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December 2012

Suggestions for teen and preteen ereaders

If your preteen or teen just got a new ereader, you might be wondering what to help them fill it with. I'm facing this myself. Here are some of the teen-directed books I'm suggesting to my kids or would point out to kids of specific interests. Let me know if any of them are a win or lose with your bookworms

DivergentThe Divergent Series (two books) by Veronica Roth: I love the message of these books. To me, it says, "We all have our strong traits, but those strong traits do not make us who we are exclusively." The heroine in this series grows so much from beginning to end that you can't help but admire her, even if you might not have made her same choices. The series shows what could happen if society decided to separate everyone into groups by label. You have the brave, the honest, the selfless, and the impartial--each group true to their labels to a fault. I love the way such "good" traits become liabilities when forced into boxes. 

Fault starsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green: I suggest this book with a caveat: It is not an uplifting tale by any stretch, and it might be too much for a preteen. It's depressing. It's heart-wrenching. But it's beautiful and very much worth reading. Great for your existentialist teen, yet wonderful for finding the beauty in life
despite living a tragic one.


THTreehugger by Kea Alwang: Yep, that's me. Treehugger is the first book of the Based on a Dream series. Book Two, Risktaker, will be available early 2013. Poet ee cummings once said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” That statement speaks for pre-teens and teens of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. As well, it speaks for 14-year-old Chloe (aka Star), a girl who doesn't exactly fit in on her homeworld, Earth. Mixing intergalactic adventure with more typical teen drama, Chloe gives us access to a group of heroes to follow, admire, and cheer for. Deep friendship and autonomy are the opposing themes that run through Chloe's story. How deep can true friendships run, and how well can they prepare us to stand on our own when we need to? (Side note: ebook version currently a great bargain at $.99.)  


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: This one is an oldie and better than goodie! If you've ever read it, you're nodding right now. My son is reading it for school, and I'm reliving loving it! The dangers and unfairness of class warfare and social status are the theme here, as well as the lovable underdog characters. I remember reading this one four times in a row when I was 12 or so. I sobbed through it each time! Nowadays, I see C. Thomas Howell on TV (he played the main character in the movie version), notice how much he has aged, and that makes me want to cry! 


BeyondBeyond by Maureen Miller: This book surprised me. I can't even remember why I downloaded it in the first place, but there it was on my kindle. This is for your scifi or fantasy preteen/teen. The creativity, ingenuity, the sweet romance, and the characters are all extremely appealing. I believe there is supposed to be a sequel. You can bet I will be buying it. Maybe the greatest draw for me is that the main character is genuinely good, genuinely smart, and winds up being given an incredible adventure after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I found myself rather jealous of her experience! Who would have thought an alien abduction could be so cool? Once you get passed the near-death experiences, of course.
(Side note: Great bargain price at 1.99) 


Eleven Birthdays by Wendy Mass: Caught in a loop of celebrating her eleventh birthday over and over again, Amanda has the opportunity for multiple do-overs. Who wouldn't want that chance from time to time? This story is more preteen (listed as grades 4 to 6), but it's really a fun read for anyone. Especially nice is the theme of forgiveness. Also highly recommended by my daughter whose name just happens to be Amanda and who just turned eleven. 


Hope for taking the bitter out of bittersweet

Excerpt from my 12/20 Newsletter:

Dear Readers,
And I thought Star's world was a strange one! Our world has been rocked by so much lately, for some of us more than others. Suddenly, we're supposed to "never forget" this and "never forget that." I'm starting to worry the list of things we should never forget is going to become too long to remember. Still, I have a feeling it will be impossible to forget and not to feel for those who have been directly affected by giant storms, by economic pitfalls, and by horrific shootings. My own world and the editing schedule for Risktaker took a hit from weeks without power and from personal unexpected events. Rest assured, Risktaker will be available soon, but reading the sequel to Treehugger is surely the least of the hardships folks are going through these days!

So what do we do in times like these? We try to focus on the good that comes out of evil. We revel in people doing good for others. We can use bitter events as an opportunity to teach our kids to be generous. We come together to participate in and watch a huge concert). During the 121212 concert, I was so proud of my daughter who donated $50 toward Hurricane Sandy Aid. (She has to separate her allowance into savings, spending, and donation piggy banks.) So she made a donation, and I could see how good she felt about herself. And I felt good about having such a great kid. Then I felt upset again that the donation was needed in the first place. And what can we do about Newton? Nothing will ever fill the holes left in that town's hearts. But how good it feels to see people trying! Whether we try via prayers, donations, lending an ear, or holding a candle, we all have the power to make bitter tragedies at least bittersweet, because plain old sweet just isn't going to happen. My town asked everyone to shut off their Christmas lights last night as a message to Newtown that they aren't alone in the darkness. I drove through town choked up--that bittersweet feeling again. More importantly, tragedies are opportunities to make changes in laws, policies, building codes, technology, and hearts--another way of changing bitter to bittersweet--and perhaps more plain old sweet in the future.

As much as I love reading and writing fantasy about heroes and heroines, when you see real life heroes at work, there is no comparison, is there? Suddenly, Katniss Everdeen pales when held up to Victoria Soto (teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary). Suddenly, people like my friend Stefany, who give so much of their time and love to those who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy, make Harry, Ron, and Hermione look like amateurs. The truth is, planet Earth is not always as terrible as Star of Treehugger thinks it is. We need to be sentinels to our own planet who fight to help the good outweigh the bad, and we can be.

Obviously, 2012 has been a bittersweet year for many. My wish for my readers, friends, and family is to make the '13' in 2013 become one lucky number. I wish you all good health, happiness, and good fortune. And when the rough stuff gets too much, pick up a fantasy book for a short escape. Thanks to the boom of independent publishers, there are many good books out there that would never have seen the light of day before. Not because they are bad--but because they might not fit a current market profile. So take advantage of the fact that there is a lot of different stuff out there to enjoy these days: Read an independent author!

Love, Kea

PS: After writing this, I came across more ideas for helping in times of tragedy. In the hopes that they will be inspirational to all of us, here are some links:

Happy Life Post (KSL TV)

US News

26 Acts (Facebook)