Tween readers — those ages 9 to 12 — come to the teen section for a variety of reasons.
In some cases, tweens are drawn to teen books because of popularity and media exposure. For example, many tweens request titles such as The Hunger Games and Twilight. Some tweens are avid readers of a particular genre and have exhausted the titles available to them in the children’s fiction section.
The tweens at the library where I work are a good example. One girl (I’ll call her Alicia) is 11 going on 12. Alicia loves horror and ghost stories and is a huge fan of Mary Downing Hahn. However, she’s read all of the titles that we have, and now she goes downstairs to the teen section in search of new, more intense scares. She’s currently reading The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.
When we asked the Hub bloggers for their thoughts on cross-unders (I don’t love the term, but I have to admit it’s succinct), Diane Colson commented that
…novels provide so much vicarious experience for readers. Reading “ahead, ” or into the lives of older characters, is a way of preparation. And in many cases these readers are psychologically and intellectually ready for more mature reading. Rates of development and life experience have roles to play as well.
In my experience, the teen books that appeal to this “reading up” impulse offer the lure of new experiences, without offering more than they feel ready for. Diane concurs, citing the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot and the Ranger’s Apprentice series as excellent cross-unders, because “they aren’t completely safe, meaning that there are risky situations that require mature thinking. But the author provides a framework that allows for a character’s fallability. There are examples of advice seeking, lessons learned, and respect for others.”
I would add that the both are examples of the type of series where readers can feel that they are growing up with the character as they tackle new challenges in each book. Other examples of this type of series include the Percy Jackson series, the Harry Potter series, the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series.
In addition, some tweens want titles that deal more directly with tough issues, whether because of their own experiences, the experiences of someone close to them, or simply a desire to explore those issues in a safe way.
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