Top Ten Things That Make a Fifteen-Year-Old Girl Want to Read a Book (and Finish it)

A number of years ago, I started a series I called “Ten On…” where I asked young readers of a specific age what they liked to see in books (usually after bribing them with cupcakes). For example, for one post I interviewed a group of ten-year-old girls, and in another, I put thirteen-year-old boys under the spotlight. Each time, answers were collated and listed in order of importance to the group (sometimes after much debate between individuals).

I thought I’d revisit this concept by bringing together a group of readers in the middle of their young-adult years, a group starting to earn their own money – and wanting to spend it. So last week, I sat down with eight fifteen-year-old girls and asked them one question (well, two questions, depending on how you look at it) :

What makes you want to read a book (and actually finish it)?

Now all I can say about these girls is that they are astute, know what they want – and eat a lot of cupcakes.

Here are their top ten responses, counting down from tenth to first:

10. Action – not the type you see in a going-on-a-quest adventure (“They’re for young kids,” one said). More like the action you find in battle (“Girls like them too”) along with running-to-escape or hurrying-to-solve-a-problem scenarios.

9. Blurb – those words on the back of the book must be catchy and creative.

8. A strong supporting cast of characters – they must be “as interesting as the protagonist.” I LOVED this comment! Supporting characters must also have a pretty good reason to be in the story.

7. Title – like the blurb, the title must be catchy and creative. There was general consensus among the girls that too many books have similar – even the same – titles, which is confusing and boring.

6. Cover Page – needs to match the story (“There’s nothing worse than liking a cover but finding out it has nothing to do with the story.”) Realistic covers were preferred over animated/cartoon (“We’re not little kids.”)

5. Plot twists – this groups yearns for the unexpected (“I hate it when I guess what’s going to happen.”)

4. Identifiable settings – real-world settings are in. The number one choice of setting was the school environment, not boarding school but “regular school”, as one put it. Out-of-this-world or epic fantastical settings did not make the grade at all (see what I did there? ūüėČ )

3. Sixteen to eighteen-year-old protagonists – the protagonist should be no younger than twelve and no older than twenty. Sixteen to eighteen was the sweet spot, which fits in with the generally-accepted writing rule that readers tend to read a couple of years up. An interesting aside: When it came to the protagonist, no one had a preference for one gender over another. I wonder if a group of boys this age would feel the same???

2. Romance – ahh, the wish for love interests is kicking in with this age group, but also with a caveat: Any romance must be relevant to the story. (“No kissing just for the heck of it.”) Smart girls!

And (drum roll…) the top answer was:

1. Elements of fantasy – not what I was expecting, but the group was clear: They LOVE seeing fantasy elements in real-world settings in stories. Magic systems in OUR world are officially cool. “But what about contemporary stories?” I asked. Answers ran along the lines of, “We get enough of that at school”, “Contemporary can be boring”, “It’s okay but…” and one girl simply screwed up her nose and shook her head.

So for those saying YA fantasy is out with readers…um, maybe it’s not? Not if it’s set in our world, anyway.

An important point to remember: While this was a culturally-diverse group, it was very small in number. Only eight, in fact. But the responses are quite interesting, don’t you think?


Top Ten Things Ten-Year-Old Girls Would Like to See More of in Books

Last week, a group of thirteen-year-old boys told me¬†what they’d like to see in books. If you missed it, you¬†can read¬†it here:

Today, girls get their say.

Rhiannon Reading on Trampoline1

Only this time, I chose a slightly younger age. Not only did I want to see if gender made any significant difference to the requests, but also if middle grade preferences were vastly different to young adult.

So I gathered a group of eight ten-year-old girls and, after they’d had their fill of cupcakes and cookies, asked them to come up with their top five answers to the same question I’d put to¬†the boys:

‚ÄúWhat would you like to see more of in books?‚ÄĚ

These are their top responses, from tenth to first:

10. Magic spells

9. Scary setting, like haunted houses

8. More pictures in chapter books

7. Sport stories – netball and equestrian were specifically mentioned

6. Bad guys not losing so easy (one girl even wanted the¬†bad guys to “sometimes” win in the end)

5. Mysteries, not only in terms of plot but also in settings

4. Humour

3. Princess stories

2. Fashion industry settings

And the top answer was…

1. More drama (conflict) between friends, especially best friends

So there you have it. I must admit, I thought the top answer was very¬†interesting. While the young adult boys’ top answer was humour and wisecracking jokes, the middle grade girls wanted friendships to be tested. Make of that¬†what you will.

Happy writing,


The two groups used for this purpose were quite small, both only being eight in number. Do you think their answers accurately reflect the thoughts of young adult boys and middle grade girls in general? And why do you think their top answer is so different?

Top Ten Things Thirteen-Year-Old Boys Would Like to See More of in Books

Hi all,

Welcome to my Ten On… series, where I pose a question to a group of readers for their top ten answers on a topic.

Ten On

The¬†manuscript I am currently working on is a contemporary fantasy novel targeted at the lower end of the young adult market i.e. twelve to fifteen-year-old readers. After being¬†told by a publishing industry insider¬†last week¬†that, “Boys don’t want to read the same ‘types’ of books boys¬†read twenty years ago” (a big generic statement, I know), I thought I’d get a group of thirteen-year-old boys together and put one question to them. I chose eight boys and asked them to each come up with five answers, without talking to or showing their companions,¬†to the question below:

“What would you like to see more of in books?”

These are their top responses, from tenth to first:

10. Settings in out-of-space, but not necessary including aliens

9. Heroes and villains that aren’t too obvious/stereotypical eg. one boy said they could¬†have similar personalities¬†(this one I find especially interesting)

8. Settings in fantasy worlds reached through portals

7. Protagonists with major anger issues (another interesting one)

6. Medieval settings with dragons and knights

5. Race against time quests

4. Action fights

3. Twists that aren’t obvious – like to try to solve them

2. Protagonists they wish they could be like eg. due to their special powers or to their brains, courage or strength

and the top answer (drum roll please….)

1. Humour, humour, humour (yep, including that down-in-the-gutter type)

Hmm, now I don’t know about you, but I’d say that pretty much all of the above can be found in books dating back…forever?

Books really are timeless, don’t you think?

Happy writing,