Best book series for 8th graders — ever
Beautiful Creatures series
by: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010) 592 pages.
The hook: When Lena moves to his small Southern town, Ethan realizes that this mysterious, outcast girl has been the subject of his dreams for months. Irresistibly drawn to Lena, Ethan discovers that the two are psychically connected. Together they race to discover the secrets behind the dark curse that looms over her family. The first in a four-book series, this story will be a hit with tweens and teens who appreciate star-crossed, supernatural romance.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2013 adaptation, which follows the first book in the series.
Perfect for: Teens who liked Twilight.
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series
by: Ransom Riggs - (Penguin Random House Publisher Services, 2011) 352 pages.
The hook: When his grandfather dies, 16-year-old Jacob is left with nagging questions about the past. Compelled to discover the truth behind the strange stories that filled his childhood, Jacob, along with his father, travels to a tiny island in Wales to find the boarding school where his grandfather lived before WWII. What follows is an extraordinary story of monsters, time loops, and war as Jacob is thrust between the world he knows and the world of his grandfather’s past. Bizarre — and real! — old photographs are interspersed throughout this haunting series, pulling the reader into the story. You’ll find yourself questioning what’s real and what’s made up right along with Jacob. Parents should note the series has mature themes and violence.
Perfect for: Teens (and adults!) who like the stories behind old photos.
Earth Children series
by: Jean M. Auel - (Crown Publishers, 1980)
The hook: Auel’s meticulous research of the Ice Age period really makes this six-book series come to life. Readers are vividly transported back to primeval times some 35,000 years ago. Ayla, a 5-year-old Cro-Magnon girl, is adopted by a Neanderthal medicine woman, much to the objection of her Neanderthal tribe: the Clan of the Cave Bear. Though often terrifying and brutal, the books’ psychological drama make Ayla’s story from childhood to adulthood an emotionally gripping odyssey of a courageous heroine. Parents and readers should be advised, however, that there is some graphic sexual content in these books.
Perfect for: Teens curious to taste life in the (very) olden days.
The Grisha Trilogy
by: Leigh Bardugo - (Square Fish, 2013) 416 pages.
The hook: Living in a world reminiscent of Tsarist Russia, Alina Starkov is content with her simple life until her extraordinary powers are exposed. With her country being torn apart by the Shadow Fold — a sea of darkness full of monsters bent on destruction — Alina is sent to the royal court to be trained by the Grisha and their leader, the mysterious Darkling. But as Alina begins to understand her own power, she must decide which side she’s really on. Well-developed characters and a fascinating world make this a binge-worthy series, though some readers may struggle with the Russian-inspired words and phrases. Parents should also note the series has some violence, dark themes, and some mild sexual content.
Perfect for: Teens who like dark fantasy stories.
by: Veronica Roth - (Katherine Tegen Books, 2011)
The hook: In this trilogy, a war-ravaged world divides people based on personality and aptitude in order to guarantee peace. But rumblings of a power struggle have already begun. Just as our young protagonist transitions into adulthood, she learns she doesn’t quite fit any of the five factions. She’s “divergent,” a fact she must keep quiet about if she is to avoid becoming the target of the establishment. As Tris becomes embroiled in the war, she finds herself grappling with politics, loyalty, forgiveness, as well as love and her own identity. (All the struggles of the teen existence writ large! This page-turner series may keep your teen up late, so get it during the break!
Additionally, look for the bonus book, with short stories that offer new insights on the Divergent world and on the events that drive the series.
Perfect for those who like strong female characters, dystopian world stories, and action.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series
by: Douglas Adams - (Harmony Books, 1979) 224 pages.
The hook: Just before the Earth is destroyed to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is rescued by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The pair take off on an exciting journey through space, meeting a cast of bizarre characters with names like Zaphod Beeblebrox and Veet Voojagig on the way. Tweens and teens love the irreverent, satirical humor that characterize these books (which were originally a radio series).
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2005 adaptation starring Zooey Deschanel and Martin Freeman.
Perfect for: Tweens with a snarky sense of humor.
House of Night
by: P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast - (St. Martin's Griffin, 2011) 304 pages.
The hook: Not the first vampire book series to hit the market, this eight-book set still captivates readers with a world where humans and vamps knowingly coexist. After 16-year-old Zoey is marked, she leaves her humdrum life in Tulsa to attend the exclusive House of Night boarding school for fledglings. Despite her powerful gifts, she can’t escape the troubles with cliques, social pressure, and exclusion that plague humans and vamps alike.
Perfect for: Girls (14 or older) who can identify with “typical” teen issues: mean girls, boy trouble and, oh, vampires.
The Lord of the Rings series
by: J.R.R. Tolkien - (Houghton Mifflin, 1954)
The hook: After lying dormant for centuries, the Dark Lord Sauron is rising again, and his return to domination over Middle Earth depends on recovering his evil ring of power. It falls to some humble hobbits to keep the ring safe from Sauron and ultimately drop it into the fiery depths of Mount Doom, which is the only way the ring can be destroyed. And so forms a motley fellowship that includes four hobbits, an elf, a dwarf, a wizard, and two men, who battle evil in many forms on their quest to destroy the One Ring. This epic fantasy trilogy has inspired a passion for fantasy in generations of teens.
Want to see the movie? The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films starring Elijah Woods, Ian McKellen, and Viggo Mortensen closely follows the series, but parents should note they may be too violent for younger or sensitive teens and tweens.
Perfect for: Teens who like epic battles involving elves, orcs, and dwarves.
When the Snow Fell
by: Henning Mankell and Laurie Thompson - (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009) 256 pages.
The hook: When we meet Joel Gustafsson in A Bridge to the Stars, he’s 11, and coping with the facts that his father has abandoned the sea and his mother has abandoned their family. Later, in When the Snow Fell, Joel is 14 and pursuing his three New Year’s resolutions: live to be 100, find the ocean, and see a woman naked. Throughout this quartet focusing on Joel’s coming of age, the stories do a wonderful job of combining the magical thinking, adventurousness, and surprising insight tweens and early teens are capable of. Set in Sweden, these might be the perfect books to curl up with this winter.
Perfect for: Independent thinkers.
The Raven Cycle
by: Maggie Stiefvater - (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2013) 416 pages.
The hook: Once a year, 17-year-old Blue stands with her psychic mother as she watches the spirits of the soon-to-be-dead walk through an old churchyard. The spirits have never revealed themselves to her before, but this year Blue sees Gansey, one of the Raven Boys from a local school. According to her mother, the only reason she’d see a spirit is if he’s her true love or if she will cause his death. This strange and foreboding prophecy pushes Blue into the path of the Raven Boys, a group of misfits who are on their own quest to discover the tomb of an ancient king. Full of magic and the paranormal, The Raven Cycle is a beautifully written, original series that teens will find hard to put down, though parents should note there’s violence, some mature themes, and swearing.
Perfect for: Teens who like gothic ghost stories.
by: Neal Shusterman - (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009) 384 pages.
The hook: In the future, abortion has been abolished under The Bill of Life. Now, however, parents are allowed to have their children “unwound,” which means that between the ages of 13 and 18, every part of a child’s body can be transplanted. Determined to end this horrific practice, teens Connor and Risa, whose parents have signed them up for unwinding, and Lev, whose body has been tithed to the church, will do whatever they can to change the world. This creative, compelling four-book series is highly thought provoking. Read it with your teen to generate some great heart-to-hearts, though parents should note that younger, more sensitive teens might find the subject matter too intense.
Perfect for: Teens who like to debate hot-button issues.
by: Melissa Marr - (HarperCollins, 2008) 352 pages.
The hook: Aislinn has been able to see the hidden world of faery her entire life, but it’s nothing like the storybooks. A troubled teen, Aislinn seeks refuge from the dark and frightening creatures of faery in the safe, iron-filled home of her friend Seth, an older, wiser boy who gives her the comfort she so desperately needs. But when Keenan, a faery king, is convinced that Aislinn is destined to be his queen, she’s forced to confront the world she’s spent her life trying to ignore. Complex, wonderfully developed characters are at the heart of this five-book series. Readers tend to root for the good guys and the bad guys at the same time. Parents should note some mature themes, including some mild sexual content, teen drinking, and a little violence (though much less than the usual dystopian teen fare).
Perfect for: Teens who like dark fairy tales.