On Being In Between

There are so many things that came to mind when I wrote the title for this blog post. I think we spend so much of our lives en route from one place to another, one stage to another, one goal to another, that “in between” is a fairly common state of being for most of us. But the in between I want to talk about today is being twelve.

Remember twelve? Not a little kid anymore but not yet a teenager. 

Twelve, it turns out now that my own kid is there, is just as challenging today as it was when I knew just how many months it was until I was officially a teen.

This post, though, isn’t philosophical, but practical. because there are two areas in particular that we’re finding even harder than they were when I was twelve: clothes and books. I’m hoping maybe someone out there has some suggestions.

Like her friends, my twelve-year-old has her own sense of style. She knows what she likes and is very clear on what she doesn’t. The problem is, there is almost nothing for her to choose from, and not in a picky way, but a literal one. Style-wise, she’s too old for the kids’ stores, and what little might be appropriate of the stock in stores geared to young adults is almost all too big for her still. We can spend an afternoon shopping and find nothing for her to try on that’s even close to right for her, let alone anything to buy. (We did just this yesterday.) The tween market is huge, and they have money to spend. They’re outgrowing their clothes faster than we can keep up with, especially given the lack of stock to choose from. Why are retailers missing out on this goldmine? Or maybe it’s us. Please tell me we’re missing something and you know of a great place to get age-appropriate, well-fitting, cool clothes for girls that won’t bankrupt us. Anyone?

Books are another issue. My girl is a reader. She stays up later than she should nearly every night because she gets lost in a book, and there’s nothing she likes better than a lazy weekend morning when she can stay in bed reading for hours. A trip intoVancouver inevitably includes a stop at the “good” Chapters, where she can usually find a book or several. But it’s becoming harder and harder to find books for her the more she depletes the available stock. Here’s the thing: she doesn’t like fantasy. Have you looked at the teen shelves lately? Admittedly, she’s a bit picky about her books (aren’t we all?). But what she most likes to read is contemporary fiction about girls her age or a bit older than she is. Not historical or mysteries or fantasy or magic or, heaven forbid, vampires. She’s outgrown and/or read most of the contemporary stuff in the 9-12 section, but isn’t quite ready for the teen contemporary fiction with protagonists who are finishing high school, having sex, dealing with grown-up stuff. She’s read a few that skirt the edge of that, but isn’t there yet. She chooses her own books and put down at least ten at Chapters yesterday after reading the back because they felt “too old”.

She does occasionally branch out from her favourite genre. She loved Hunger Games and Eric Walters’s We All Fall Down. But what she’s drawn to in the bookstore is Susin Nielsen’s Dear George Clooney, books by Julia DeVillers and Joanna Philbin to name a couple I can think of off the top of my head. She likes series about dancers and camp and that kind of stuff.

Any thoughts on great contemporary young teen fiction that might suit her?

Thanks for any thoughts you may have on this!


  1. Alice Bennett
    Jun 26, 2012

    My daughter loved The Beacon Street Girls and the new Nancy Drew series…..called Dossiers.

    • Kathy
      Jun 26, 2012

      Thanks, Alice. Beacon Street Girls is one mine likes, too.

  2. Shari Green
    Jun 26, 2012

    I have a 13 yr old voracious reader. Man, it gets tough keeping him in books! I’m trying to think of realistic stuff he’s read that girls might like, too. Has your daughter read Wendy Mass’s books? The “11 BIRTHDAYS” series is good. And Elle Strauss has some MG stuff (CLOCKWISE is YA, I think, but read like MG to me–my son really liked it). And Kristin Butcher (one of my crit partners!) has many good MG/YA books — a bunch in the Orca Currents series. Some of the MG will prob read too young for 12 yr old, but the YA stuff is pretty clean, seems to me (CHEAT is great).

    Really, I don’t read much MG myself, but there are a few faves I remember:

    Gary Schmidt’s WEDNESDAY WARS and OKAY FOR NOW

    everything by Kate DiCamillo


    Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME (which has a sci-fi element but reads like realistic and is SO good!)

    Cynthia Lord’s RULES

    WAITING FOR NORMAL (haven’t read it, but my son suggested it for your dtr)

    NEIL ARMSTRONG IS MY UNCLE (haven’t read this one, either, but son says it’s good)

    anything by Polly Horvath

    As for the clothing issue, can’t help you there. I’m just happy if son keeps his pants pulled up well enough to cover his boxers, lol.

    • Kathy
      Jun 26, 2012

      Thanks for all the suggestions, Shari. I know exactly how you feel, having trouble keeping your kid in books. Some of these are new to me. She’s read the Mass books and some of the others like WHEN YOU REACH ME, but I’ll get her to check out the others. I can’t keep track of all she’s read, that’s for sure! Tell your son thanks, too. :)

      She keeps picking up Sarah Dessen and putting them back down because the descriptions feel a little too grown up to her, but maybe she should give her a try.

  3. Shari Green
    Jun 26, 2012

    One more: Have you read Sarah Dessen’s stuff, Kathy? Her book, THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER, is one of the first books that got me hooked on YA. I’ve read all her books (but not with suitability-for-12-yr-old in mind, of course). There’s romance, for sure, but seems to me all her stuff is pretty clean — themes of family relationships, mostly, I think — so they might be a good step into the YA scene.