The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and got into a discussion on Fantasy books for young readers. Her son was 8 and had finished the Harry Potter books. Now she wanted to know what to read after Harry Potter, but they had to be okay for an 8-year-old to read, so no romance or such stuff. I mentally scanned my bookshelves and suggested about 4 different authors I enjoy for Tween Fantasy books.
Then I scrolled down a little further and got into the exact same discussion ALL OVER AGAIN. It became immediately clear to me I needed to write a post on Tween Fantasy books, or I had an excuse to tell everyone to read my favorite authors.
I’ve put an asterisk next to books/series that have protagonists of both genders. Since I have both boys and girls I appreciate books that are like that.
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Tween Fantasy Authors
This first section is my quick go-to answer when asked about Tween Fantasy. I list off these authors with only a brief hesitation to collect my thoughts.
*Dianna Wynne Jones– She is my all time favorite author. Even her “adult” books could be read by a twelve-year-old. The only reason they are adult is because of length and there is romantic interest (but no funny business). For my friend I recommended her 8-year-old start with the Chrestomanci books (I linked to the first one). I recommended she start with either the Dark Lord of Derkholme or Deep Secret.
*Robin McKinley– I adore her lyricism. That and she wrote two novel length adaptations of Beauty and the Beast (an entire post on Beauty and the Beast books), and they are both completely different. I’d recommend most of her books for older tweens, they are a bit more mature, and I DO NOT recommend Deerskin for kids (I still cannot reread it, definitely preview this one first).
Rick Riordan– I’m going to warn you right now, Rick Riordan has one type of book: young misunderstood (snarky) tween caught up into a big epic battle. If you like that style of book, you will probably like his books. Jeff doesn’t particularly like his books. I enjoy them, but didn’t like Magnus Chase as much, it felt like he was trying TOO hard. **I personally put his books for an older tween, but I have many fine with them for any age**
Madeline L’Engle– I love all of her books, from her fantasy (The Time Quintet, though I’ll warn you an Acceptable Time caught me off guard with some of its content) to her general fiction (the Austin family books, linked to the first book, great for a girl entering puberty), and her one-off adult books (those tackle more difficult topics). I would put her books for 10 years old because of the difficulty of topics discussed.
*Lloyd Alexander– I devoured all of his books. His seminal series is the Prydain Chronicles (which my kids have read part of for The Black Cauldron movie night), but I also loved his Westmark series (link to the first book, great female protagonist). Many of his books are based in Welsh mythology.
Eoin Colfer– He is primarily known for his Artemis Fowl series (I read this on my honeymoon, and promptly picked up the next three books), but I also love his Half Moon Investigations (mystery), and his other books, so I couldn’t just put him down in the series section. Seriously Half Moon Investigations, go listen to it, the audiobook is voiced brilliantly.
Tween Fantasy Series
Some of these I could put down for a specific author, but the author is known solely for that series, so why put them in authors?
Ranger’s Apprentice– I have mixed feelings on this series. While the plots are interesting and has my reluctant reader going through the books, the writing is hackneyed and drives me nuts. If I hear one more thing described as razor sharp I will go crazy. He has written two series to accompany the first series.
Redwall– This is the series my one of my friend’s son had finished. It’s small furry animals in a fantasy setting. I’ll be honest I’ve never read it, even though it hits every single trope I love. For whatever reason, I’ve set up a block of “This book I will never read.” It’s ridiculous.
*Young Wizards– This series has about 10 books in it now. I’d put it for older tweens because once you get into the 4th/5th book you start getting into some very serious topics (death of parents is the main topic of one book, not like one scene, but the whole book)
Pendragon– It’s been a few years since I read these, but the protagonist is a teen boy who suddenly discovers he is the Pendragon and has to save the multiverse from collapsing. It’s a fascinating read.
*Fablehaven– A brother and sister go to visit their grandparents on a nature preserve and discover the preserve is so much more than they thought. I love how both siblings have talents and are strong in their own right, while not being carbon copies or taking away from the other, and you need both of them to solve the problems.
For your more mature tween fantasy books
This section is authors writing for adults that your tweens can read because the material is not sexually explicit or excessively violent or crass. It will contain more mature themes or material than the earlier books
JRR Tolkien– This one’s a given, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention him.
David Eddings– His books/series tend to follow a theme, but since we like this theme it works for us. The kids listened to The Belgariad and loved it, I’m currently re-listening to it with Batman as I drive him to various appointments.
Raymond Feist– His book series (plural) are all in the same world at different places and times, but they are all connected. One series will affect another. Because there are series multiple, some will be more adult in content than others, but none have explicit sex scenes that I can remember. The book that launched it all is Magician’s Apprentice, and we’re considering it for our next car trip.
Any more tween fantasy book suggestions?
I mostly left out the new fractured fairy tale genre, there are entire authors for that genre that I love. I also could have further broken this down into high fantasy, urban fantasy, or mythology books. I already did a mythology books post earlier, though. And to be honest, I stopped writing more because between the different authors and series I’ve recommended over 100 books.