Summer Reading, summer snoozing–some teens can’t seem to tell the difference when it comes to a recommended list. The last thing many young adults want is someone telling them what to read, especially during vacation time. Entice your students with new, high-interest titles that are both literary and potential crowd pleasers. Mermaids, bullies, man-eating insects, villains, heroes, robots, and cheerleaders abound in this selection that’s guaranteed to garner their attention. Classics are cool, but so are these contemporary titles with literary chops.
Carleson, J.C. The Tyrant’s Daughter. (Random House, 2014).
Gr 9 Up-Lila, the daughter of a Middle Eastern dictator murdered in a coup, doesn’t find out the extent of her late father’s crimes until she and her mother and brother are safely out of the country, and is horrified to learn the truth. They land in America, where the teen doesn’t understand the rules and begins to suspect your mother is collaborating with the enemy. Can Laila keep a foot in both worlds and still maintain her identity? Or will she be pulled apart by the secrets of a frightening adult world that she is just beginning to understand?
Greenberg, Jan & Sandra Jordan. The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius. (Roaring Brook, 2013).
Gr 5 Up–Ohr, an eccentric Mississippian and a relentless self-promoter, claimed to be the greatest art potter on Earth. His stunning legacy proved him correct. This slim volume provides a fascinating introduction to his life and art, and features numerous quotes, period sepia images, and close-up color photos of his famed “mud babies.”
Hartzler, Aaron. Rapture Practice. (Little, Brown, 2013).
Gr 8 Up-Aaron Hartzler had no idea what kind of trouble he’d get into once he started questioning his family’s Evangelical Christian beliefs. Soon, he’s living a double life, feeling a little sick in church on Sunday after partying on Saturday nights. The teen knows that if his parents discover his new extracurricular activities, he’s going to be in hot water. But he just can’t stop. A true story of faith, love, and family.
Johnson, Alaya Dawn. The Summer Prince. (Scholastic, 2013).
Gr 9 Up-In the future matriarchal Brazilian city of Palmares Tres, 17-year-old June has fallen for hard for Enki, the newly elected Summer King. Unfortunately, Enki’s doomed to die in a year as part of a sacrificial ritual to ensure the continued good fortune of the city. But June can’t stop herself from nursing her crush by creating public political art with her condemned friend, which catches the unwelcome attention of the authorities and places them both in serious danger.
Konigsberg, Bill. Openly Straight. (Scholastic, 2013).
Gr 8 Up-Rafe thinks he can finally be free of “that gay kid” label when he convinces his parents to enroll him in an all-boys boarding school. There, he can reinvent himself and become “one of the guys.” But the unexpected happens–Rafe falls in love, and must choose between staying under the radar or coming clean and risking everything. Sometimes playing it straight is more complicated than it seems.
Lewis, John & Andrew Aydin. March. Bk. 1. (Top Shelf, 2013). illus. by Nate Powell.
Gr 8 Up–Congressman John Lewis was a hero of the Civil Rights Movement. In this stunning graphic novel, he recounts his childhood in Alabama and his early entry into activism. From depictions of nonviolent protests to images of Lewis on Capitol Hill, Powell’s powerful black-and-white illustrations convey the turmoil–and hope–of the tumultuous time. Riveting history, delivered with style.
Lockhart, E. We Were Liars. (Random House, 2014).
Gr 9 Up-This contemporary story of a three adult sisters vying for their aged father’s substantial inheritance, (in the form of a private island with three luxurious summer homes), reads like King Lear with a dose of Gossip Girl. Told from the point of view of the eldest granddaughter who’s suffering from amnesia, the author blends mystery, romance, and family drama in equal measure to create the perfect suspenseful summer read. There’s no preparing for the shocker of an ending.
Madison, Bennett. September Girls. (HarperCollins, 2013).
Gr 9 Up-After Sam’s mom splits, he’s left on his own to deal with his devastated father and obnoxious frat boy brother. When his dad decides the best thing for the family is move them to the beach for the summer, Sam meets the intoxicating DeeDee, and her army of super model blonde sisters. Who are these stunning girls with strange names and golden hair? And why are they always following him? In this otherworldly novel, Sam discovers that some fairy tales are real.
Medina, Meg. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. (Candlewick, 2013).
Gr 9 Up-Piddy Sanchez has only been at her new school in Queens, New York, for five weeks when she hears through the grapevine that “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.” Piddy, who has never met Yaqui, tries at first to figure out on her own how to deal with the girl’s violent bullying campaign. Readers will be rooting for the immensely likable Piddy as she gets her brave on and seeks the support she needs to stop the harassment in this all-too-realistic novel.
Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl.(St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013).
Gr 9 Up-Cath and Wren may be twins, but as they start college, they couldn’t be more different. Cath is the quiet, fan fiction writer while Wren is determined to become a freshman party girl. As each girl struggles to establish their identity without the other, they fall in love, fall out with each other and relearn how to be both sisters and friends. A perfect summer read for high school graduates looking for a preview of college life.
Ryan, Sara. Bad Houses. (Dark Horse, 2013). illus. by Carla Speed McNeil.
Gr 9 Up-Hope is hard to find in the small town of Failin, Oregon, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In this character-driven graphic novel, Ann is desperate to escape her mother’s home, which has become a hoarder’s prison, while Lewis longs to get out from under the bruising thumb of his controlling mom. When the two 20-somethings meet, their mutual desire for change kindles into an unlikely romance.
Sheinkin, Steve. Port Chicago 50. (Roaring Brook, 2014).
Gr 7 Up-Hazardous working conditions and insufficient training contributed to the huge explosion that razed the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in July, 1944, killing 320 servicemen. After the explosion, 50 African American sailors refused to return to work at the site loading Navy ships with ammunition–one of the few jobs assigned to the black sailors. This engaging narrative, which includes trial excerpts and numerous quotes, spotlights a group of patriotic men convicted for their stand and the work of early Civil Rights lawyers and activists.
Shen, Prudence. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. (First Second, 2013). illus. by Faith Erin Hicks.
Gr 7 Up-When the robotics team finds out that the cheerleader squad is trying to take their paltry high school funds and use them for new uniforms, war is declared between the geeks and the mean girls. No one feels the pressure more than Charlie, the best friend of the robotics team captain and the ex-boyfriend of the head cheerleader. Can Charlie find a way to make peace before blood (or oil) is shed? All’s fair in love and war in this energetic graphic novel.
Smith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle. (Dutton, 2014).
Gr 9 Up-Austin is attracted to both his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend Robby, but this potential love triangle is the least of his woes; the end of the world has come to the small town of Ealing, Iowa, and it involves a plague of giant, flesh-eating praying mantises that either eat or mate with anyone or anything that crosses their path. For now, Austin’s lust has to take a back seat…to survival! A hilarious romp.
Tamaki, Mariko. This One Summer. (First Second, 2014). illus. by Jillian Tamaki.
Gr 9 Up-Rose always loved going to the beach house in Awago, but something’s different this summer. Is it her parents’ fighting? The fact that her old friend Windy suddenly seems very immature? Maybe it’s because the cute clerk at the beach store is noticing her. Whatever it is, she’s unexpectedly enraged at her mother, impatient with Windy, and tongue-tied around the clerk. A wistful graphic novel about growing up and letting go.
Whaley, John Corey. Noggin. (Atheneum, 2014).
Gr 8 Up-Travis Ray Coates thought his life was over when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But thanks to a controversial procedure that reunited his cryogenically frozen head with a donor body, the teen has been given a new life. Unfortunately, he’s now five years younger than all of his friends and still stuck in high school. What’s a formerly dead dude supposed to do when his old girlfriend shows up with a new fiancé? A humorous novel about making the most of second chances.
Jennifer Hubert Swan, is a book wrangler, fact checker, manners police—a.k.a. middle school librarian.
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