Too young for Battle School?

Ender's Game
Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic for teens and adults.  Tweens may be attracted to it, too, due to the new movie.  Here are some books for younger readers with similar themes (war in space, video games that are too real for comfort, and young science fiction heroes):

Z. Rex
Z. Rex by Stephen Cole
What would make a T. Rex better?  How about invisibility?  That’s what Adam’s father thought when he created an enhanced dinosaur for a virtual reality game, but now he is missing– and the dinosaur is loose.

Sky Jumpers
Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman
In this fast-paced story, Hope and her friends travel through a dangerous postwar landscape after bandits attack their village.

Behind the Gates
Behind the Gates (Tomorrow Girls series) by Eva Gray
Four friends are selected for an isolated boarding school that features survival skills classes– but all is not as it seems.

Saving Thanehaven
Saving Thanehaven by Catherine Jinks
Noble lives a life of constant battles… until he learns he is a character in a video game and may have a chance to break free.

Bot Wars
Bot Wars by J. V. Kade
In a futuristic world where humans and robots are at war, a boy goes on a search to find his missing military father.

The Planet Thieves
The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos
On a routine voyage aboard an Academy spaceship, thirteen-year-old Mason Stark and his fellow cadets are attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last sixty years.

Daniel X
Daniel X novels by James Patterson
In this suspenseful series, fifteen-year-old Daniel follows in his parents’ footsteps as the Alien Hunter, exterminating Alien Outlaws.

The Time Hackers
The Time Hackers by Gary Paulsen
When someone uses futuristic technology to play pranks on twelve-year-old Dorso Clayman, he and his best friend set off on a supposedly impossible journey through space and time trying to stop the gamesters who are endangering the universe.

Only You Can Save Mankind
Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
Johnny finds himself in a strange situation when the enemy alien in a computer game surrenders to him and asks for safe passage– and all the aliens mysteriously disappear from all the other copies of the games.

Brainboy and the Deathmaster
Brainboy and the Deathmaster by Tor Seidler
When Darryl, a twelve-year-old orphan, is adopted by a technology genius, he finds himself the star of his very own life-threatening video game.

Realm of Ghosts
Realm of Ghosts by Jason Strange
A virtual battle between two gamers could mean death IRL.

Heir Apparent
Heir Apparent by Vivian
While playing a total immersion virtual reality game of kings and intrigue, fourteen-year-old Giannine learns that demonstrators have damaged the equipment to which she is connected, and she must win the game quickly or be damaged herself.

Some readers might want to explore the idea of child soldiers like Ender.  For a look at child soldiers in history, try

When Johnny Went Marching
When Johnny Went Marching: Young Americans Fight the Civil War by G. Clifton Wisler, which describes a variety of real people from nurses to drummer boys to spies.

School Library Journal’s recent article on Children of War also recommends some stories about child soldiers (for teen readers) as well as books about children with other war experiences (soldiers’ children, refugees, and children living in war zones).

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