What to read after The Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is great. For a lot of children, it’s the gateway to reading independently: the books are entertaining, easily understandable and many students love the pictures that accompany the text. But then lots of students get stuck on them, stubbornly refusing to read anything else and often claiming that they’re the only books they’ll read or will ever like. Teachers and parents are then faced with a dilemma: do we dictate to the young person what they should be reading (which seems to take away the independent part of the ‘independent reading’), or do we let them continue to read something that they enjoy, but is really far too easy.
One of the attractions to The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the fact that it is a series of books. There is the potential of bragging rights when you’ve read more than your friends, and you ‘get to know’ the characters a lot more than you do in a single story. So, with this in mind, here’s the first compilation of recommended series for teenagers.
Skullduggery Pleasant - Derek Landy
Skulduggery Pleasant is first on the list because it was the first of these series that was recommended to me by a teenager (and that I gave in to), but it’s also first on the list because of it’s easy-to-read nature. I’ve seen some reviewers be rather critical of the series because they didn’t think it was serious, or well written enough for them to continue to read, but I actually think they miss the point. These books are meant to be fun. They’re not going to offer a critique of society or deep and meaningful conversations, but they might get people to turn away from their screens long enough to finish a book – and actually quite a long book. That, for me, is always a good thing.
Strong heroine meets a well dressed skeleton and together they defeat the bad guys. Expect predictable use of tropes from the genre, but also a sense of humour.
First in the series: Skulduggery Pleasant. AR book level: 4.9; interest level: middle years+
Percy Jackson - Rick Riordan
From a very boring teacher point of view, the Percy Jackson series has been brilliant at exposing young people to characters in mythology that they might not have otherwise heard about. Later down the line, you may read something with a vague literary allusion to the myths mentioned in the Riordan books, and now you have some frame of reference for it and the new text has more meaning – you know the characters and what they’re like without having to look them up. The Percy Jackson stories aren’t just boring books that you should read because they’re educational though: they’re interesting in their own right.
You don’t have to take my word for it – the books themselves have sold millions of copies, in part due to their accessible style of narration. Like Skulduggery Pleasant, these books aren’t technically great pieces of writing and they’re not going to make a list of books known for being amazingly literary, but they don’t have to be. The Percy Jackson books are another way for young people to enjoy reading and they’re another stepping stone towards other books and more reading.
First in the series: Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief. AR book level: 4.7; interest level: middle years.
Chaos Walking - Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness has to be on this list. Everything I have ever read by him has been brilliant, and his novels appeal to both teenagers and adults. At one point I suggested More Than This to an English teacher who claims to hate young adult and children’s fiction and he couldn’t tell that it was aimed at teenagers.
The Chaos Walking series itself is an award winning trilogy about men who can read minds and women who can’t. Start it now, there’s just enough time to read it before the film comes out next year…
First in the series: The Knife of Never Letting Go. AR book level: 4.4; interest level: upper years
The Cherub Series - Robert Muchamore
I wasn’t expecting to like the CHERUB books as much as I did. But, succumbing eventually to the year 7 students who bullied me in to submission, I eventually started The Recruit and I wasn’t actually disappointed. Muchamore has enough action to keep even the most easily distracted reader entertained throughout the books. A few of the books do have a little more mature content than books like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, most notably the references to violence and drugs, but the content is no worse really than anything you would find on the 6 o’clock news.
In a nutshell: the series follows James, the newest recruit to a branch of the British Secret Service who use children as spies. Each book is a new mission, and so it’s possible to read them independently of each other, but I would suggest starting at the beginning and working your way through.
First in the series: CHERUB: The Recruit. AR book level: 4.5; interest level: upper years.Th
Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling
I have a slight confession to make: I only jumped onto the Harry Potter bandwagon at the start of this year after a lot of nagging from pretty much all of my students. At the start, I was determined not to like it, and I do still have a number of criticisms about the novels – the frequency of the explanations about who is who, and the rules of quidditch (for example) did get on my nerves a little. That being said, they’re really good novels in terms of their development; they grow in terms of the complexity of language and complexity of character so for a young person reading them, they increase in challenge. Unlike DWT, the characters mature as the reader does, meaning Harry Potter will always be a good recommendation for any teenager.
Summary: “You’re a wizard, Harry.”
First in the series: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. AR book level: 6; interest level: middle years.