There’s no formula for creating a best seller. A built-in audience, starred reviews, good timing, and word of mouth promotion improve a book’s chances, but there’s still no guarantee a book will resonate with readers. As a publisher, you need to trust yourself and hope for the best. Sometimes instinct is worth more than elaborate marketing plans. After all, instinct is what initially landed Harry Potter on bookshelves and then guided it into the hands of David Heyman. At this stage in my career, I can only imagine how it must feel to play a role in the publication of a book that will essentially live forever as new generations rediscover its magic. But as a bookseller, I’m fortunate enough to see pre-teens and teenagers discover some of the same books I loved at their ages. If you’re hoping to influence the pre-teen in your life on his or her journey of rediscovery, I’ve compiled a list of a few timeless and ageless titles that deserve to live in the spotlight forever.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Although best known as the Miyazaki film of the same title, Howl’s Moving Castle is actually the first novel in a series of three and was published in the United States by Greenwillow Books. I’m a huge fan of Miyazaki’s work and I have only positive things to say about his adaptation of Jones’ novel, but the novel packs so much more information into its pages, particularly concerning Howl’s and Calcifer’s histories. All teen fantasy enthusiasts should have this book on their shelves.
Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
As someone who values her personal space and alone time, I’ve always loved stories that involve main characters discovering secret hiding places and making them their own. (I don’t even want to admit how many times I’ve read The Secret Garden.) Julie Andrews Edwards’ story about a young orphan girl who escapes to a secret cottage in the woods behind her orphanage is beloved by many and a classic by every definition, but may not stand out to new readers next to The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or Divergent. If the pre-teen in your life loves secrets and adventures, they’ll love you for adding this to their bookshelf.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
I won Bud, Not Buddy in some type of library contest when I was nine years old. At the time I didn’t realize it was recently published or a John Newbery Medal winner; I just knew I had won a book. This story about a ten-year old orphan who runs away from his latest foster home during the Great Depression in favor of a life on the road with his friend Bugs has remained on my list of favorite novels for almost sixteen years and will probably remain there forever. Bud, Not Buddy is full of adventure and emotion told through the voice of a narrator that perfectly straddles the line between the child he is and the adult he’s forced to be.
The Divide by Elizabeth Kay
There’s a place on earth where water flows to both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This place is called the Divide, and it’s there that Felix Sanders is transported to an alternate universe and must find a way home with the help of his new friend Betony. My friend Ellen let me borrow her copy of The Divide during study hall our freshman year of high school and I loved it too much to return it. At first glance, the plot may sound recycled, but the delivery is superb. An added bonus? It’s a trilogy.