Is Your Daughter Ready for YA?

Momservation: It’s hard to get mad at a kid hiding under the covers to read.

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Like me, my eleven year-old daughter loves to read. She loves a good book like her brother loves a good SportsCenter highlight.

As her appetite for books grows and her reading ability advances it’s been harder and harder to find her quality books that meet her maturity level.

Though she thoroughly enjoyed them, she’s blown past Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Lightning Thief series. Harry Potter was great, but now it’s over. Hunger Games was a perfect preteen series with just a touch of romance, but the action is what took center stage.

When my daughter, a 6th grader, brought home from her middle school library the book, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I at first protested before letting her read it (I had read and enjoyed it years ago). That’s because one of the four storylines involved premarital sex. But since the book had other more benign and moving plotlines, and was generally an uplifting story of friendship, I relented. I wouldn’t let her see the movie though (to which she is still negotiating with me).

Basically my daughter wants a good story without all the mushy stuff. It’s hard to find. And I find myself asking, “At what point do you let your preteen daughter read books that everyone is reading, like Twilight, where love and desire are central to the plot? How long can I hold her back from the mature themes of popular reading?”

I thought a good person to pose this question to was my long-time friend (Since 3rd grade! Dozens of viewings of Sixteen Candles together! Have discussed every topic under the sun together!) and Young Adult author, Janine Caldwell.

Me and long-time friend, Janine, at 20-year high school reunion

Me and long-time friend, Janine, at 20-year high school reunion

Janine has published two Young Adult (YA) Fantasy novels in her Vortex series—REMATCH and DOUBLE FAULT. Inspired by the Twilight series and the teenagers in the bible study group she led, Janine decided to put her English degree to use and fulfill her dream of becoming a fantasy author. She also stuck true to her Christian beliefs and decided to have the characters of her novels mirror her own values of sexual abstinence.

I eagerly read both her books when they came out and was delighted to find that my childhood companion and slumber party confidante had turned into a wonderful author! (Reviews to follow at bottom.)

And quite knowledgeable about the YA genre. Here’re her answers to questions I posed to her about making the transition from Juvenile reading to YA:

At what age do you think it’s appropriate for girls to read YA novels that involve romantic themes?

This is a difficult question to answer because of the extreme variation in YA today, especially with new-adult fiction now an option. New-adult fiction (NA) is considered post-adolescent literature for young adults. I’ve read a few NA novels and was shocked at the mature content. As far as straight YA fiction, I’ve read traditionally published and self-published books I would never want my young, impressionable teen to read because of sexual content and expletive language. Other YA novels, however, are on the opposite end. They can be innocent and may even slide near middle grade content. My point is, parents have to learn what authors they can trust if they’re worried about exposing their young teens to content they aren’t ready for. Trusting a big name publisher is not enough these days.

Do you consider your Vortex series suitable for preteen readers? Why or why not?

The Vortex Series, in my opinion, is considered clean YA. It’s a morally-based fantasy romance. I feel it’s appropriate for readers 6th grade and up due to themes that lightly touch on premarital sex. However, the strongest theme of the series plays on the concept of what one would do if they could relive their life. How they would change it and would it be for the better.

So there you go. As with most things parental—do your homework, be informed, stay involved. Otherwise your kids are on their own for their sex education (for me it was V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic series—anyone remember that one?)

So I’m passing on Janine’s books to my daughter for a good YA read (which, BTW, my adult friends have greatly enjoyed) and I’m off to rent Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to review and refresh my memory. It can’t be worse than what she’s exposed to in middle school…

RematchFINALHere’s how to buy Janine Caldwell’s REMATCH:

Amazon (Paperback)

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes and Noble







DoubleFaultFINALHere’s how to buy Janine Caldwell’s DOUBLE FAULT:

Amazon (Paperback)

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes and Noble




Here’s my Amazon review of REMATCH:

REMATCH, the first book in YA author Janine Caldwell’s Vortex Series, is a great new twist in the popular science fiction/fantasy genre aimed at young adults. The book has a unique and interesting plot – a reluctant time traveling teen yearns for a regular life but is committed to his higher responsibility of saving lives in danger. When he falls in love with a girl he went back to the past to save, he is torn between letting down his guard to finally find fulfillment and happiness or sacrificing everything in the name of love to right his past mission failure.

Both guys and girls will like this book. Guys will want to be good-looking and good guy rocker, Trent, and girls will want to be the talented natural beauty, Cassie, that Trent falls for. REMATCH moves quickly with an engaging plot and snappy dialogue. Caldwell weaves into the story normal issues and anxieties that high school teens face as they try to navigate their way to adulthood as well as upping the ante with an exciting premise of living a supernatural life.

I found REMATCH more satisfying than its inspiration, TWILIGHT—with its never-ending adversity and tension. This book is refreshingly without frustrating and torturous plot twists as the characters are allowed to communicate intelligently in mature interactions. Readers will find its dealings with dating, socializing, parental expectations, and first love more relatable among the fantasy of heroic time travel.

Here’s a partial review of DOUBLE FAULT from book review site Just My Opinion:

DOUBLE FAULT is the follow up to REMATCH which ended up being a surprise favorite of mine. As with REMATCH, the action, plotline and ingenious premise dragged me into DOUBLE FAULT before I could even take a breath. The science fiction aspect comes into play a bit more with the story this time around as you realize the repercussions to actions taken in REMATCH and how they have changed the characters’ lives and futures.

DOUBLE FAULT is an eternal struggle for the characters to live this new life they have carved out while fighting against memories of a more perfect past. In the end, there is an even more flawless future possible, but choices will have to be made to reach it.

Combine fantastic and intriguing characters with lots of action and a “once in a lifetime” love story and what you expect other than perfection? This is clearly a book with the potential for a third installment and I am counting the minutes until it’s available!


    • kellimwheeler says:

      Thanks M-E. And you’re right – it used to be Judy Blume’s FOREVER if you wanted mature content or jump to adult romance novels. I’m seeing a niche that needs to be filled here…

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  1. Chase McFadden says:

    It’s such an awesome sight to see your own kids take off as readers. Slim got a little reading light from his grandparents for Christmas, and he’s been caught on a couple occasions late at night pouring through the Percy Jackson books under his covers. I love it.

    As a middle school teacher, I was always trying to get my students into books, but there was the tricky balance of interest level vs. appropriateness, particularly when it involved someone else’s child.

    One author I (and my students) really liked was Jordan Sonnenblick ( I read his books Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie and the sequel After Ever After to my students and they were enjoyed by both girls and boys. The writing is humorous, heartfelt, and age-appropriate for middle level kids.

    Good luck!

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Thanks for your thoughts on this Chase and the great lead on a good author!

      I’ve actually run into what you’re talking about but with movies (and movie versions of books). I’m in charge of Movie Night for the 6th graders and finding an appropriate movie that will also interest them, without upsetting the parents is a tough tightrope to walk. I was able to show the Lightning Thief but not Hunger Games – which is interesting because most of the kids have read those books.

      I love that Slim is a night light reader! I’ve had a hard time getting my son to read. But I found if we read books, like Lightning Thief, where he can see the movie after, it’s a great motivator. Sounds like Slim will join the Book is Always Better Club if he loves to read!

  2. Elise says:

    I have an 8th grade daughter who doesn’t particularly enjoy reading, so I am always trying to find books that will grab her attention but will also meet my requirements for being appropriate. It is so hard to find both! Thanks for the interview and recommendations.

    • kellimwheeler says:

      You’re welcome Elise! I think it’s harder to find good, unromantic YA for girls because it usually leaves fantasy and sci-fi that girls (generally) aren’t into. That’s why I like Janine’s books. The fantasy/sci-fi is compelling and interesting and she’s tried to create a book that espouses Christian values.

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