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Parents of teens know it can be hard to find great books for your kids. You want them to read literature that’s uplifting and hopefully even virtue-building, but you know they won’t pick up anything that hints of being cheesy or boring. What’s a parent to do?
The good news is that other Catholic parents have noticed the same problem, and a group of them got together to create a problem-solving resource: Catholic Teen Books.
Catholic Teen Books (CTB) is both a website and a movement. It started in 2017 when a small group of authors wanted to provide great reading material for their own kids, and since then, the movement has grown to include award-winning writers.
Leslea Wahl, one of the founders of CTB along with Susan Peek, said in an interview with Aleteia: “We vet every book on our site to ensure high quality writing and to make sure that all the books match with the teaching of the Catholic Church. We are all dedicated to offering edifying adventures to teens to help them grow in their faith.”
Along with actual books, CTB offers the following array of impressive resources:
- Site search for books by genre or age appropriateness
- Helpful Content Guidelines so parents can preview topics in each book
- A monthly newsletter sharing new releases and sales
- A blog with articles for teens
- The Faith Through Fiction video series, which explores topics teens face and offers related book suggestions
- A catalog with digital or physical copies available
- Themed book packs
- A “find your book match” form
- Several book-club-in-a-box options
- Author availability for in-person or Zoom talks for schools or book clubs
What more could you ask for? In case you’d like to know a little more, let’s hear from some CTB authors.
Corinna Turner, author of the Carnegie Medal-nominated series I Am Margaret, said in an interview:
Catholic Teen Books seeks to touch the hearts and minds of teens in the same way the Master Storyteller did — through stories. Jesus taught in parables, and Catholic Teen Books’ authors embrace the modern equivalent — fiction. Through gripping, challenging, heart-warming novels, we aim to touch the heart and soul, as well as the mind.
Another author, Sarah Robsdottir, doesn’t just want to place great Catholic fiction in the teens’ hands; she also wants to engage teens in big social justice issues. Her two-time 2023 Catholic Media Association Award winning debut novel Brave Water entertains while educating teens about human trafficking in a non-scandalizing manner; 25% of the book’s proceeds benefit Cross Catholic Outreach. She said:
As Christians, our lives are meant to be evangelistic by nature. While a book certainly isn’t required to include social justice issues in order to make it “Catholic,” if an author has a chance to deal with pressing issues of our day in an enlightening manner, it’s a great way to be the “salt and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-15).
A mom of teens herself, Robsdottir shared her experience using CTB with her kids.
My kids and I have enjoyed many titles from CTB immensely. We all took the CTB quiz to help us hone in on books we were most likely to love, and it was very helpful (especially with finding Christmas gifts this year!). So far, The Harwood Mysteries and a few of the books about saints have been the biggest hits.
I want people to know that there’s a group of writers passionate about spreading God’s love through excellence in fiction. For years, when I thought “Catholic Fiction,” Tolkien would come to mind. His work is amazing, but how many times can I read Lord of the Rings? My teens wanted more variety, and I had to trust the content I was giving them. CTB has filled these needs.
Robsdottir mentioned how much her family loved The Harwood Mysteries from author Antony Kolenc, and Kolenc shared his thoughts with Aleteia as well.
“Reading and imagination are a gateway to the hearts and souls of our youth,” he said. “The authors of CTB are united in producing outstanding literature that is incredibly entertaining but also consistent with Christian faith and morals.”
Kolenc’s favorite thing about CTB is the incredible variety of books — and the response from Catholic parents.
“Once parents and teens find our website and our books, they are thrilled at the kinds of award-winning novels available for their youth in such diverse areas as futuristic dystopian thrillers to science fiction adventures to teen romance novels,” he said. “You name it, there is a CTB author writing it.”
Today 16 authors are part of CTB and growing, with more books being released every year.
“The most important point — and our most difficult challenge — is making CatholicTeenBooks.com a household name among discerning families,” Kolenc said.
If you’re a teen, a parent or grandparent of teens, a youth minister, a teacher or administrator at a Catholic high school, or spend time with teens in any way, CTB might be just the go-to book resource you need. Hopefully more teens and their loved ones can find out about CTB so they can be entertained, edified, and educated.