One of the fun challenges of working in the Teen Services area is matching up a patron's reading level with books that, based on content and themes, will be meaningful to them and to their everyday lives. Obviously, what is meaningful to a 12- or 13-year old is not necessarily what is meaningful to a 17- or 18-year old, and when those young people read above or below their age level, finding just the right fit can become even more complicated.
A fiction series that I frequently recommend for teens who are not accustomed to reading a full-length book is the Orca Soundings series by Orca Book Publishers. According to the publisher's website, "Orca Soundings are short high-interest novels with contemporary themes, written expressly for teens reading below grade level." These trim paperbacks are approximately 100 pages each, and can easily fit into a back pocket. Some recent titles acquired by KPL include: Learning to Fly by Paul Yee, dealing with such themes as drug use, bullying and racism; and Lockdown by Diane Tullson, which addresses school violence. Other titles in the series address themes common to contemporary young adult fiction such as relationships, body image, music, and sexual identity.