Book recommendations for 13-year old?

Apologies that this thread is totally unrelated to Taiwan.

I’d love to hear any recommendations for shorter novels for a thirteen-year-old native English-speaking boy in grade 7 (I’m back in Canada now).

Here’s the situation: I’ve been his “mentor” for the past three years, in that I see him once a week at school. He’s something of a troublemaker, with numerous suspensions–he’s been diagnosed with ADHD, though is usually fine when he takes his medication. But I think he’s a good kid at heart. He has a less than salutary home life, his mother having had her first child at 16, him at 18, and the standard litany of boyfriends and/or husbands and/or live-in layabouts coming and going. He is mechanically, as opposed to academically, inclined. Even so, our weekly ritual going on three years now is to play Quiddler, a fun card game resembling Scrabble.

I’ve lately been thinking that I’d like to attempt to awaken an interest in literature in him, and thought it would be cool to lend him a different paperback each week. I’ve got vague notions for a booklist in a somewhat traditional vein. I was thinking that that Lord of the Flies by William Golding and Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger might be a start. The obvious danger, of course, is boredom.

Any other titles or suggestions? What about comic or graphic novels (I know nothing about them whatsoever)?

Before something “heavier” you might need to get him to read anything at all in the first place.
Maybe try Biggles. Aeroplanes adventures in WWI might appeal to a 13 yo. It did to me.


I think both your suggested titles would be fine for a 15 year old advanced reader, not a poor reader at 13. They both develop themes too advanced for a young reader to handle: they are more about the subplot than the plot. You need a book that is all about the plot, like adventure novels.

depending on where his interests lie, Biggles or the Hardy Boys or maybe even some of the trashy Star Wars novels might work better. I can remember i was devouring science fiction like James Blish at age 13, and fantasy novels like Anne McCaffrey, but i was an early and good reader.
Graphic novels might help. Bigger than comics like Judge Dredd, with more text, but many of them are a bit angsty in places, and have big moral arguments that can be a bit off-putting to a younger reader.

at 13 i was into the Jennings series by Anthony Buckeridge. I found LOR and the Hobbit too boring

I suggest:
Danny the champion of the world (Roald Dahl)
My side of the mountain

I liked Jennings books when I was around that age. And the Just William books. Bit dated for this day and age though maybe.

Thanks for the suggestions. Good call on the appropriateness of the books I mentioned, urodacus, I guess I don’t have a very good handle on age-appropriate reading materials for kids.

I remember reading Piers Anthony or David Eddings around that time, if the child is into fantasy fiction. I also read some Stephen King, some Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Reader’s Digest. Maybe get a magazine subscription just for him/her.

We also had a set of Britannica Encyclopedia which I liked flipping through.

I vaguely remember reading Lord of the Flies or Animal Farm around that time.

For something a bit scarier (not too dark though, they’re still for children/young adults) you could try the award-winning Darkside series by Tom Becker. Fantasy, set in an alternate London which is ruled by the descendants of Jack the Ripper.

Disclaimer: The author is an old friend, so I can’t claim to offer an unbiased view, but I have read them and enjoyed them, and reckon they would suitable for someone of that age.

Stephen King’s shorter books, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders series, Astrix the Gaul.

I remember riding to the library for the Race Against Time series (short adventure novels) and thinking they were pretty cool. Ditto those Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Robert Heinlein’s juvenilia are great, particularly for a mechanically-minded boy.

The Thieves World series, edited by Robert Asprin, is also interesting, brief, and not all that difficult.

C.S Forster Horatio Hornblower series
Submarine by Edward L. Beach
Young Miles by Lois Mcmaster
The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
The Last Stand of the Tin Can SailorsJames D. Hornfischer

All read by my 10yr old son who is a solid, but not great reader.

Don’t start too heavy. Get 'im reading first, then nudge him up to more worthwhile material a tad later. Try Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, The Chocolate War, the Book of Lost Things, Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon
(Isabel Allende), The Hobbit.

How about The Damage Done then?

Thanks again for these suggestions. Knowing what I know about this kid, two important factors need to be shortness and action. Are there any equivalents to “action movies” out there in short novels for teenagers?

I haven’t read them so can’t vouch for quality… but I know Charlie Higson wrote a series of books about James Bond as a youth. Would that be up his street?

Mark Twain, Hemingway; Jules Verne, George Orwell; Farley Mowat; Richard Adams’s “Watership Down”; Tintin; Asterix; Molly Lefebure’s “The Hunting of Wilberforce Pike”; Andre Maurois’ “Fattypuffs and Thinifers”; classic issues of 'Mad Magazine", “Cracked”, and “Judge Dredd”.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. I loved that one when I was a lad. And I saw my nephew reading some kind of volume of horror short stories the other week in Scotland. Extremely lurid cover. I remember those books, too. Severed hands, nails in heads, all that kind of stuff.

Farley Mowat. Great choice Mr. Ginger. The Foundation Franklin - true story of a salvage tug out of Halifax - vocab is about the right level too…

The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Some prior posters have mentioned Roald Dahl’s childrens’ books, but I recall reading his adult short stories as a young teen and being blown away. Short stories are less demanding than novels. Try “Over to You”, “Someone Like You”, “Lamb to the Slaughter”, “Kiss Kiss” or “Switch Bitch”.
Ray Bradbury’s speculative fiction is quite compelling and entertaining with minimal sub-text.