Ep 41: Choosing Great Teen Fiction Books

Brandon Mull, author of 15 New York Times Bestsellers, discusses what makes good teen fiction books. He also shares what he's learned about how to get teens reading for fun while giving thousands of free lectures in schools around the country.

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Full show notes

When we read a book, we allow ourselves and our minds to go on a unique journey. We give ourselves the ability to experience perspectives we’ve never known or thought about before. We form attachments to people and places beyond the scope of our understanding. Overall, we learn more about ourselves and the world just by sitting down and cracking open a paperback.

That’s why helping kids learn to love reading is important. Finding Good teen fiction books to read provides them a chance to expand their imaginations and views without even leaving their homes! Additionally, reading is a great tool to develop creative thinking, literary skills, and focus among young people.

However, in our modern world saturated with visual media, it’s challenging to find good teen fiction books to read. Society doesn’t really encourage teens to explore the written word anymore. Young people are much more likely to spend time on Tik Tok, Youtube and Netflix than browsing the shelves at the library or eBook store. How can we convince them to take the time to enjoy a good novel when there’s millions of hours of content available to stream at any moment?

Our guest today, Brandon Mull, is here to talk about how we can get kids reading again. He’s written fifteen--that’s right, fifteen--New York Times bestselling books, and many are suggested books for teens. His most popular book series, Fablehaven, has sold millions and millions of copies all over the world. Also, he’s made it his purpose to teach young people about the value of reading, by touring schools for four months out of every year to hold free assemblies.

“Tipping Point” Books

Brandon talks about how when he was young, he had a big imagination, but didn’t always know what to do with it. He never really liked to read, until he discovered The Chronicles of Narnia. The fantastical world and vivid characters captured his interest, and he was hooked. From then on, reading became his favorite activity, until he decided to pick up the pen and go at it himself.

Brandon stresses the idea of a sort of “tipping point” book that can turn kids into readers. Although teens might not really seem to enjoy reading, they may not have found a book that really appeals to them. Finding good teen fiction books to read that excite and invigorate them can take them from being entirely disinterested in reading to seeing some merit in it. This could lead them to pick up another book, and another after that. They might even fall in love with the written word and become avid readers!

Although Narnia was the tipping point for Brandon, it’s important to understand that every kid is different and they won’t all enjoy reading the same suggested books for teens. Brandon is a fantasy writer, and he celebrates the ability of fantasy to connect to lots of readers. That’s because fantasy is exciting and captures the imagination, he says, but also because of the mainstream success of franchises like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. If a kid is interested in planes, animals, or dinosaurs, however, they might not find fantasy appealing at all!

As a parent, if we can take the time to learn exactly what it is that our kids are passionate about, we can help them find good teen fiction books to read that’ll develop an interest in reading that lasts a lifetime.

Reading Keeps Imagination Alive

Finding good teen fiction books to read can help kids form lifelong relationships with their imaginations. They’ll be happier and more well rounded individuals that continue into adult life with a sense of creativity. One problem Brandon really tries to combat in his work is the loss of time for imagination and creativity as people get older. Our lives become busy and our priorities change, making it difficult for us to make time for things we used to enjoy.

For example, when Brandon visits a school, he usually asks kids if they enjoy creative activities like drawing. Among late elementary school students, almost 80% will say they enjoy these activities. When he asks high school students, only about 10% respond saying they still partake.

We want our kids to grow up and become innovators, entrepreneurs, and game changers. Getting kids to read a wide variety of suggested books for teens allows them to explore their imagination and creativity. They’ll grow up to be people who dream big and see the world in a unique way. If not, they’ll never find ways to challenge the norm, to think outside of the box.

As Brandon says, when we read, we generate brilliant interpretations of the written word. He explains that you often read a book, imagine it in your head, and then find the movie adaptation to be disappointing. This means that you have the power to create stories in your head that are more entertaining as those created by acclaimed directors with budgets of millions.

Life Lessons

Books use fictional places and characters to explore themes that teach important lessons to young people. Brandon explains how fiction allows him to create worlds and characters that help him express the themes he wants to share. As parents, encouraging our kids to read suggested books for teens allow them to think about their lives in constructive ways.

For example, the two main characters of his Fablehaven series both experience character arcs, or personal journeys, but they grow in different ways. The books tell the story of two siblings, Kendra and Seth, after they happen upon a magical world in their grandparents’ garden. Kendra, a very careful and cautious person, is constantly learning that sometimes in life, you have to take risks. Simultaneously, her more free-spirited brother, Seth, is learning that he sometimes needs to have a plan and practice caution. As these two characters grow and evolve, they are constantly understanding themselves, each other, and the world on new levels.

No matter which character young readers identify with, seeing these two contracting ways of growing can help kids see that we all have different personalities and struggles and that’s ok. Everyone is dealing with different things in life, but that doesn’t stop us from always improving and continuing to work on ourselves.

Family Bonding

Not only do suggested books for teens help your child develop a rich inner world, but they can also be a reason for you and your teenager to spend time together. Reading together in the evenings or listening to books on audio during long road trips is one of the ways Brandon says families often enjoy his books.

He explains how sharing these fictional worlds with your family members can provide a way for you to talk about serious issues with your children. By using the fictional universe as a kind of shared language with your kids, you can discuss real world problems without making things too intense or intimidating.

For example, in Brandon’s series, The Beyonders, he writes about a world in which the villains attempt to take down the heroes, not through violence, but through public humiliation or discredition. Instead of pointing fingers at real life individuals, Brandon is using storytelling to comment on how people often treat one another without decency, especially in the media. He shows how we can sometimes hurt each other, even without violence.

All these thoughts of finding good teen fiction books to read and more are explored in today’s episode. Brandon’s belief in the importance of books and his commitment to spreading literacy are truly inspiring! In the episode we cover:
  • How to get kids to open up to the idea of reading
  • Why kids are encouraged to stop being creative as they get older
  • The importance of hard work and perseverance as a working writer
  • The prevalence of good vs. evil in fantasy writing and how it helps teens understand their moral compass
We hope you enjoy listening. If you want to find suggested books for teens and learn more about Brandon's writing, check out www.brandonmull.com!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Brandon Mull
Brandon Mull
Author of the Fablehaven series, Beyonders, Five Kingdoms, Candy Shop War, and Pingo. Created Spirit Animals. My latest is the Dragonwatch series. I can't stop!
Ep 41: Choosing Great Teen Fiction Books
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