Recently, we got the following email:
I should start by stating that I'm a fan. A big fan. And my email address is correct, I'm a guy. Straight, which I think puts me on the fringe of the "jezeboy" club, but I would be a card carrying member if there were cards. Anyway, I love Jezebel. You write with passion and intelligence; a rare combination on the web. A combination of traits I'd love to instill in my little girl.
I'm writing because my daughter is 13 this year, and I don't know what to get her for Christmas. Last year I got her a Judy Blume anthology (among other things) and she loved it; I think she's gone through it twice. I can't recall what books are in it, and it would give away too much if I asked her. I don't want to repeat myself with another Judy Blume collection, even though I think she's due for Are You There God... I think they were a little too juvenile for her current tastes; I want to challenge her a bit. I don't have any sisters, and my wife is in an age demographic above me (a story for another email) so she doesn't really know.
So I'm asking for your help. I think the writing on your site is some of the best on the web. It transcends simple commentary. If my daughter becomes as talented a writer and critic as you and the other Jezebel writers, I will die an very happy papa. And if it that means writing a pleading email to a site that gets millions of hits a month for a tiny breadcrumb of inspiration, so be it.
So, can you help me out?
Has your daughter read any Francesca Lia Block? I love this author. Her style is a magical realism that transports you into a fairy-tale version of Los Angeles. The most famous book is called Weetzie Bat, which one Amazon customer accurately describes as a "a fun wacked-out feminist fairy tale." The Weetzie Bat series involves five books, which come separately or packaged together in a collection called Dangerous Angels.The writing style takes some getting used to — at first the sentences seem overly simplistic and, frankly, dumb, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it weaves a dreamy, crystalline web over you — it's hard to explain. In any case, if your daughter hasn't read any of those books, I highly suggest them! Block has written quite a few books, so if your daughter gets into her as an author, there will be more to choose from. The Rose And The Beast, a retelling of Beauty and The Beast, is a standout for me… there are some grown-up issues tackled, but I don't think there's any reason to hesitate to let a 13-year-old read it. Those are my suggestions! I have to say, when I was 14 I got really into Kurt Vonnegut — Cat's Cradle and so on — so you never really know! I am of the opinion that all reading is good reading. Even if it's for "adults," kids and teens can get something out of it. (I also read Anais Nin when I was 14, but that is a different story!) In any case, I also contacted 24-year-old Young Adult book blogger Kristin Feliz, whose site, GrowingUp YA, sprouted from a desire to document the obscene amount of YA books she's read in the past couple of years. Here's what she what she says:
My first choice is perfect for all ages and highly recommended. Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a fast-paced adventure, unlike any I've ever read. Cashore, with beautifully rich detail, introduces us to a magical realm where only a number of individuals are born with graces (unique abilities/talents). As for the novel's protagonist, Katsa? Well, let's just say her grace is giving ass-kicking heroines a run for their money. Think Saoirse Ronan in Hanna. Awesome!
I also recommend Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead, for that one friend or family member who refuses to acknowledge that there is in fact life after Twilight. Come on, we all have one! Mead's unique take on traditional vampire mythos will reel you in and won't spit you out until the very end. The main reason being vampire guardian, Rose Hathaway. She just might go down as one of the strongest, most talked-about characters in YA history. Haven't heard of her? No worries, I won't judge you. (To your face.) Just go pick up the book and thank me later.
My third and final pick is Past Perfect by Leila Sales. The novel's super-funny main character, Chelsea, works as a historic interpreter at a Colonial village, which is in a giant feud with the Civil War Reenactment village across the street, making this book laugh-out-loud hilarious. Anachronistic sandwiches, historically inaccurate secret sabotage, patriotic pranks! But there's also a lot of heart and truth to Sales' story, which is all about growing up and learning from the past. I would have loved a book like this when I was younger.
Sounds like a good start. I'm sure our readers will have other suggestions, which they'll add in the comments. Good luck!