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.
Full Show Notes
Teen fiction books can change a kid’s life when they come at just the right time. Brandon Mull wasn’t much of a reader, he told me, until he read Narnia as a kid and was pulled in by the vast imagination of that story. That book was a turning point in his life that started him on the path of becoming a reader.
If you can get your teen reading the right kinds of teen fiction books it can inspire your teen or motivate them to start reading more and more. But if you buy your teen the wrong kinds of teen fiction books they could lose interest in reading altogether.
During our interview, we talked about how to pick the right kinds of fiction books for your teen.
Brandon spends four months out of every year traveling around the country doing free assemblies at schools about reading and literacy. Over the years he’s talked to thousands and thousands of kids. When it comes to teen fiction books, Brandon says that he’s found the fantasy genre has the broadest overall appeal for kids in this age group.
After writing an incredible 15 New York Times Bestsellers himself, Brandon knows what he’s talking about.
Fantasy is a broad genre of teen fiction books that could include werewolves, vampires, magic, dragons, elves, goblins, and fairies. But the reason these books appeal so well to kids is that they often feature a young protagonist who is able to outsmart the adults and overcome amazing obstacles. Teens love this because this is how all teenagers want to see themselves.
So if you have a teen who isn’t reading much and you want to get them reading more, try a fantasy book with a protagonist who is a similar age to your teen.
Teen Fiction Books Enhance the Imagination
Brandon encourages kids to think about teen fiction books as kind of like weight lifting for your imagination. When you read a book and have to picture the whole scene unfolding in your head, it’s like a work out for your creativity. Doing this every day will sculpt a more creative brain.
If your teen is on the fence about teen fiction books, Brandon recommends asking if they have ever read a book and then seen the movie and been disappointed because the book was better in their head while they were reading it. Nearly everyone has had this experience and it proves that your imagination can be better than a famous Hollywood director with a multi-million dollar budget.
Once your teen realizes this, they’ll see that it would be a crime not to use the theater of their own imagination more often by reading teen fiction books and other novels that stretch their creativity.
In this episode, Brandon covers all of these ideas and more in depth. He breaks down exactly what you can say to a teenager who isn’t reading very much and how you can promote the pleasures of reading for fun.
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Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen
1. When your teen is worried they aren’t creative:
“There’s sort of an American Idol syndrome. It’s like you can’t just sing for fun. You’ve got to be radio ready or else you shouldn’t sing. And I think that’s a disservice because it’s fun to just be goofy and sing even if you’re not the best. Just like it can be fun to draw or do art or express yourself creatively in ways that you may not be an expert at.”
2. Inspire teens to do more reading:
3. For teenagers who are doubting the capacity of their mind:
4. When your teen questions the importance of reading:
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Encourage Teens to Keep Being Creative:
As kids mature into teens, they often stop doing many of the creative hobbies they might have enjoyed as kids. Brandon told me that when he does workshops at schools he often asks the kids if they like to doodle. In elementary school the kids all raise their hands but by the time they get to high school, very few hands go up. Brandon says this is because high schoolers are more likely to judge themselves as not being “good” at something so they stop doing it. What are some activities your teen used to enjoy as a kid but doesn’t do much anymore? Write down as many as you can think of in 3 minutes. Choose one and encourage your teen to get back to it.
About Brandon Mull
A 15x New York Times bestselling author, Brandon Mull is best known for his fantasy series Fablehaven, about siblings Seth and Kendra Sorenson who find out their grandfather and grandmother run Fablehaven, one of the last places mythical creatures can live in peace. His Beyonders trilogy is about a teenage boy named Jason who gets summoned as the last chance to save Lyrian, a doomed realm ruled by the wizard Maldor. His Five Kingdoms series is about an 11-year-old boy named Cole who was about to get enslaved by slave traders but at the last moment, he hides while his friends are being sucked away to another world called the Outskirts. The Candy Shop War is a single book about Nate, a kid in a strange town full of magical candies and crazy arcades.
When he’s not writing more bestselling books, Brandon tours the country speaking at schools about literacy and the power of reading. His goal is to turn kids into lifelong readers and to encourage kids to stretch their imagination to it’s fullest.