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The Young Romance Reader: Book Recommendations Please!

I received this email and know you are going to have an absolute fiesta of recommendations. We’ve talked about YA books, including this post from 2005** about YA books that Candy loved. We’ve talked YA romance before, too, but since there is SO much to choose from, what would you recommend for a 13 year old reader who is becoming interested in romance?

I’ve been a big reader since I was a little girl so it has been a joy
watching one of my nieces become an avid reader. Knowing I am the big
reader in the family, she has come to me for book recs.

There are so many more choices out there for a young girl compared to
when I was her age. And the books I read now are definitely for adults
only so I was hoping you or your huge readership could provide some
recommendations. Then I could take a look at those and decide which
books to get her. My niece is 13 and here is a bit of her recent
reading history to give you an idea of what she does(n’t) like.

A friend of hers has the Twilight books so she read that series
already. She told me she liked the books, book 4 was weird and she is
team Jacob – although that was mainly after she saw the movie and
Taylor Lautner :)

She liked the Mediator series by Meg Cabot even though she started
with book 5 (apparently she does not have series OCD like me!) so if
there’s a particular book in a series you thought was awesome, please
share :)

She told me she tried but couldn’t get into the Harry Potter books.

She is currently reading the 1st Percy Jackson book and she said she
is enjoying it. Then she said she wanted to read more love stories.
Another romance reader in the making.

Any recommendations you and the SBTB community come up with will be
greatly appreciated.

Rec-less in the Bookstore

So, what books do you suggest? I’d suggest the 1-800-WHERE-R-U series by Meg Cabot, which I think of as the “Lightning Girl” series, and books by Jennifer Echols, especially Going Too Far, and Caridad Ferrer. But I lean very much toward YA romance in a contemporary setting, and am not as familiar with what is hot screaming awesome in YA paranormal.  What do you recommend?

** That entry is from 2005, the first year of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. And our 6th Anniversary is tomorrow – WOOOO! Come on back for fun and merriment!


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  1. 1

    My 13-year-old niece and I both love Alyxandra Harvey’s series of paranormal romance/adventures, the Drake Chronicles, which starts with Hearts at Stake. Fun vampires, lots of sword fights (where the women tend to win!), great banter, strong female friendships, and romantic comedy. Perfect!

  2. 2
    Pamelia says:

    A great resource for young adult fiction reviews is:
    They review a TON of it and write very detailed, excellent reviews.
    I don’t know that a 13 year old needs to be limited to young adult selections.  I read a lot of more mature romances when I was 12 and 13 and I didn’t turn out too bad!  :)

  3. 3
    becca says:

    Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books are great for this age. There’s a sort of gentle romance, mostly in the last book, but they’re not strictly speaking romances. Still, they’re great fun. The first, Wee Free Men, is simply a romp, but they get more thought-provoking after that.

  4. 4
    Natalie Arloa says:

    I highly recommend the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter—early high school girls at a secret spy school just for girls, with a little romance arc thrown in. Fantastic! (And very low on the sexual activity, kissing is about it.)

    The other two “gods and humans” books after Percy Jackson are written partly in a female point of view—“The Lost Hero” (although she should read this after she finishes the Percy Jackson series, if she’s enjoying it) and “The Red Pyramid.” The Lost Hero has a little romance in it, although it isn’t the focus of the book.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite series at that age, which has a very long romance arc: Anne of Green Gables. L.M. Montgomery’s two-book series “The Story Girl” has some lovely and also sad romance stories in it (it’s about a girl who tells spellbinding stories, and she does so numerous times in each book).

    I can’t wait to read through the rest of the recommendations!

  5. 5
    Susan Neace says:

    Having tracked down the Ru Emerson “Nedeo” 3 book series via used books on Amazon for my teen age neice one Christmas, I can certainly recommend that author’s non Xenia works but especially that young heroine who has to rebuild her country, provide for her people and get married to provide an heir.  Although the protagonist in my all time favorite romance, “The Blue Castle” is older, any young person would enjoy how she learns to live her own life and find love in the face of learning she is dying.  L. M. Montgomery is the author and she also wrote the Anne of Green Gables series as well as the series of books about Emily of New Moon, both of which have great love stories at their center.  I also love Robin McKinley’s the “Black Dragon” and the “Blue Sword” and “Beauty”, and anything by Tamora Pierce is great.

  6. 6
    Ashley says:

    Oh, oh, Patricia McKillip!! _The Changeling Sea_ is my fav, then _Alphabet of Thorn_ and _Harrowing the Dragon_ and on from there
    _The Raven Ring_ by Patricia Wrede
    _The Corinthian_ and _Arabella_by Georgette Heyer (any of hers, really)
    _The Ladies of Mandrigyn_ by Barbara Hambly

  7. 7
    Rachael B. says:

    In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Youth Services librarian so this is something I’m super passionate about.
    I have to second Hearts at Stake and the rest of the books in that series – they’re so much fun. 
    Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is a great contemporary romance that just came out in December.  Most of the book takes place in Paris, where the main character attends boarding school for American students, which makes things even more fun.  It’s a friends first sort of romance, and watching the friendship develop is half the fun.  The main boy, by the way, is very swoonworthy.
    Matched by Ally Condie came out recently and it’s a dystopian sort of story.  In this future earth, young people are matched with their mates at their matching ceremonies, and this is an event generally looked forward to.  A picture of their match is shown, so all can see each matched pair.  Cassie, however, sees a second face flash ever so briefly on the screen, and this leads her to begin questioning Society for the first time.  Who is her match?  This one does have a bit of sometimes slow paced world building but the payoff it nice.
    Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore are both awesome action-y romances set in a fantasy land.  They’re set in the same world, but are companion books, not direct sequels or anything like that. Katsa, the MC in Graceling has very little experience with men and anything that evolves is mostly alluded to.  In Fire, however, the MC Fire’s physical attractiveness is a key plot point and she is sexually active throughout the book (though nothing super explicit), so it’s probably fine for most 13 year olds, but just an FYI.  In both books, the MC is a very strong female character who knows how to defend herself.
    As a last note, this might be the librarian in me, but as far as slowly built up serious romances go, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea (plus the other books) will always be a favorite of mine.

  8. 8
    hollygee says:

    Our own Caridad Ferrer! I’ve only read her first two but loved the books and the new sounds hot. These are more real-life type stories rather than paranormal.

    Here’s her site

  9. 9
    Maria Elena says:

    When I was a teenage, I loved the Kissed by an Angel Trilogy by Elizabeth Chandler. To this day, I still go back and read those books every once and a while.

  10. 10
    JamiSings says:

    They’re not really romantic per say but I really like the Generation Dead books –

    They’re zombie books but different. Only teenagers come back from the dead and they don’t eat people. They act like us, just slower, and they don’t have to eat or anything. People hate them and even try to rekill them. The books focus on one girl, a goth who in the first book develops a crush on one of the reanimated teenage boys. Especially when he tries out for the football team.

  11. 11
    Bri says:

    teh percy jackson ones have some romance elments in them too!  gets more obvious as the kids get older (in the same way it did in the harry Potter books) but age appropriate

    i second the suggestion to read all the percy before ‘the lost hero’.  the lost hero is the beginning of a new series of books with the characters from percy and it builds on the events in the percy books.

    looking forward to many new suggestions :)

  12. 12
    Chelsea says:

    I read a lot of the YA romance my 15 year old sister reads, because a lot of the books I read on my own are too adult to share yet.

    I read and enjoyed Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, but I have to caution that I think they’re meant more for slightly older teens (15 or 16), because some of the content is a bit mature (though tasteful).

    I’m still in the process of reading Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamer series.  I’m on book two, and so far I like them a lot.

    My sister really loves Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series. I havent read them yet, but I’ve read her adult books so I can vouche for her excellent writing style.

  13. 13
    darlynne says:

    Huge second for Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, which are hysterically funny as audio books ready by Stephen Briggs.

    Also, Sabriel by Garth Nix is the first in his Abhorsen trilogy: Tim C.urry narrates the audio version sublimely, too.

    Both series are outstanding for YA and every one else, with just the right amount of light-handed romance.

  14. 14
    JayneWayne says:

    I would second the Tamora Pierce recommendation.  My favorites of hers are Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen.  Sharon Shinn always has elements of romance in her books and I loved loved loved The Safe-Keeper’s Secret, The Truth-Teller’s Tale, and the Dream-Makers Magic.

    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is another book I would recommend.  Not the typical happy ending, but a wonderful book.

    Happy Reading!

  15. 15
    Missy Ann says:

    Take her to the library/book store and let her pick her own. By 13 I was reading whatever my heart desired and I’m not an ax murderer. (Read Jackie Collins, Stephen King, Micheal Crichton, Clive Cussler + whatever Harlequins Grandma had lying around.)

    This way she’ll also be able to figure out what she likes and is more likely to try a variety earlier.

    I was also allowed to pick my own music too.

    If she comes across something she’s too inexperienced to understand she’ll either figure it out or it’ll go over her head.

    /my son is 13 and is allowed his own choices – A student & never arrested ;-)

  16. 16
    Krissy says:

    I definitely recommend the House of Night Series by P.C Cast and her daughter Kristin. I think it is a great read for any age. Not so much “romance” as a bunch of “i love him, no him! oh my, my heart fluttered when HE walked in” Some teenage angst and uncertainty, but what teenager hasn’t felt that?

    Plus its a nice long series to hopeully keep her going for a while.

  17. 17
    Ella D. says:

    I don’t have any specific recs, but I’ve got some advice:

    You should pretty much always read whatever you gift to a person at that age. There is a lot of YA that is triggery and romanticizes a lot of gross behavior, and parents/guardians/friends should recognize it for what it is.

  18. 18
    jody says:

    I heartily second the Heyer recommendation.  For YA historicals, Michelle Moran’s Cleopatra’s Daughter is excellent.  Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution is stunning—contemporary and historical.  I’m halfway through Libba Bray’s trilogy that begins with A Great and Terrible Beauty, and it’s wonderful.  It’s Victorian paranormal, but not the usual vamps and weres.

  19. 19
    LG says:

    Sorry for the long comment, but, goodness, I like YA romance.

    I definitely agree with the Tamora Pierce recommendation. I loved her books about Kel, the second lady knight in Pierce’s world – the first book is First Test, I believe. Then, if she likes Pierce, I’d recommend Kristin Cashore’s Graceling.

    If she likes werewolves and other supernatural creatures in her romance, she might like Kelley Armstrong’s YA series, which begins with The Summoning – the romance is light, but there are lots of supernatural beings if she especially likes that. Unfortunately, Armstrong has written way more books for adults, and, from the sounds of things, those are probably not appropriate for her.

    There’s also Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (a YA book). The main character is a teenage werewolf who falls in love with a human, a big no-no. There’s a potential red flag with this one – the guy she’s actually supposed to be with (and who she does end up with) is another werewolf who is, I think, 22. So there’s an age difference factor, since she’s 16.

    More (very short) paranormal romance: anything by L.J. Smith. Her Vampire Diaries books (the ones the TV show is based on) are too angsty for me now, but I loved them when I was a teen. Then there are her Night World books, several of which are still favorites of mine: Daughters of Darkness (romance between a human girl and a vampire – the big surprise here is that there isn’t a HEA in the traditional sense) and Soulmate (features an angsty vampire hero and a human girl). The first book in the series is Secret Vampire, which features a terminally ill human girl who secretly loves her childhood friend, who is actually a vampire. Yes, this was my guilty pleasure reading.

    Also, not strictly romance, although there’s a little of that, if she ends up liking Pierce and Cashore, she might want to try Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword. The heroine in that one is awesome..

  20. 20
    Chelsea says:

    I don’t have any specific recs, but I’ve got some advice:
    You should pretty much always read whatever you gift to a person at that age. There is a lot of YA that is triggery and romanticizes a lot of gross behavior, and parents/guardians/friends should recognize it for what it is.

    That’s why I read with my lil sis.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I was reading adult romance by age 14. It didn’t mess me up. In fact I think the message that stuck most was that sex would be better with the right person, in a responsible situation, so I waited.

    None the less, in the position of an adult role model, you should know exactly what your recommending.

  21. 21
    helen says:

    The ones I’ve read and loved in the past few months include-
    Drought by Pam Bachorz
    Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
    Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
    Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
    Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
    Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey
    Raven and Wolfe by Skyla Dawn Cameron
    Firelight by Sophie Jordan
    Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
    Eon by Alison Goodman
    The Touch Series by Stolarz
    Once a Witch by MacCullough

  22. 22
    Isobel Carr says:

    The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

    The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (really, any of her books)

    Anything by Georgette Heyer or Rosemary Sutcliff.

  23. 23

    The Belgariad series by David (& Leigh) Eddings. I found this fantasy series at thirteen myself, and it gives me such warm fuzzies to reread it. (It starts with Pawn of Prophesy.)

  24. 24
    Meg P says:

    It’s not YA, but one of the first books I tackled in my early teen-hood was Gone With the Wind.  Nothing like an epic, historical soap opera to suck a teen in.

  25. 25
    theladyferris says:

    Georgette Heyer, definitely!  Also Eva Ibbotson, especially The Secret Countess (sometimes titled The Countess Below Stairs).

  26. 26
    Abi says:

    My favorites:

    Shannon Hale – Princess Academy and Book of a Thousand Days are my favorite of hers
    Rumor Godden – Listen to the Nightingale
    Patricia C. Wrede – Dealing with Dragons series
    Diana Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle, but pretty much anything by her is great
    Libba Bray – Series that begins with the book A Great and Terrible Beauty
    Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted and numerous others
    Robin McKinley – Beauty is a particular favorite, but again, you can’t really go wrong here
    Sharon Creech – Absolutely Normal Chaos

    Also: Pride and Prejudice was BIG with me at 13, as were Austen’s other works. And of course, the Anne of Green Gables books are classic

  27. 27
    AgTigress says:

    Isobel Carr and others have got in ahead of me with Georgette Heyer!  I’m sure this young girl would enjoy Heyer’s wit and her memorable characters.  She may also be old enough to enjoy Jane Austen, by the sound of it.  Pride and Prejudice or Northager Abbey first.  At her age, I was more into adventure than romance, and I would certainly have enjoyed Mary Stewart, who combines the two, at 13, but most of her books were first published when I was already older than that. 
    What I mainly wanted to say was how delightful it is to hear of a keen and focused young reader with an aunt who is committed to giving her practical and intelligent guidance in her choice of reading.

  28. 28
    JennyD says:

    She was mentioned once before, but almost anything by Robin McKinley comes highly, highly recommended – The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Spindles End would be the ones I’d start a young reader with. She’s an amazing author who creates wonderfully rich characters… and the heroine doesn’t just sit around and wait to be rescued—she gets up and actively participates.

  29. 29
    Francesca too says:

    Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
    The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    Sharon Lee and Steve Miller Liaden series
    All are fantasy genre, with romantic plots and suitable to young readers.

  30. 30
    Jo says:

    Having graduated relatively recently from YA to adult, I would make the following recommendations (sorry for how long this comment is!):

    Anything written by Sarah Dessen is great, especially This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever. She usually writes female characters who are struggling with some issue (abandonment, parental death etc) who find their own strength, and good, healthy romance along the way.

    I love the Percy Jackson series, and got all my friends in college to read it (just don’t watch the movie, it butchered the book!)

    Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters and Uglies series are also slighty sci-fi, with dashes of romance, and very good.

    She may also like L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, which starts with a young orphaned girl from the streets of 19th century London, who masquerades as a boy to get a job as a ship’s boy, thereby starting a whirlwind trip that incorporates action, adventure, romance, friendship and coming-of-age. There’s currently 8 books in the series (and counting) and Jacky has a special place in my heart.

    If you think that she’s ready, introduce her to Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, which gives amazing insight into issues to race, and involves romance, adventure, journeys into adulthood etc, but can be a little dark and you might want to wait a few years to give her that one.

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