My 12-year-old son is an avid reader and I'm often asked for recommendations from parents who wish their kids read more and/or who struggle to find a book that's as compelling as their phone/XBox/any electronic device.

Note: The Boy gravitates towards action/adventure, science fiction or fantasy. There are tons of other books out there and this list isn't comprehensive but, for what it's worth, these books were unputdownable. Also, most of these are YA vs. MG, so there may be some language, etc. A great place to get info on suggested age appropriateness is Common Sense Media.

I really want to read this book! The Boy read it when he was in a nonfiction phase and he kept telling me about it. We bought the Young Readers edition for a younger cousin for Christmas, too.

The first in a 3-book series. Sanderson is a popular author of adult fantasy and judging by the way The Boy devoured this series, his foray into YA is just as popular.


The Boy and I both read this in a day. Fabulous fantasy novel in the spirit of READY PLAYER ONE. There's a TINY bit of romance and maybe a kiss, but that's it.

This is rated appropriate for grade levels 5-8, and is an amazing story of a man and his dog, and the training military dogs go through. Great book for a dog lover.

Another big hit in our house! 3-book series are definitely a sweet spot and this one was riveting from the first book to the last. And, according to The Boy, the series has a happy ending. 

The Boy LOVED this series. Mystery, adventure, friendship, and -- to hear him tell it -- just enough suspense to make it unputdownable.

Fantasy series with magic, mystery and an eclectic cast of characters. These books are on the longer side, but when The Boy read them last year he said they were the best books he'd ever read. So.

Book 1 in a series. Virals seemed to start off a little slow, but after about 20%, The Boy could NOT put this down, a trend that has continued through all 5 books.


Robert Muchamore is a UK-based author who's wildly popular in the UK and relatively unknown in the US for some reason. Time to rectify that b/c The Cherub Series is 17 books long and The Boy devoured them!

This is an 11-book series and available as a box set. The Boy was riveted enough to read all 11 books, but it may be better to start with one or two. Also, Stormbreaker has been made into a film so "if you read the book, you can watch the movie" works.

Rick Riordan is an auto-buy in our house and this series -- focused on Norse mythology -- is a clear winner. Book 3 is out now, but new releases tend to happen in September, so it can feel like a long wait.

The Henderson Boys series is a prequel to the Cherub series, taking place in the WW2 era. FWIW, The Boy read this series AFTER he read the Cherub series and seemed to appreciate it more that way.

One of the few standalones The Boy has read and raved about this year. Basically, it sounds like Fight Club in zero gravity. What's not to like?