YA mother-daughter reading recommendations

Last summer, website mom.me asked us to contribute to their feature "Books to Read With Your Teen Daughter." Here are our recommendations from that article — plus a few new ones! — to get you ready for Mother's Day. What YA book would you recommend for a mother-daughter read?

(Feiwel, 2012), the first book in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series. This futuristic Cinderella story is a mix of fairy tale, sci-fi, and romance — perfect for a wide female readership and certain to spark discussion and anticipation of future installments. Watch your back, Hunger Games, this series could be the next big thing. My second choice for mothers and daughters to read together would be Kekla Magoon's 37 Things I Love (in no particular order) (Holt, 2012) for its honest first-person portrayal of a teenage girl's coming of age as she deals with death, hope, love, and friendship.

Amelia LostElissa:
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming (Random/Schwartz and Wade, 2011). It’s suspenseful, informative, and accessible; readers will come away with a fresh view of the feisty, pioneering woman and the events leading up to — and following — her disappearance.

Libba Bray’s hilarious and sharply observant Beauty Queens (Scholastic, 2011). A planeload of beauty pageant contestants crashes on what looks like a deserted island. The scope of the plot is mind-boggling — the girls are ultimately pawns in a massive global conspiracy — but the quieter message about the power unleashed when teen girls think society isn’t watching will resonate across generations. Bray’s narration of the audiobook edition is a tour-de-force performance.

The mature topics in Girl in the Mirror (Persea, 2013) by Meg Kearney will appeal to older teens (and give mothers a jumping-off point for discussion), but it’s as much about mother-daughter bonds and connection to family — both adopted and birth in this case. Ideal for girls with adopted, single-parent, or other unconventional family backgrounds. Its verse narrative will likely be a new and exciting format for teens and moms to explore together.

The women in Wren's family manifest magical powers when they reach puberty. Wren uses hers to bring her boyfriend Danny back from the dead, but then meets (living) Gabriel, who’s drawn to her gift. Although romance takes center stage in Amy Garvey's Cold Kiss (HarperTeen, 2011), Garvey weaves female familial relationships as intricately as Wren creates her spell. The complex dynamics between three generations of magical women (think a YA Practical Magic) add depth — and plenty for teen girls and their moms to discuss.

Ask the PassengersMartha:
How about A. S. King’s Ask the Passengers (Little, Brown, 2012)? Protagonist Astrid is taking a class in the Socratic method at her close-minded, small-town high school, and so she spends the year “asking questions and not rushing to answer them” — an illuminating time for her, and an ideal springboard for book discussion. Is she gay? Or just in love with one particular girl? Once she determines her identity, should she hide it, like her best friend? Astrid makes some pretty crucial choices in the book, and readers will be right there to see why, and how; through the interspersed airplane interludes (Astrid spends a lot of time looking up at the sky and sending questions and love to the passengers on airplanes) readers get glimpses into other lives, just as full of struggle and conflict and not-easy answers as Astrid’s life is. Finally, seeing as this is a mother/teen daughter read-together, Astrid’s relationship with her (nightmare of a) mother would certainly provoke discussion…

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinRoger:
I think Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity (Hyperion, 2012) would be an excellent choice; it's the kind of YA book that makes a great adult crossover. While the story — a WWII thriller about two young women — is plenty exciting on its own, the narrative structure is tricky and would be fun to talk about.

Pearl (called Bean) and her best friend Henry are comfortable with their respective familial dysfunctional in Pearl (Holt, 2011) by Jo Knowles, but the revelation of long-kept family secrets exposes the corrosive effect that silence can have on relationships. Homosexuality, friendship, and romance are just a few of the topics tackled by this dramatic novel.


Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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Nadine Mathu

Nice list. I would add Sara Zarr's "How to Save a Life."

Posted : May 11, 2013 02:47

Linda Baie

Several of these are already on my "TBR" list & thanks for the others. Great idea to post these for Mother's Day. I will use the list for my students' parents-good to have!

Posted : May 11, 2013 12:14


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