Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The In-Between Age of 13

About a year ago, my then 13-year-old daughter complained to me that she had “nothing to read.” In our house, that’s a ridiculous statement. The walls are lined with books, and every member of my family has a Kindle, which is directly connected to my password. All the books, just a click away. And on mom’s credit card, no less!

Nothing to read?


When I went through the stacks (and stacks) of books with her, I realized that what she meant to say was, “I don’t know what to read.”

At age 13, she was a bit past middle-grade books. Most of the protagonists were younger than she was, and she lost interest in the story lines that would typically interest a tween. On the other hand, she didn’t feel quite ready for YA, either. As a somewhat naive 13-year-old, she couldn’t relate to many of the 16 or 17-year-old main characters. Unlike some of her peers, she didn’t care for books with huge romantic storylines (she had zero interest in TWILIGHT), although she didn’t mind romantic sub-plots as long as something else was going on (she loved THE HUNGER GAMES).

13 is an in-between age in so many ways. You’re too old to sit at the kids table, but you’re not quite ready to hang with the adults. You want to stay up late, but you still sleep with your teddy bear. You’re beyond the small world of a middle-schooler, but you’re not quite ready to be out in the big-bad world of an older teenager.

Fortunately, my daughter found a bunch of books that she was excited about. She read almost everything Scott Westerfeld wrote, she enjoyed Brandon Sanderson’s THE RITHMATIST, and Brandon Mull’s BEYONDERS series (which features a 13-year-old main character). She even re-read the last few books in JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series. She first read those books when she was in third grade, and re-reading them at age 13 puts them in a whole new light. She could understand the things she was confused about as a younger reader, and both the storyline and the characters suddenly had a depth that she was unaware of before.

I’m grateful that there are so many wonderful books for our kids to choose from, even at the neither-here-nor-there age of 13. I’d love to hear what some of your in-between readers choose from the book shelves!


  1. This has been such a hot topic of discussion at our house! I'd bring stacks of books home for my 13yo and she'd shake her head at all of them. After a brief stint of racing through some YA, she burned out on the drama. But she refused to take a second look at the MG titles I recommended.

    For us, her middle school came to the rescue with a clever reading challenge. The student get extra credit for reading the recent Caudill and Lincoln nominees. In the winter, there will be a game show challenge in the school library to see which team can answer the most questions about these books.

    So for now, my 13yo is racing through these lists of great books. And finding stories that she loves.

  2. Such a hot topic in my house too! My son who used to devour books like the Percy Jackson series has sort of out grown those books. He loved the Hunger Games, but I'm not sure he's ready for a book like TFIOS. He would likely not enjoy it yet. So I've decided to let him read adult books like Dan Brown and John Grisham which have the plot his likes but without the teen angst.

  3. I have a young friend at church with this same issue. She's over much of the middle grade but gets frustrated with the heavy romance focus in much of YA. I recommended the Princess for Hire series by Lindsey Leavitt or the Real Mermaids series by Helene Boudreau, and those both worked well for her. They are still technically middle grade but trend older, and while there's a romance element it's not the main focus.

  4. My 14yo son, who usually went for high fantasy, is now gearing more toward the literary, thanks to his school's reading program. This year they have to read: Perk of Being a Wallflower, TFIOS, Code Name Verity, Book Thief. Glad I have most of the books already. (lol)
    But he's definitely not interested in any romantic subplots --yet.

  5. I have twelve and fourteen year-old daughters, so I know what you mean... They both liked Jordan Sonnenblick's Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. It is perfect for that in-between age.


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