Literary Orphans For Tweens and Teens

Back in December, I shared a reading challenge that I created for staff (and am now sharing with all of you!) Throughout the year, I’d like to include a list of blog posts that share suggested titles for some of the prompts.

The titles on this list all fit the prompt “A Book About an Orphan”

I recently reread Anne of Green Gables and was so pleased to see that despite the long years in between, Anne was still just as charming as I remembered. Siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert are getting on in years, so the pair decide it’s time to adopt a young boy to help out around Green Gables. But, there’s a mix-up, and when the painfully shy Matthew goes to the train station to pick up the child, he’s shocked to find a little girl waiting for him instead. The girl, whose name is Anne, has carrot-red hair, is brimming with personality, and is so excited to be adopted…until she realizes that this whole thing was a mistake. Spoiler alert: the Cuthberts decide to keep her, and what follows is a delightful series of misadventures, laughter, and tears, and growing up. Anne of Green Gables is a lovely book (the first in a series!) that I highly recommend to readers of all ages (both guys and gals). If you enjoyed reading this book, consider checking out the sequel (there are a total of nine books!), Anne of Avonlea.

Fruits Basket is a manga (Japanese comic book) series about Tohru Honda, a young woman with no family, who ingratiates herself into the lives of the Sohma clan after setting up her tent (she’s homeless) on their property. The Sohma’s have a very big secret: the family bloodline has been cursed. When a member of their family is embraced by someone of the opposite sex, they turn into a creature from the Chinese zodiac! In exchange for their kindness towards her, Tohru vows to help the family to break their curse–if she can only figure out how. At the heart of the story is a fierce rivalry between cousins Yuki and Kyo, who are possessed by the spirits of the Rat and the Cat, respectively. As the Chinese legend states that the Cat lost his place in the Zodiac due to the Rat’s treachery, Yuki and Kyo have become fierce rivals–a struggle with is made even more complicated when both realize they are falling in love with Tohru.

A Wish in the Dark actually made an appearance on a previous post of mine, when we talked about the 2021 Newbery Award Winner (and honorees). While this was not the big winner, it did get nominated, which is certainly still something to be quite proud of. This tale is a very loose retelling of Les Misérables, about what happens to a person haunted by their past, and desperate to escape. All the light in Chattana is created by the Governor, who appeared after the great fire. Pong was born in Namwon Prison and dreams of a life in the light, but after his daring escape, he realizes that this new world outside is no better than the prison he came from, as the wealthy live in the light and the poor toil in the darkness. Because of his prison tattoos, Pong is literally branded a criminal and a fugitive who can never truly be free. Nok is the daughter of the prison warden who has made it her mission to track down Pong and clear her family name. But, as she relentlessly hunts for the boy, she realizes that there is more to the world than what she has been taught, forcing her to question everything she has ever known.

On the surface, it might be hard to understand the appeal of A Series of Unfortunate Events, since each story follows the same basic plot of a trio of orphans being hunted by a very wicked man as they get passed around from relative to relative, following the mysterious death of their parents. In book 1, The Bad Beginning, the three Baudelaire children, Viola, Klaus, and Sunny are sent to live with distant relative Count Olaf, a creepy, short-tempered man who is clearly more interested in the Baudelaire fortune than in the Baudelaires themselves. But, through their wit and ingenuity, they just might be able to outsmart his fiendish plans…until the next book. So, I said at the beginning that it was hard to see the appeal of this series…on the surface. The books sound pretty dark. But, they are actually incredibly funny, with quick-witted writing, lots of puns, and some really suspenseful storylines. As a kid, I simply devoured these. The series ended in 2006 with the publication of the thirteenth and final book, so, grab a stack of these fascinating stories and find yourself lost in the pages for hours at a time. This is a series that is well-worth reading.

As a staple of high school English classes everywhere, Jane Eyre tends to illicit two different reactions from readers: Ugh, I’m being forced to read this? and This was one of my favorite books as a teen! I hope after reading it, you’re of the second school of thought. Jane Eyre is a beautiful, bittersweet, but ultimately hopeful story of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world. Despite all the suffering and adversity that life throws at her, Jane manages to come back again and again, each time more resilient than before. From living with her abusive aunt, to the cruelties of boarding school, and eventually to Thornfield Hall where she falls in love (against her better judgement) with her employer, the cantankerous Edward Rochester, Jane perseveres in her story in the hope of finding happiness. This Gothic novel is full of suspense, drama, and secrets, and kept me on the edge of my seat!

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.