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Laurie Halse Anderson, Laurie Halse Anderson author
Joyce Tenneson
Laurie Halse Anderson.

5 Books for Mature Teen Readers

January 29, 2011
by Shannon Firth
Remember those books you wanted to read at school that for some reason didn’t make the teacher’s cut? Or were labeled too “mature”? Here are a few of our favorites.

“The Brief History of the Dead” by Kevin Brockmeier

“The Brief History of the Dead” by Kevin Brockmeier portrays two separate worlds and the characters inscribed by them. Laura Byrd, a wildlife specialist, is alone in Antarctica, after her research team leaves to correct a communications problem and doesn’t return. Luka Sims, a newspaper reporter, lives in the world of the living dead, which is populated mostly by victims of a recent plague. His existence in this middle place, along with everyone else’s, is dependent on memory. He’ll remain there for as long as someone on Earth remembers him. For Luka, that person is Laura.

Long after the story is finished, it will continue to haunt readers as they ponder themes of survival, connection, annihilation, the power of memories, and the mysteries of life and death,” Terry Miller Shannon writes in her review for

“Wintergirls” by Laurie Halse Anderson

In “Wintergirls,” Laurie Halse Anderson, for the second time, confronts a deeply emotional issue. Her first novel, “Speak,” which told the story of a teenage victim of rape, was a finalist for a National Book Award.

The focus of "Wintergirls" is eating disorders. Lia, an anorexic teenager, struggles with her parents’ divorce and her best friend’s death—also caused by an eating disorder—while continuing a cycle of self-destructive eating habits, subterfuge and cutting.

Concerned that the book could trigger anorexics rather than help them, Halse Anderson shared “Wintergirls” with eating disorder experts. “[T]he challenge in the book they felt I had met was to show the entire story. There is nothing glamorous or lovely about an eating disorder. It’s horror,” she told The New York Times.

Still, Cynthia M. Bulik, director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and author of “Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop,” cautions that “[b]ooks such as these should be read with careful parental supervision,” rather than "in isolation."

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins is set in a futuristic place called Panem, where the Capitol rules over the surrounding districts. Each year, the government requires one boy and one girl from each district to battle one another to the death on live television.

If you’ve already read the “The Hunger Games,” and liked it, challenge yourself to finish “Catching Fire,” the second book in Collins’ series, before the release of her third book, “Mockingjay,” on Aug. 24, 2010.

“Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater is the first book in a series about a romance between a girl and a werewolf. “Shiver” debuted at No. 9 on The New York Times Bestsellers list, and was chosen as one of the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults, according to the official site for "Shiver."

“Shiver” tells the story of Sam and Grace. In summers, Sam is human, but in winter he becomes a wolf. They share several quiet moments together and eventually Grace falls in love with Sam.

Despite the novel’s lack of subtlety, Myra McEntire writes in her review on Young Adult Books Central, “Shiver is one of those rare works of art you’d continue reading if your house were burning down around your ears, because if it’s not happening on the page, it’s not happening in real life.”

For a wordless description of “Shiver,” see Stiefvater’s book trailer, “Still Wolf Watching.”

“Cures for Heartbreak” by Margo Rabb

In Margo Rabb’s “Cures for Heartbreak,” 15-year-old Mia Perlman is grieving for her late mother when her father has a heart attack and requires surgery. Mia is looking for ways to distract herself from her life. Shopping, reading, eating ice cream and boy-hunting seem like good solutions.

“Unrequited or not, during even the most awful day a crush could change everything—it could make you forget the two classes you failed last semester and the general overall suckiness of your life,” Mia writes in her journal.
While visiting her father in the hospital, Mia gets to know Sasha, an older boy with leukemia, whom she and her sister call “cancer guy.” Her father and his new girlfriend, a blonde wannabe-psychic with lung cancer, try to warn Mia about falling for someone so ill, but she fends them off.

Rabb balances sorrow with humor, and sprinkles quotes by renowned writers on the subjects of love and loss as additional food for thought. The author, who like Mia lost her mother as a young adult, writes with authority and precision,” according to a Publishers Weekly review.

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