Sunday, July 06, 2008

I'm Embarrassed To Admit It Hit the Soft Spot In My Heart

By Kevin Guilfoile

Last week the family--my brothers and sisters and all our kids and my mom and dad--was together at my brother's house south of Boston. It was a leisurely five days of beach and pool and good food and wine that passed way too quickly.

Friday night we were in the front yard watching a neighbor's blatantly illegal fireworks display burst in magnificent colors over the treeline and my sister-in-law was asking about book suggestions for her 13-year-old daughter, a voracious and fairly sophisticated reader, especially of mysteries, who is ready to graduate to adult fiction. "But not too adult," said my brother's wife, who has read my own probably-inappropriate-for-the-purposes-of-this-conversation novel.

I suggested Agatha Christie, who was one of my first mystery loves. And To Kill a Mockingbird, which everyone should read for pleasure before some teacher forces her to. I had a handful of others, but I was surprised how quickly my well of recommendation dried up. Many books I just couldn't remember clearly enough. Was I sure they were mostly void of explicit sex and gratuitous violence and themes that a 13-year-old--even, as I said, a sophisticated one--isn't quite ready for?

It was a disturbing brain cramp.

So I pose the question to the Outfit jury. What grown-up suspense novels can you recommend to a sophisticated young reader who has already developed the wonderful, lifetime habit of reading? What books have you recommended to your own kids? Your own nieces and nephews?

14 comments:

Dana King said...

I bought Carl Hiassen's HOOT for my daughter when it came out, and she bought FLUSH herself. Elmore Leonard's THERE'S A COYOTE IN THE HOUSE also has potential. Depending on the maturity level of your niece (and her mother's standards) GET SHORTY is borderline. No real sex, not much violence; the language is a little rough in places, but I doubt it's anything she hasn't heard in a contemporary middle school.

Maryann Mercer said...

Here in no particular order are some books I suggest:
The Diary of Anne Frank
Pride and Prejudice (or Emma)
Chasing Vermeer, Wright 3, and The Calder Game (mysteries with an artistic twist by Blue Balliett)
The Giver (Lois Lowery)
The Crystal Cave (Mary Stewart)
Ruby In The Smoke by Phillip Pullman
Tom Sawyer
The Book Thief

I devoured mysteries when I was a kid, but my favorite Christie ever is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. If she hasn't read that one, she should love it.

Bethany K. Warner said...

Around 13, I was reading Alastair MacLean novels. Not too much sex, but good plot/suspense.

Anonymous said...

Mary Stewart. Phyllis Whitney, Helen McInnes. Josephine Tey. Georgette Heyer who writes both mysteries and comedies-of-manners masquerading as Regency romances.

A lot of older mystery authors write non-sexy, non-violent mysteries -- Michael Innes, Nichoals Blake, Michael Gilbert, Ellis Peters, Elizabeth Peters.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Not mysteries, but not just for kids:

THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho;

THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry;

THE YEARLING by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

And an intelligent cozy:
THE BODY IN THE TRANSEPT by Jeanne Dams

Libby said...

The Book of Lost Things -- John Connolly

And I second -- or third -- the Mary Stewart Arthurian novels

Also Grace Chetwin... a YA author who's been forgotten but wrote some wonderful fantasies/mysteries

Libby said...

Oh.. I forgot... Rick Riordan has some YA novels that are supposed to be wonderful too...

Anonymous said...

1. Laurie R. King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series.

2. Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs Series.

Both feature interesting and resourceful female detectives in historical settings. She will love them!

Barbara D'Amato said...

Emily D'Amato, age 12, says:

Maximum Ride [Patterson]
East [Patton]
Boy [Roald Dahl]
Twilight [Meyer]
A Series of Unfortunate Events -- and she says be sure to read them as humor
Bud Not Buddy

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Thanks everyone! I am right now compiling a terrific list that will hold her over until she's 18.

steve z. said...

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I discovered those stories at age 13 or 14... Sherlock was my Harry Potter.

Picks By Pat said...

Hush, It's A Game by Patricia Carlon. This is a chilling tale of terror, but lacks any graphic violence. The perfect suspense story for all ages.

Kathy D. said...

When I was a teen-ager, I read Sherlock Holmes, Perry Mason, Nero Wolfe, and Hercule Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie. There are lots of what are called "cozies" with little violence, if any, no sex, etc. There's Rhys Bowens' series about Molly Murphy (I think that's the right name. Of course, I always recommend Sara Paretsky's books to everyone; never too young for V.I. Warshawski and she's feisty and self-confident. Also, "Bleeding Kansas" is very good and anti-war and would be good as a discussion focus about today's events and news.

the Bag Lady said...

Mary Stewart - any of her novels - will, hopefully, enthrall her as they have many young readers. Helen MacInnes is wonderful, too.

More modern but also excellent authors are Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky - both feature strong female role models. Another superb author is Sharyn McCrumb - I highly recommend all three of these women.

Dick Francis. Gosh, I could go on and on, and you're probably wondering who the heck I am anyway! Just someone who loves to read.....