Best book series for 7th graders — ever
The American Fairy Trilogy
by: Sarah Zettel - (Bluefire, 2013) 320 pages.
The hook: When Callie LeRoux’s mother disappears in a sandstorm during the Depression, she sets off to California on a quest to find her parents and her destiny. Half-fairy and half-mortal with African-American heritage, Callie must piece together the truth about her past to rescue her family. She embarks on a cross-country adventure, uncovering some dark secrets along the way. This richly imaginative and well-researched series cleverly combines fascinating historical details about the Dust Bowl era with folklore and fantasy. It’s a refreshing change from the usual vampire or dystopian teen fare. Parents should note a few uses of historically accurate racial slurs, like the N-word.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens who like historical stories with a twist.
by: Robert Muchamore - (Simon Pulse, 2013)
The hook: Formed during WWII, CHERUB is an elite, secret sector of the British Security Service that employs minors aged 9 to 17 — mostly orphans — as intelligence officers. The 12 books in the first series are stay-up-late page-turners. Savvy, capable heroes and heroines infiltrate gangs, take down terrorists, and investigate international arms dealers, all while maintaining covers as “normal” teenagers.
Perfect for: Your high-flying daredevil, problem-solving genius of a middle-schooler.
Dairy Queen series
by: Catherine Gilbert Murdock - (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007)
The hook: The books follow the high school passions and perils of D.J., a teen who has all the drama of a 90210 socialite — just swap out star-spotting in glitzy LA for football games and farm life in rural Wisconsin. You see, Darlene Joyce “D.J.” has been picking up the slack around her family’s dairy farm ever since her dad got hurt and her football-star brothers left to play college ball, which includes a daily five a.m. wake-up call to milk their 32 cows. A little on the husky side, D.J. is also a major football fan. When she decides to become a player, there’s drama, dissent, and a little dalliance with the rival team’s quarterback.
Perfect for: hardworking, athletic girls who love their families, their sports, and their lives — even when they don’t all come wrapped in a pretty package.
The Ender quintet
by: Orson Scott Card - (Tor Books, 1985) 384 pages.
The hook: In a desperate attempt to win a century-long war with an alien race, Earth breeds genetically modified geniuses to train as child soldiers. Ten-year-old Ender Wiggins excels at the simulated tactical war games used in military training. But when he resists his role in saving the human race, the adults must decide how far to push him. This riveting series raises compelling questions about empathy and morality and is a good gateway to reading for pleasure, particularly for older tween boys who would rather be playing video games. Parents should note that the books contain violence, bullying, and some mild profanity.
Want to see the movie? The 2013 film starring Harrison Ford adapts the futuristic sci-fi plot of the first book to the big screen.
Perfect for: Video game lovers.
Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle, Book 1
by: Christopher Paolini - (Knopf, 2003) 528 pages.
The hook: On a hunting trip on the foreboding mountain range known as the Spine, 15-year-old Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone that turns out to be a dragon egg. The dragon hatches and brands his palm with the silver mark that signifies that the two are a bonded pair, the last dragon and dragon rider in all of Alagaesia. When terrifying visitors destroy Eragon’s farm, Eragon and Saphira set out with the town storyteller, Brom, to pursue their destiny — to defeat the evil king, Galbatorix. This is the first book in the four-book Inheritance Cycle series, which is reminiscent of Tolkien and full of ancient magic, elves, dwarves, and dragon lore. A map and glossary help kids keep track of the exotic place names and words in fantasy languages. And the fact that the author was 15 when he began writing the series may inspire young readers to get writing themselves.
Want to see the movie? The 2007 adaptation, Eragon, may help readers visualize creatures and events in the book.
Perfect for: Readers (and budding writers) of epic fantasy fiction.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy
by: Rae Carson - (Greenwillow Books, 2012) 448 pages.
The hook: Despite being one of the chosen few bearing a Godstone, a symbol that she’s destined to be a hero, 16-year-old Elisa has always fallen in her sister’s shadow. But when she’s sent to be the secret wife of an embattled king, she knows it’s time to embrace her destiny. Caught between different loyalties and struggling to fulfill the prophecy that claims she can save the world, Elisa must first find a way to survive. This intense trilogy spans a lot of genres, combining fantasy, romance, and spirituality with a plucky plus-size heroine who’s not your usual princess. Teen girls swoon over the romantic plot points, though parents should note there’s some sexual content (talk about birth control, some steamy kisses, and a brief sex scene) and some violence.
Perfect for: Teens who like books with a little romance and a lot of action.
The Hunger Games series
by: Suzanne Collins - (Scholastic Press, 2008) 384 pages.
The hook: Beginning with The Hunger Games, this three-book series follows Katniss Everdeen, a reluctant hero in a post-apocalyptic future. Each year, as penance for past rebellion against the Capital, citizens of the 12 districts of Panem must choose two children to fight to the death in the televised Hunger Games. When Katniss’s little sister, Prim, is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Her bravery sets off a chain of events that will determine the future of Panem. A taut storyline and engaging characters make this series hard to put down for tween and teen readers, though parents should know the books contain mature themes and violence.
Want to see the movie? Check out the four film adaptations, starting with The Hunger Games, which closely follow the plot of the trilogy.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens who admire strong female characters.
by: Louisa May Alcott - (Roberts Brothers, 1868) 816 pages.
The hook: It’s the Civil War and the four March sisters are struggling to grow up to be well-bred young ladies after their family has fallen on hard times. Pretty Meg, the oldest, finds it the hardest to be poor. Tomboy Jo has big dreams of becoming a writer. Kind Beth just wants a quiet life at home with her sisters. And impish Amy struggles with being impulsive and a bit vain. Holding them all together is Marmie, their wise and independent mother, who lovingly guides them as they change from girls to women while their father is away at war. This family story is a great read-aloud book for younger kids and a good challenge for tweens who want to tackle a longer read.
Want to see the movie? There are several versions to choose from, including the classic 1949 adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens who like stories about family dynamics.
by: Marie Lu - (Speak, 2013) 352 pages.
The hook: In a future, dystopian Los Angeles, 15-year-old June is being trained to be a leader in the Republic’s ruling party. Day, an outlaw, was born in the slums and will do whatever he can to make a better life for his family. When June’s brother is murdered and Day is blamed for the crime, these two teens on opposite sides of the law are thrown together, uncovering dangerous truths about the Republic. Although the themes aren’t new — teens finding love during a violent, dystopian future — the compelling writing and emotional nuances keep this trilogy feeling fresh. Parents should know that these books contain violence and mature themes.
Perfect for: Tweens who want more after The Hunger Games and Divergent.
The Lunar Chronicles
by: Marissa Meyer - (Square Fish, 2013) 448 pages.
The hook: What if Cinderella was part cyborg and Rapunzel’s tower was actually a satellite stuck out in space? Classic fairy tales are reimagined with futuristic twists in the dark and imaginative Lunar Chronicles, a four-book series that combines Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. Each heroine isn’t just a damsel in distress waiting for her prince to save her — they’re each strong, intelligent (Rapunzel is a hacker), and ready to fight to save humanity from a deadly virus and the impending war between Earth and the moon. Teen girls love the strong female role models in this compelling series, but parents should note the mature themes and violence.
Perfect for: Teens who like fairytales with a twist.
by: Allyson Braithwaite Condie - (Speak, 2011) 416 pages.
The hook: Beginning with Matched, this three-book series follows 17-year-old Cassia as she begins her adult life in Society, a sanitized futuristic world that’s taken free will away from its citizens. With her career already chosen for her, Cassia is thrilled to learn her future husband will be her best friend, Xander. But when her neighbor Ky, who’s been shunned as an “aberration,” shows up on her match screen instead by accident, the Society’s mistake opens up Cassia’s mind to the possibility that her utopian world isn’t what she thought it was. Although the trilogy deals with mature themes, it’s much less violent than most of the teen dystopian cannon and keeps the sexual content to a few intense kisses.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens who like dystopian fiction.
by: Brian Jacques - (Puffin/Philomel Books, 2002) 352 pages.
The hook: For generations, the Redwall Abbey has been home to peaceful woodland animals. But throughout the Abbey’s long and storied history, there have been those who seek to destroy their ways of kindness. Fortunately, a hero can always be found to maintain the peace. This epic 22-book series, set in an imagined medieval past with talking animals, isn’t written in chronological order, so each title can stand on its own. The rich and exciting prose makes this a great read-aloud choice for younger readers who may struggle with the dense writing on their own and stronger readers who like classic adventure tales, though parents should note there is some violence.
Perfect for: Readers who like sprawling adventures.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
by: Ann Brashares - (Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books, 2001) 336 pages.
The hook: Soon-to-be high school sophomores Bridget, Carmen, Lena, and Tibby have been best friends forever. Just as they’re about to spend their first summer apart, the four girls come upon a pair of jeans that somehow fits all four of them perfectly and makes each girl look and feel amazing. The friends vow to share the pants and send them back and forth to each other throughout the summer. The first in a series of five books, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants sweetly captures the high school experience in way that will be especially compelling to tween readers.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2005 adaptation starring Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, and Amber Tamblyn.
Perfect for: Tweens who like stories about high school.
Find our favorites at your local library: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone series
by: Laini Taylor - (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012) 448 pages.
The hook: Raised by four half-human, half-animal creatures called chimaera, blue-haired Karou is not your typical 17-year-old. While traveling between worlds on a mission to find teeth (for what purpose she isn’t sure), Karou is attacked by a seraphim named Akiva. All of a sudden, her portal back to her family is closed. Karou finds herself drawn into a war between angel and chimaera and against a strong attraction to Akiva that she can’t explain. Although this fantasy series falls in the angel romance camp, the intriguing mystery plot and strong writing help it avoid the clichés of the genre and make it a popular pick for adults and mature teens.
Perfect for: Teens who like romantic fantasies.