The Heat Is On | Summer Reading for Tweens and Teens

There are mysteries, family stories, and along with the requisite beach reading, a few novels that tackle more serious issues in this fiction booklist. But summertime raises the temperature in all of these recently published middle grade and high school titles.


There are mysteries, family stories, and the requisite beach reading, along with novels that tackle more serious issues, but summer vacation forms the backdrop in all of these recently published middle grade and high school titles.

BENNETT, Jenn. Serious Moonlight. 432p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Apr. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534425149.
Gr 9 Up–Eighteen-year-old Birdie Lindbergh is an aspiring detective and mystery-book aficionado. Raised by her conservative grandparents, she’s also a self-described wallflower who’s used to playing by the rules. After her grandmother dies, Birdie meets a charismatic stranger at the Moonlight Diner and shocks herself by spontaneously having sex with him in the backseat of his car. Then on her first day of her summer job at the swanky Cascadia Hotel, she discovers that her random hookup is none other than her new coworker, Daniel Aoki. Daniel (who is hearing-impaired) is gregarious and disarmingly honest, and he reels her in with the promise of a juicy mystery: Raymond Darke, a reclusive, best-selling novelist, checks into the hotel under a pseudonym every week for a few hours. As Birdie and Daniel sleuth their way across Seattle, they get to know each other through adventures including a murder-mystery dinner, the opera, and an accidental art theft. But as troubling secrets from Daniel’s past are exposed, Birdie must decide whether to let her fear of loss keep her from a relationship that feels like it’s meant to be. Imbued with a rich sense of place and the magic of first love, this is a heartfelt, sex-positive romance that tackles grief, depression, illness, and disability with nuance. Daniel and Birdie are mature, likable characters with strong communication skills, and the mystery thread is enjoyable, if not particularly mysterious. VERDICT Compulsively readable and enormously fun, this is a first purchase for YA collections.–Elizabeth Giles, Lubuto Library Partners, Zambia

BLAS, Terry. Hotel Dare. illus. by Claudia Aguirre. 144p. Kaboom! Jun. 2019. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781684152056.
Gr 3-7–Siblings Olive, Darwin, and Charlotte are sent to their abuela’s hotel in Mexico for the summer. Abuela asks them to assist in cleaning several rooms of the hotel but specifies that they are not to enter her office. When the trio inevitably break the one rule they’ve been given, they inadvertently unlock doorways to other worlds. When Charlotte disappears, Abuela is forced to explain why their abuelo is missing and to enlist their help in traveling through the different worlds to search for him and the missing Charlotte. This graphic novel is a blend of mystery, science fiction, and adventure as the siblings encounter various beings in the different worlds they explore in their attempt to reunite their entire family. While at times the novel is heavy-handed with its emphasis on the importance of family, the dialogue carries the story through boldly colored panels filled with action sequences that will keep readers turning pages. World-building is kept to a minimum; a lack of exposition regarding each of the places the siblings visit may be a disappointment to those who enjoy detailed descriptions of other worlds. VERDICT With a mysterious hotel, space pirates, and a visit to the land of the dead, this book will have a broad appeal. Give to fans of Mark Siegel’s “Five Worlds” series or Molly Ostertag’s Witch Boy.–Jenni Frencham, Indiana University, Bloomington

BRYANT, Kobe & Wesley King. The Wizenard Series: Training Camp. 592p. (The Wizenard: Bk. 1). Granity Studios. Mar. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781949520019.
Gr 6 Up–Rain is thrilled to start the West Coast Badgers summer basketball camp in the beat-up Fairwood Community Center, even though his team doesn’t live up to his expectations. What he and his teammates don’t realize is their new coach Rolabi is full of surprises. Not only does he challenge them each to face their fears, but he creates grana, or magic, in their practices. A tiger who comes to play defense, shadows that come to life, and shooting on a mountaintop are the mystifying events that Rolabi has a hand in. But unorthodox coaching methods, like having players stare at a daisy after each practice, make the kids want to fire him. Will Rolabi fail the team or help them become better players at the game and life? The book is divided into parts and each section follows a different player, who shares his own fears and his unique experience with Rolabi. VERDICT Highly recommended as a new crossover fantasy sports series.–Amy Lukich, Tinley Park Public Library, IL

DESSEN, Sarah. The Rest of the Story. 448p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Jun. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062933621.
Gr 8 Up–Emma Saylor’s sheltered life is jostled when her summer plans are canceled last minute and her father scrambles to find her lodging before heading out of the country. With no options left, Emma crashes with Mimi, her maternal grandmother, whom she last saw years earlier at her mother’s funeral. Vacationing at Mimi’s lakeside motel with unfamiliar family leads Emma to reconnect with relatives who may be the key to discovering how her mom’s life, and addiction, impacted the whole family’s history as much as her own. Dessen has a vivid way of exploring a character’s features, feelings, and flaws that leaves readers wanting more. Emma’s a deceptively simple narrator whose complex reality is revealed slowly as she uncovers a new side of her family tree. Emma collects stories of her mom’s childhood and her parents’ relationship, leading her to reevaluate all the ways a person can love someone. At the same time, her realistic struggle of how she deals with anxiety is undeniably relatable for teens today. Ultimately, it’s the budding friendship with local boy Roo that pushes Emma to see that understanding your family’s past can make all the difference in accepting the memories and identity of those you hold dear. VERDICT A beautiful addition to Dessen’s repertoire, and an examination of conflicting social classes, strained familial relationships, and delightfully evolving ­romance that is unforgettable.–Emily ­Walker, Lisle Library District, IL

KNOWLES, Jo. Where the Heart Is. 304p. Candlewick. Apr. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536200034.
Gr 4-7–A gently told story about tough transitions, family and sibling love and stress, and evolving friendships. Thirteen year old Rachel’s summer is filled with uncertainties. Her relationship with her longtime best friend, Micah, is being tested by new crushes and jealousies, and her family is having serious financial problems and may lose their home. On top of that, Rachel is struggling to figure out what she wants from life and love. Many children will empathize with Rachel as she struggles with friendships old and new, emerging crushes, a little sister and a cranky pig, and worried, preoccupied parents. Even as Jo Knowles tackles some tough issues, especially income insecurity and loss of home, she keeps the tone quiet, warm, detailed, and often funny, leaving the reader space to work out questions and problems along with Rachel and her loved ones. VERDICT A good read for fans of Rebecca Stead and Jeanne Birdsall.–Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

KONEN, Leah. Happy Messy Scary Love. 272p. Abrams/Amulet. May 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419734892.
Gr 8 Up–Olivia didn’t get into the summer screenwriting program she applied for, so unlike the rest of her friends, she won’t be having any grand adventures. In order to get her out of her comfort zone, Olivia’s mother gets her a summer job at a zip line company—not exactly ideal considering she is afraid of heights. What the zip-lining job does offer is the chance to work with Jake, the boy who just happens to be the real-life version of the screen name Olivia chats about horror movies with every night on Reddit. Olivia knows Jake is the horror-loving Nightmare on Elm Street fan, but he has no idea she’s the “Carrie” he talks to, especially since Olivia sent him a picture of her gorgeous best friend instead of herself. Olivia went from having no plans for the summer to trying to juggle her new job, write a screenplay, and keep her double life a secret from her cute coworker. Fans of fluffy rom-coms and fun-yet-predictable movies such as You’ve Got Mail will fall head over heels for Happy Messy Scary Love. Young adults will enjoy the over-the-top dad jokes offered up by Jake, and movie buffs will appreciate the film recommendations Olivia and Jake provide throughout the novel. This light romance will delight readers looking for something fun for their summer reading list. VERDICT Recommended for libraries where Kasie West and Sarah Dessen are popular.–Amanda Toth, Lane Libraries, Hamilton, OH

MALONE, Lee Gjertsen. Camp Shady Crook. 288p. S. & S./Aladdin. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534422261.
Gr 3-7–Camp Shady Brook, also known as Camp Shady Crook, is not as nice as the publicity makes it seem. The cabins, the lake, and all the activities are meant to attract wealthy campers but the facility leaves something to be desired. What place could be better for Archie Drake, scam artist extraordinaire, to find his marks? Back at home he’s a nobody, but at camp everyone thinks he’s related to a billionaire. Using his powers of persuasion, Archie can trick almost anyone out of their pocket change. As a self-proclaimed Robin Hood, he only targets wealthy attendees and not scholarship campers like himself. When new camper Vivian shows up and catches onto his schemes, the two rivals form a partnership while continuing to compete. Vivian is not looking for friends and would rather trick others before they can trick her. When they realize there may not be a camp to return to next year, the two must find a way to use their deception for good and to save the camp. While Archie and Vivian aren’t always likeable, readers will become invested in following their schemes and wondering how—and if—they will redeem themselves. VERDICT A fun, fast-paced tale recommended for most middle grade collections, especially where camp novels are popular.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

MACLACHLAN, Patricia. Dream Within a Dream. 128p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. May 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781534429598.
Gr 3-7–Twelve-year-old Louisiana, Louisa for short, and her little brother Theo are sent off to Deer Island for the summer to stay with their grandparents while their parents go bird researching. Every summer tends to be the same on the old sheep farm, but this summer feels different. Louisa is recognizing that her grandparents, Jake and Boots, are getting older; Theo decides he wants to stay on the island year-round and go to school; and Louisa meets George. George and his family live on the island, but they have spent their summers in Africa so the pair didn’t meet until this summer—this summer, when Louisa learns that Jake’s eyesight is failing, that Boots keeps secrets, and that she is falling in love. MacLachlan skillfully weaves a simple story of family, first love, and the quotidian events that shape human lives. The writing is gentle, innocent, and transports the reader right into text. VERDICT A satisfying journey to a summer island with friendly faces; perfect for readers who love a gentle, heartwarming tale.–Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH

MCDUNN, Gillian. Caterpillar Summer. 304p. Bloomsbury. Apr. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681197432.
Gr 3-6–Rising sixth-grader Caterpillar has a lot on her mind. She has a younger brother on the autism spectrum, her father died recently, and her mother’s artistic temperament is leaving Cat with a lot of responsibility at a young age. Cat is excited to go to Atlanta for the summer so that she can spend time with her best friend and just enjoy being a kid. All this changes when her best friend has a family emergency that takes him to India. Cat finds herself on a small island in North Carolina with grandparents she’s never met and she doesn’t know the real reason her mom has kept her away from her grandparents. Over the course of the summer, Cat learns to love her mothers’s parents. She also learns to let go of some of her feelings of always needing to be there for her brother by allowing others to help. While Caterpillar and her brother are both biracial, this is not a critical component of the plot. Readers may question whether race was a factor in the degeneration of Cat’s mother’s relationship with her own parents, but this turns out not to be the case. There are minor references to Caterpillar’s struggle with her hair and her white mother’s inability to style it effectively. The representation in this case is important from the standpoint of biracial visibility. Though this is not an uncommon family structure, it is seen infrequently in middle grade fiction. VERDICT A sweet summer story that middle grade readers will appreciate.–Kristin Lee ­Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR

MILLER, Kayla. Camp. illus. by Kayla Miller. 224p. HMH. Apr. 2019. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781328530813; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781328530820.
Gr 4-7–Olive and Willow go to sleepaway camp together, but will they still be best friends when they return? Olive (first introduced in Miller’s Click) easily befriends fellow campers, but Willow is more reserved and becomes jealous of Olive’s new pals. Willow is soon demanding all of Olive’s attention, and Olive, in turn, grows resentful. Readers will love the depiction of realistic friendship drama and the fun camp setting. Camp counselors intervene when necessary, but both girls show a lot of growth by the end of the story as lessons are learned and friendships healed. The activities will make readers wish they were at camp, too, especially at the end of the book when groups team up to film a Rube Goldberg machine for a music video. Expressive cartoon artwork is eye-catching and brings the setting to life. Olive and Willow are both white, but racial diversity is well represented among the campers. VERDICT Hand to patrons looking for something after Raina Telgemeier’s Smile or Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. For every library.–Allison McLean, Elkhart Public Library, IN

TEBBETTS, Chris. Me Myself & Him. 304p. Delacorte. Jul. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524715229.
Gr 10 Up–After high school senior Chris Schweitzer passes out from doing whippets behind the restaurant where he works, his parents and employer find out about his illicit activities. Chris ends up losing his job and is sent to California to live with his emotionally distant and authoritarian father the last summer before college. Things aren’t quite as dire as they seem, though, because in this reality Chris meets his first love, the handsome and mysterious Swift. In a different reality Chris isn’t caught—he spends his last summer with his friends in his small Ohio town. What at first seemed like a better ending to the ill-fated night becomes a rot that pollutes Chris’s entire summer. The secrets and lies hover over him, a constant reminder that he is one slipup away from being exposed, and the quality time he planned on spending with friends ends up not being what he expected. Chris finds himself a very lonely third wheel when his two best friends start dating. This is an engaging story that examines love, relationships, and the different paths one’s life can take. VERDICT For fans of Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli’s What if It’s Us, Bill Konigsberg’s The Music of What Happens, and Robyn Schneider’s The ­Beginning of Everything.–Ellen ­Fitzgerald, ­Naperville Public Library, IL

WIENTGE, Kristi. Honeybees and Frenemies. 256p. S. & S. Jun. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781534438156.
Gr 4-7–It’s the summer before eighth grade, and 12-year-old Flor faces much uncertainty and unease. Instead of the fun, relaxing summer she was imagining, Flor must deal with her best friend Brooke spending the summer away at Band Camp (and likely finding new besties), while she is stuck working at her family’s mattress store dressed up as a giant mattress. To make matters worse, it’s Honeydale’s 50th annual Honey Festival, and all prior Queen Bees are expected to compete for this year’s title. This pairs Flor with her arch enemy, Candice, who has despised her since Flor won the coveted title when they were in third grade. Candice and Flor are forced to work together to develop a talent for the show, while also performing community service for mysterious hermit Mr. Henry. Curmudgeonly Mr. Henry has the girls assist him with his plentiful, but ill, bee hives. Throughout the summer, Mr. Henry thaws, and Candice and Flor find they might just get past being frenemies and become real friends. Candice and Flor both want the prize-winning money for being Queen Bee, even if it means learning all about bees and having Flor wear a “bee beard” for their talent. If they win, Flor might just convince her parents to stay in Honeydale, rather than moving away to New Jersey and abandoning their suffering mattress business. Wientge has created spirted, realistic characters that readers will root for and identify with. Each chapter begins with a fascinating random bee fact. VERDICT Readers will enjoy this satisfying tale while learning about bees and complicated friendships; expect buzz for future titles from this author.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

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