By Nathalie Atkinson
MANGA & COMICS
Manga, simply the Japanese word for comics, is unlike the colourful superhero comics you might remember. The format is smaller, in black and white and read from back to front, and there are subjects for teen readers of every age and interest. In shojo manga (literally, young girls’ comics), well-developed female characters learn to assert themselves in various romantic and social situations, or address issues such as peer pressure and bullying, as in the Othello series by Satomi Ikezawa (Del Rey, 16+). If you’ve got a reluctant reader, get him interested in books and reading with Canadian Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim (Oni Press, 13+), a comic with the premise of a video game. Bonus: every manga displays an age rating. Try alternative comics and graphic novels such as Lauren Weinstein’s Girl Stories (Henry Holt, ages 12+), which features junior high anecdotes about bullies and boyfriends, inspired by her own experiences as well as stories submitted by readers to gurl.com. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin, 16+) is Six Feet Under meets Judy Blume, a darkly funny teen memoir about her closeted gay father, a third-generation funeral home director, and Bechdel’s own realization that she’s a lesbian.
JUNIOR CHICK LIT
This genre is Bergdorf Blondes for the training bra set, reflecting teenagers’ preoccupation with designer labels and celebrity gossip amidst the angst about fitting in, proms, first kisses and back-stabbing best friends. The outrageously popular young adult series Gossip Girl owes more to Carrie Bradshaw than Laura Ingalls Wilder, peppered as it is with references to the must-have bags and tech toys. Slick like The O.C. instead of folksy like Sweet Valley High, other good picks are Me and The Blondes by Teresa Toten (Puffin Canada, 12+), Sue Limb’s Girl 16 series (Bloomsbury, 13+) and The Girl I Wanted To Be by Sarah Grace McCandless (Simon & Schuster, 16+).
PARANORMAL & FANTASY
Your teen probably follows science and computers more closely than you do, and both can form the basis of imaginative fiction. The Cassandra Virus, by K.V. Johansen (Orca Book Publishers, 9-14), is a novel about a bored young computer genius and the program he creates, and The Dream Where the Losers Go, by award-winning author Beth Goobie (Orca Book Publishers, 14+), explores troubled youth, gangs and suicide in an exotic parallel dream universe. Buffy’s legacy? The popularity of vampire and paranormal fiction. Its emphasis on mystical powers, psychological suspense and troubled characters appeals to moody teens, so the genre naturally veers into coming-of-age territory. (Just take a pre-read of your child’s paranormal fiction choices to make sure they are age appropriate.) The novel Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen (Warner Books, 14+), explores budding romance and fitting in as a teenage vampire.
ISSUES & NON-FICTION
If you have a particularly mature tween, there are books that examine politics, culture and current events from a teen’s point of view, such as Audrey Brashich’s All Made Up (Walker & Co., 10-15). It’s a Michael Moore”“style exposé of the beauty industry and the cult of celebrity, perfect for inquisitive young minds. One memoir ripped from the headlines, My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary, by Nadja Halilbegovitch (Kids Can Press, 9-12), is the teenage author’s diary of her life during the war in Bosnia. Other good picks include My Kind of Sad: What It’s Like to be Young and Depressed, by Kate Scowen (Annick Press, 13+), and Johnny Kellock Died Today, by Hadley Dyer (HarperTrophy Canada, 10+). For older teens, an often-overlooked readership, All Sleek And Skimming (Orca Book Publishers, 14+) is a terrific anthology about adolescence that even parents will want to read. NA CF