Tween

10 Positive Thinking Reads for Tweens

by Iva-Marie Palmer

positive thinking
Image credit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

Though some agree that happiness is something you actively choose, rather than are, that can often be a hard concept for adults to grasp, let alone kids. No two of these books tell the same story, but they all promote the value of a positive outlook ­— whether through seeking connection, embracing a challenge, processing grief, or weathering life-upending change.

The characters in these novels for tweens are often not living easy lives, but each one finds a way to face trials and heartbreaks with strength and vulnerability. Readers will be inspired by the myriad ways kids in these novels show resilience and spirit in the face of tough things, showing that a positive outlook doesn’t find a person; a person must cultivate it, even in the darkest times.

  • It's the End of the World as I Know It

    by Matthew Landis

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    The novel’s protagonist Derrick is an eighth-grader whose mother died in Iraq, and who now spends his time preparing for the end of the world and little else. Meanwhile, his neighbor Misty just had a kidney transplant and her approach is to do as much as possible. Landis’s characters deal with complicated emotions in ways both humorous and poignant, and the book will uplift tweens facing anxious moments in their own lives.

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  • Parked

    by Danielle Svetcov

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    Jeanne Ann lives in a van, and Cal lives in a huge house. Jeanne Ann is also stubborn, so when Cal wants to help her, she’s resistant. Tweens will be drawn in to the lives of the characters, and the message of Svetcov’s debut novel will stick with them: That extending a helping hand – and accepting one – are some of the most positive, hopeful things we can do in the world.

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  • Pixie Pushes On

    by Tamara Bundy

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    In this historical novel set during World War II, Pixie deals with her problems – which include her beloved sister going into quarantine with polio – by lashing out at her classmates with rude nicknames. Then, she starts to care for a runt baby lamb, Buster, and the patience the job requires puts things into perspective. Bundy’s sweet, funny book shows the value of not believing too strongly in your own bad luck.

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  • Wink

    by Rob Harrell

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    While every tween has fears about surviving middle school, Ross Maloy, the main character of Wink, has actual survival fears when he’s diagnosed with a rare eye cancer. He definitely wasn’t banking on being “the cancer kid.” Harrell’s novel features lots of spot art and comic panels, keeping this emotional book fun and quirky despite the heavy subject matter. There’s also great lessons to be learned about the value of not fitting in and celebrating life’s strange turns.

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  • The List of Things That Will Not Change

    by Rebecca Stead

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    Every book by Stead could fit on this list, as she’s made a career out of thoughtful, empathetic novels for young people. Her latest revolves around Bea, a list-making 10-year-old whose father is soon remarrying his boyfriend, giving her the sister she always wanted. Stead’s talent at giving voice to the inner workings of tween minds makes it impossible not to connect with Bea as she tries to make sense of her changing life.

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  • The Line Tender

    by Kate Allen

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    Lucy Everhart lost her mother, a shark researcher, when she was seven, and while she and her father have managed to survive with help from friends and neighbors, Lucy’s not prepared for a fresh wave of grief at age 12 when a best friend is also taken from her. In this debut, Allen weaves together the story of how sharks and humans each adapt. Her story of navigating grief and change is both life-affirming and moving.

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  • Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened

    by Emily Blejwas

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    Justin is a kid who feels like he’ll never understand what’s going on in his life. Since he lost his father, everyone he knows seems like a mystery to him, and he’s frustrated at people acting like life is just fine when he knows it’s not. Justin makes new discoveries about himself as he sorts out what he can know and what will remain unknowable. Tweens needn’t have experienced grief like Justin’s to relate to this book’s hopeful spirit.

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  • My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

    by Ibi Zoboi

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    Set in Harlem in 1984, award-winning young adult author Ibi Zoboi’s middle-grade debut is at turns playful and poignant. Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has to spend a few weeks away from Huntsville, Alabama, and the NASA engineer grandfather who raised her, to live with her father in Harlem. One of the things she brings with her is a heavily nurtured love for all things sci-fi. Though she at first avoids her new neighbors and resides in her daydreams, she eventually discovers that her way-out-there imagination actually helps her connect with her new locale. A great read for tweens who could use a reminder that their quirks are also their superpowers.

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  • Echo Mountain

    by Lauren Wolk

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    Set during the Great Depression, Wolk’s novel centers on Ellie — a girl forced to move to the forests of the titular mountain when financial ruin claims everything her family has. But when an accident puts her father in a coma, Ellie decides to go in search of the healing powers of a woman who lives at the mountaintop, known only as “the hag.” Ellie’s ingenuity and the kindness of those around, all during a time of great struggle, will prove inspiring to young readers.

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  • In Your Shoes

    by Donna Gephart

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    This novel, about an unexpected friendship between its young characters, will touch tweens who are sorting through the many worries and anxieties that accompany growing up. The story is told in the alternating points-of-view of Amy, who lives with her uncle above his funeral home as her father studies to get his mortuary science credentials, and Miles, who spends all his free time at the bowling alley his grandfather owns and refuses to change. As the title suggests, readers will find much to empathize with as they slip into these characters’ shoes.

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