9 middle grade, young adult books your kids shouldn’t miss


Books for “middle grade” and “young adult” (YA) readers arrive year-round, but the summer crop is always bountiful.

Go to the best-seller lists for sure bets. Also, look to favorite established authors to learn what they might have next. Just three stars with new books this season include Sarah Dessen (“Once and For All”), Ann Brashares (“The Whole Thing Together”), and the sports-oriented Mike Lupica (“Point Guard”).

Here are some outstanding new releases that may not be on your radar. This roundup kicks off with a few middle grade novels (generally ages 8-12). Remember to check age recommendation when choosing YA titles (ages 12 or 13 and up); books with sex, drugs, violence or other questionable subject matter will be pegged for ages 14 and older.

‘Call Me Sunflower’ by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Sunflower “Sunny” Beringer has been dragged away from her New Jersey life for a new start in North Carolina. The fact that Mom has left her dad rocks Sunny’s world, and she embarks on a mission to get them to reconcile. But a huge secret hovers between the past and the present.

Much as she did in her 2015 debut “Extraordinary,” North Carolina author Franklin delivers a moving and realistic story (with subplots, such as one that involves protesting the luxury fur business). “Sunflower” shines with emotion, convincing dialogue and relatable characters. (Ages 8-12, Sky Pony Press, $15.99)

RELATED: On our premium site, myAJC.com: Children’s author Laurel Snyder and her very big year

‘See You in the Cosmos’ by Jack Cheng

Alex Petroski is a hugely likable, wiser-than-11 science nut with a strange mother and a rescue dog named after his hero, Carl Sagan.

In our real history, it was Sagan who in 1977 led the NASA effort to send the Voyager Golden Records into the “cosmic ocean,” in case advanced civilizations might find them and access the Earth sounds and images. Alex has a similar plan: making nonstop iPod recordings about his life, thoughts, crazy road trip. Then he’ll build his own rocket and blast his recordings into the great unknown.

This entire quirky and endearing story is revealed through the recordings; Alex does much of the talking (and posing questions) to his imagined “intelligent beings,” but some of the terrific supporting characters also pipe in. An up-all-night-reading-under-the-covers kind of book. (Ages 8-13, Dial, $16.99)

RELATED: Making the Grade: Space team helps kids gravitate to math, science

‘Refugee’ by Alan Gratz

Kids certainly hear about the plight of refugees. The award-winning Gratz, known for dynamite historical fiction, hits hard with three tales in one volume, each of a different time period. Each story centers on a youngster who must risk escape: Josef, a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, whose family in 1994 boards a raft to flee unrest in Cuba; and Mahmoud of Syria, in the present day. Fast paced, insightful, filled with drama and tension. (Coming in July. Ages 9-13, Scholastic Press, $16.99)

‘The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora’ by Pablo Cartaya

Readers are sure to cheer for 13-year-old Arturo during the course of his Miami summer, as he faces everything from social activism (protesting encroaching developers) to a little poetry-laced romance. This funny yet wise story celebrates family and community and provides a yummy taste of Cuban-American culture. (Ages 10 and older, Viking, $16.99)

‘Leaving Gee’s Bend’ by Irene Latham

Set in the Great Depression, this moving story involves one girl’s determination to save both her mother and their Alabama community. First published in 2010, it’s now available in a sturdy and attractive paperback edition. The story soars due to Latham’s lovely prose and Ludelphia Bennett, its wonderfully spunky heroine. (Ages 10 and older, NewSouth Books, $11.95)

RELATED: On our premium site, myAJC.com: Fulton County woman keeps connection to Gee’s Bend alive

‘Between Two Skies’ by Joanne O’Sullivan

“I picture our house like someone pulled a rope tight around my middle and yanked it. I picture our house like it’s made from sugar, dissolving as the water licks its walls.”

A journalist for the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times, O’Sullivan previously lived in New Orleans, where she thoroughly soaked up the colorful people, sizzling culture and atmosphere to create this engrossing story centered on a 16-year-old girl whose home and community are shaken and shredded by Hurricane Katrina. There’s heartbreak and hope, pain and injustice — and romance. (Ages 12 and older, Candlewick Press, $16.99)

RELATED: On our premium site, myAJC.com: Katrina evacuees rebuild, remember

‘A Million Junes’ by Emily Henry

An ages-old family feud, forbidden romance, ghosts, coywolves and a big, bad curse. Jack O’Donnell IV is named for her father, and so on — a “junior” who goes by “June.” She’s been raised to despise anyone named Angert. But inside the carnival’s House of Mirrors, she bumps into Saul Angert, strange, smart, sweet, magnetic. Nicely paced, with danger elements and deft touches of mystery and magical realism, this absorbing tale is also a father-daughter story. It’s not off base to call it “Romeo and Juliet” meets “Big Fish,” but it’s more clever and creative than that implies. Beautifully written by the author of the breakout hit “The Love That Split the World.” (Ages 14 and older, Razorbill, $17.99)

‘Bull’ by David Elliott

As Poseidon, king of the sea, goes: “What is it with you mortals?/You just can’t seem to learn:/If you play with fire, babies,/You’re gonna get burned!” In the way Lin-Manuel Miranda “hipped up” the story of our Founding Fathers, poet and novelist Elliott recasts Greek mythology’s legend of Theseus and the Minotaur in a cool and catchy way. His rhyming, literary remix unfolds through several distinct voices. Each voice has its own feel and style, partly because Elliott seamlessly employs a different poetic form for each. Very “now,” full of twists and turns, with plenty of deep thoughts to ponder. (Ages 14 and older, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99)

RELATED: ‘Hamilton’ dates announced for 2017/2018 Broadway in Atlanta season

‘The Evaporation of Sofi Snow’ by Mary Weber

Natural resources and half the population were destroyed in the three-year World War III. By comparison, Earth’s Fourth World War was a blip. Death and starvation are everywhere. Split into 30 different territories, the world is now ruled by 30 corporations. The Delonese, extraterrestrial humanoids (tall, tanned, “too perfect”), from the gigantic ice planet Delon that now circles the Earth, may have kidnapped Sofi’s brother.

From the author of the “Storm Siren” trilogy comes a creepy, imaginative, plot-driven dystopian tale (with diversity) for fans of sci-fi or Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games.” The characters, story and writing sizzle throughout. (Ages 14 and older, Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins, $15.99)

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR SOMEWHERE TO DO YOUR SUMMER READING:



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