Top 10 Spunky Kid Teen Characters

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write about when I was asked by Colby Sharp to do a top 10 list for this blog.  I came up with my idea for spunky kid/teen characters because I have been reading some great YA and juvenile fiction with such wonderful characters.

So here is my list:

1. Katniss, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I loved Katniss for her fiery spirit even before she became the “girl on fire” in the Capital. She loves her family and her friends to the point that she does not even flinch when she volunteers to be in the gruesome games of the ruling class.  From the first chapter of the Hunger Games, I was a Team Katniss fan.  Her grit makes Katniss hard for some to like, but I found her steadfast rebellion throughout the book pleased me to no end. Katniss has an energy and determination that made her my #1 character on this list.

2. Auggie, Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I had not even heard of this book until I began reading some great book blogs like Wyz Reads, Sharpread, Lemme Library Blog aka The Book Butcher, and others. I think I also heard  about it on Twitter during a #titletalk chat.  I was intrigued by everyone’s review so I ordered a copy from Amazon and then took the plunge into Auggie’s world. WOW!  He is a typical fifth grade boy; oh wait, except that he has a facial deformity that makes others recoil from him.  Auggie uses his sense of humor, his compassion for others, and his winning charm to make friends in his new middle school.  Auggie is the kind of friend all middle school kids want to have and the kind that they all should be and that is why he is #2 on this list.

3. Babymouse, Queen of the World by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
Thanks to Colby Sharp and Mr. Schu I have fallen in love with this sassy, irrepressible character.  I love Babymouse!  She deals with the usual angst of tweens like not wanting to wake up in the morning, having a locker that refuses to cooperate, and learning how to get along with her peers.  But Babymouse’s overdeveloped imagination puts her in very interesting situations at least in her own mind.  She tends to daydream and then, of course, the teacher calls on her in class.  Babymouse has a great, spunky spirit that shows tweens (both girls and boys) how to deal with everyday issues like siblings, friends, and first dances.  For all of that, Babymouse comes in at #3 on this list.

4. Petra and Calder, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
I happened upon this book at my local library where in the children’s section the librarians have set up a “FIRST IN SERIES” table.   I picked up this book because I liked the cover and then when I read the blurb, I was hooked.  I loved getting to know Petra and Calder in this book as the sixth graders learned how to deal with their off-the-wall teacher, their families, their friendship, and an art mystery.  Blue Balliett did a great job of illustrating her characters through their actions and words, but she added so much more with her descriptions of the two friends.  One of the reasons I chose this pair of characters for my spunky list is that they are naturally curious and very focused on unraveling the mystery of the missing Vermeer painting.  They also work well together and complement the other–Petra is a master of words and language and Calder is the logical math guy.  Interestingly enough, it takes both of their skills and personalities to solve the mystery.  Petra and Calder are engaging, interesting kids whose personalities really shine through in the author’s description of them and that is why they share the #4 spot on this list.

5. Jenna, Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer
I loved Jenna Boller so much  in Rules of the Road that I scooped up the second book she was in as soon as I saw it.  Jenna is a teenager who thinks she is not pretty because she is a gangly 5 feet 11 inches in her bare feet at age 16. Dealing with being the daughter of an alcoholic father has truly shaped the person that Jenna has become. Although she and her sister live with their mom, any time their dad shows up, it is Jenna who sees him and tries to relate to him falling back into her caretaking role.  This caretaking part of Jenna’s personality allows her to take on the job of driving Mrs. Gladstone, the shoe store chain owner, from Chicago to Texas for a shareholders’ meeting.  Jenna learns lots about herself, how to relate to others, how to sell shoes, and other rules of the road on this summer journey.  Her perseverance and willingness to make things right makes her #5 on my spunky character list.

6. Tommy, The Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
I would never have gotten to know Tommy if I had not been part of #titletalk on Twitter since August 2011.  This book was recommended and I saw it at a book fair and thought I would give it a try.  Tommy writes the book from his point of view and in the form of a journal or case book.  He also includes comments and commentaries by his friends.  Tommy is a sixth grader who has a “friend,” Dwight who is a little strange. Actually Dwight is A LOT strange since he has an origami Yoda that he carries around and whips out periodically to give other kids advice.  Tommy and his friends really don’t get why Dwight does this since Dwight has practically no social skills and is somewhat of an embarrassment to the kids he hangs around.   Tommy puts up with some teasing from others, but continues to be Dwight’s friend. Tommy, in his spunky kid sort of way, realizes that while Yoda seems to give strange advice, sometimes the advice actually helps. Get to know Tommy, my #6 spunky kid character,  by reading this book!

7. Mozy, Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Josilyn Jackson
This is one I threw in from an adult book I was reading.  Mozy is the daughter of Liza who had her at 15 years old.  Liza is the daughter of Ginny who had her at the age of 15.  And this is the year that Mozy is 15 so both Liza and Ginny are ever watchful of Mozy during her trouble year. Mozy is a great student and has no romantic interest in boys. Her best friend, Roger, is a boy that skips school to hang out with her in her tree house in the back yard.  Mozy finds out some disturbing information about her family, but she weathers it and comes out of it a better person.  Mozy has gumption oozing from her pores in this novel about growing up in the South with a dysfunctional family who loves her. Her resolve and tenacity to solve her family’s secret makes Mozy my #7 entry on this list.

8. Foster, Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
This book opens with Foster and her mom leaving Memphis in a hurry to outrun an Elvis impersonator boyfriend.  Foster is a mixed race tween who cannot read very well, but who has a gift for cooking especially baking. She watches cooking shows on television and then can recreate the awesome foods they make.  Her memory for food, ingredients, and cooking is great; however, her memory is not so hot for remembering words or how to read them.   Foster has enough moxie to walk right into the local bar and grill and offer the owner free samples of her wares. She wins him over with her personality, but mostly with her baked goods.  Foster wants to learn to read and finds an unexpected helper in a reclusive actress who lives in town.  Foster cooks for the actress and the actress teaches Foster to read.  Foster’s focus on her dream of having her own cooking show, her unwillingness to let her fear of reading stand in her way, and her upbeat spirit make her #8 on this list.

9. Helmuth, The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Helmuth is a German teen during World War II and it may seem a bit odd to have him on this list, but he was a character I thought demonstrated backbone and moral fiber by his small acts of rebellion against the Nazi regime.  He is at first a believer in the Homeland Germany and all the efforts to purify it from the outside impurities of a post Depression Europe.  Then, Helmuth notices the wrongs and injustices that are being done to people he knows.  Bravely, he begins to listen to an illegal radio and gather “real” news from the BBC. At first, he just tells others about the reports he hears; then he decides to print flyers with news on it that most Germans do not know.  Helmuth, as the boy who dared, certainly deserves to be #9 on this list of spunky characters.

10.  Lena, Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Lena has spent her whole life believing that the deliria, otherwise known as love, will harm her so she looks forward to having her “procedure” where she will be made safe from the deliria once and for all.  But the summer after graduation and before her procedure stretches out before her.  Just 95 days before her procedure, she meets a boy and one thing leads to another and she falls in love with him. This act of rebellion is one that Lena’s society cannot tolerate so she must decide whether she will stay in the “safety” of a place that knows no love or if she will go to the other, outside world where so much is unknown.  Lena’s character is developed by her relationships with others as well as by her thoughts, words, and actions.  Lauren Oliver does a marvelous job of making Lena a character who knows that love is too important to let go. Lena makes this list at #10 for her courage and spirit to rage against the norms of her society.

So, good and gentle readers, there you have my list of the top 10 spunky Tween/Teen Characters for 2012 (so far).

Laurie Fowler is an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of West Alabama. She teaches technology integration and research courses; in addition, she has been sharing her love of literature for children and young adults with methods classes at UWA.  Laurie has been a member extraordinaire of the Nerdy Book Club since she learned to read in the early 1970s.  She loves a good book and hates to finish one because she truly befriends the characters she encounters. Check out her blog, Fresh Fowlers, at