sisters and the adventures they have as they go through adolescence. It has a timeless quality which allows you to relate to the story no matter your age.”
For anyone struggling to get their kids reading books, this is the answer. They’ll be transported into the fantastical Viking world of Hiccup, as he captures a dragon and attempts to train him as a rite of passage. Even the most reluctant readers will find themselves engaged with the short chapters, clever kid friendly names, humorous text, and childlike drawings. To sum up this New York Times best selling series In the words of one tween, “They’re super good books.”
His more eloquent mom notes, “My 10-year-old son read all twelve books in two weeks. He said they are very funny, and that the world we’ve come to know through the How to Train your Dragon movies is actually way more interesting and complicated in the books. I haven’t actually read the books, though I have read and liked another series by the same author (The Wizards of Once). Currently, this box set is being passed among the 4th grade boys in the neighborhood, which is good enough evidence for me!”
Best YA Book Series for Teens Ages 13+
Marissa Meyer’s blend of sci-fi and action novels in the Renegades Trilogy is like a modern day X-Men with star crossed would be love interests and the age old battle between the good and evil trapped within everyone. The first book in the series, Renegades, readers are introduced to Nova and the superhero conflict between the Anarchists and the Renegades. As the series progresses with book 2, Archenemies, so does Nova’s line of thinking, leading to a double life. Incorporating many of the ideas and themes teens struggle with today in an engaging and action packed way, Meyer has created a can’t put down winning series.
One reader wrote, “It’s a great book that inspires humanity above all else. You think you have the plot sussed as your reading through the book, then you turn each page and “bang” your theories are blown out of the water. You just need to get to the end as your excitement builds throughout the book, I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading this book in a couple of days!”
The Divergent book series is like a rite of passage for any middle schooler. As teens are looking to find themselves and suss out who their friend groups are, in the fantastical world of Divergent, the theme becomes immediately clear: It’s dangerous to only be with people like you. Encouraging readers to recognize their multiple strengths and appreciate diversity amongst friends and society, all through a riveting series of action and quick moving plots. It’s easy for both our teens and ourselves to become enraptured with this world while taking in all of the life lessons to be learned.
One reader notes, “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Divergent on my Kindle but It moved along at such a snappy pace that I finished it in a day and a half, something I had not done since the last Harry Potter book came out. I loved Divergent’s story so much I immediately ordered the box set to finish the series. It did not disappoint, each book in the series carried the story along at a steady pace and explored many avenues of social levels and society in general. I won’t give away the end but will say it was something not expected.”
The 100 book series inspired the CW TV show by the same name that has quickly become a cult classic. The plot, character development, and relationships throughout the books are deeply developed in a way that isn’t captured on TV. Author Kass Morgan took care in crafting the stories from four different perspectives to tell a well rounded science fiction story.
The 100 begins with an apocalyptic description, “Ever since nuclear war destroyed our planet, humanity has been living on city-like spaceships hovering above the toxic surface. As far as anyone knows, no one has stepped foot on Earth in centuries–that is, until one hundred juvenile delinquents are sentenced to return and recolonize the hostile land. The future of the human race rests in their hands, but nothing can prepare the 100 for what they find on this strange and savage planet.”
The engaging plot lines and depth of characters (as well as the fact that we can fact check against the CW version) makes this a pleasure read for mamas as well. Dare we say our teens might even WANT to talk to us about these books?
Meet Binti, a real badass, the kind of young woman we all aspire to be. In Nnedi Okorafor’s multi-award winning trilogy, Binti, we are introduced to the world of the Himba people and their place in the galaxy. Binti has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime to travel amongst the stars to attend the prestigious Oomza University, but her journey proves to be a difficult one. Set in a fantastical time, but inclusive of the very realistic theme of coming of age, this series will stay with our teens for a long time to come.
One reader commented, “This was a very well written trilogy. I greatly enjoyed going on this journey with Binti. I read a lot of sci-fi but these novellas felt like a completely different perspective on the genre. Binti and her story were unique and very intriguing. I loved Binti’s character development as she tries to navigate peace between two waring people and peace within herself as she is changed physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally by everything she goes through. I would highly recommend these books!”
Looking for more fun and exciting ways to create an escape this summer? Check out all of our mom approved books and games!