Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five Teen Alternatives to Game of Thrones

I love Game of Thrones. Series, show, you name it. There's a whole lot to like. Strong characters, compelling drama, love, adventure, the triumph and sorrows of characters--death, mayhem, betrayal, ferocious battles, the rise of the undead! What's not to love?

However, it is DEFINITELY not something I would EVER recommend to any of my middle school students. Even the ones who are wise beyond their years--the ones who read at voracious levels. I'm not saying they can't read it--that's up to their parents--I'm saying it's got far too much inappropriate content for me to recommend. Heck, I'm somewhat disturbed by many of the scenes, and I didn't read it until my mid-20's.

There are a lot of great YA books out there, and they're very popular. Still, I think many amazing works slip through the cracks as they get older. In light of that and in the interest of highlighting great storytelling, I've made a list of recommendations for people (especially students) who love to read but are not ready for Game of Thrones.

1. The Princess Bride by William Golding 

You've seen the movie, probably. Now read the book--which is longer and funnier and has way more adventure and giants and swordfights, but about the same amount of love, which I think is a nice compromise.
“Now what happens?" asked the man in black. 
"We face each other as God intended," Fezzik said. "No tricks, no weapons, skill against skill alone."
"You mean you'll put down your rock and I'll put down my sword and we'll try to kill each other like civilized people, is that it?” 


2. A Tale Dark & Grimm series by Adam Gidwitz 

Game of Thrones is nothing if not unexpectedly dark and bloody. If that's something you're drawn to, try this unassuming children's book, filled with the original details of the Brothers Grimm stories. The difference in these books is that the bloodshed is viewed so much as a story that it takes a good bit of the edge off. It feels more like a WWE wrestling match--fake and gaudy and fun--instead of feeling gritty, real, or disturbing.

“The oven became hotter and hotter, and Hansel began to sweat. Then a delicious smell wafted to his nostrils. Oh no! he thought. I'm cooking! He sniffed at the air. And I smell delicious!” 


3. Immortals series by Tamora Pierce

I recommended this book a few weeks ago on my Instagram feed for #FantasyFriday, but I'm recommending it again. Pierce got her start writing fantasy stories for troubled girls. As such, her books are filled with wonderful, strong, good hearted female characters. Daine is particularly intriguing since I'm pretty sure every little girl wishes she could speak to animals.

“Never break a promise to an animal. They're like babies—they won't understand.” 


4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I know, I know. This isn't a fantasy novel, you say. And you're right. But, one of the greatest things about Game of Thrones is George R. R. Martin's ability to write compelling, realistic female characters. "You know," he said when asked about it. "I've always considered [women] to be people." I know it seems crazy, but this is not an assumption all authors make. In light of that, I'm presenting to you the queen of writing women, Jane Austen. My favorite thing about her protagonists are that they're, ultimately, good people. They do everything in their power to do what is best for the people around them. They strive to be kind and compassionate. I don't think we see enough of that in modern writing.
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” 

5. The Tales of Alvin Maker series by Orscon Scott Card

Writer of Ender's Game, Card is a master of storytelling. I'm not sure what, exactly, it is about his craft that makes his stories so compelling, but he always does. This book is set in a re-imagined American West where some unknown force is trying to kill Alvin Maker over and over again. It's a fascinating, twisting read.

“A duel is just two murderers who agree to take turns trying to kill each other.” 

Are there any other books you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.

© 2017, Copyright Miriam Braud.  

While I try to post content warnings if I, personally, identify anything that I think is not appropriate for my students who range in age from 11-14, I recommend that all content is perused by parents to ensure that the individual and unique values of each family is upheld.

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