Provocative summer books for young readers


Summertime, and the reading is breezy. Or rather, come summer, a student’s schedule is apt to find a little more air. We’ve surveyed the new crop of books for middle-grade and young adult readers, and these 10 titles are all sure bets. They’re all newly available, or landing in the next week or so.

‘Drive Me Crazy’ by Terra Elan McVoy

Lana’s grandpa has just wed Cassie’s grandma, and the two 12-year-olds are along for the road-tripping honeymoon. Lana is excited about the prospect of friendship, but not Cassie. The story unfolds from the perspectives of both girls. Atlanta author McVoy has a superb talent for writing realistic dialogue. She has also accomplished something rare in youth lit: the grandparents are lively supporting characters. A fine slice-of-life tale without a false note. (HarperCollins, ages 8-12)

‘Extraordinary’ by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

This moving novel is narrated by Pansy, whose best friend Anna has contracted a disease that has impaired her brain. “Losing” a best friend this way can be a tough challenge. North Carolina author Franklin firmly grasps the climate and struggles among kids today. Her crystal-clear writing is filled with rich detail and believable characters. The sensitive story will resonate with young girls wrestling with friendship pains. (Sky Pony Press, ages 8-12)

‘I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives’ by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

It will be a memorable summer for anyone who reads this uplifting nonfiction account of two kids whose lives were worlds apart, but who stuck it out as pen pals for six years, transforming each other’s lives. Caitlin Stoicsitz lives in Hatfield, Pennsylvania; Martin Ganda lives in Zimbabwe. Caitlin sends her babysitting money to Martin, helping him with much more than postage costs – it helps his family pay rent, and they even eat chicken for the first time in years. Caitlin’s mom works all angles to help Martin get a scholarship to an American college. You’ll be weeping here and there. (Little, Brown and Co., ages 12 and older)

‘Anything Could Happen’ by Will Walton

“Once my clothes are off, I turn the shower knob to cold and stand under the freezing stream. I’m still anxious. He doesn’t know, I think. He doesn’t know. He came close, but he doesn’t know.” Tretch Farm, 15, is gay and secretly in love with his best friend, Matt, who’s straight. Walton, of Athens, delivers an honest and encouraging story about the importance of being yourself and trusting those who love you. (PUSH/Scholastic, ages 12 and older)

‘Saint Anything’ by Sarah Dessen

A drunk-driving accident sends Sydney’s family into conflict and distraction, and she’s left to muddle through on her own. Meeting another family becomes a turning point. Dessen goes deeper and darker in this stirring story about the pressures teenagers endure. (Viking, ages 12 and older)

‘Proof of Forever’ by Lexa Hillyer

Joy, Tali, Luce and Zoe became friends at an overnight summer camp. Once so tight, their friendship later fell apart. Now, just before college, there’s a camp reunion. And a time-traveling photo booth. Hillyer’s debut is billed as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” for 2015, but it has more impact and better developed characters. The writing sparkles. (HarperTeen, ages 13 and older)

‘Eden West” by Pete Hautman

The National Book Award winner introduces readers to Nodd, 12 square Montana miles enclosed by a chain-link fence. Nodd is all Jacob, 17, knows, until he meets “Worldly Girl” on the other side of the fence, who calls him “Cult Boy.” For the first time in his life he samples fried chicken and sweets such as M&Ms and Coke. But not everything is so sweet in Nodd. Plus a large wolf is on the attack. Thought-provoking and perfectly paced. (Candlewick, ages 14 and older)

‘The Truth Commission’ by Susan Juby

High school junior Normandy Pale and two friends set out to uncover the truth behind some gossip; they are the Truth Commission. Meanwhile at home, Normandy’s older sister Keira is a child prodigy who has created a popular series of graphic novels in which she used her own family as subjects – in embarrassing ways. The aloof Keira has also burdened her little sister by sort of sharing a disturbing secret. Spiced with a girl’s innermost concerns, this fast-paced and witty story spins readers smack into Normandy’s orbit. (Viking, ages 14 and older)

‘Undertow’ by Michael Buckley

They have feelings like humans do – but these creatures are a whole new race of warriors called the Alpha, or first men. Three years ago, 30,000 of them emerged from the ocean, thundering ashore on Coney Island. It’s been fear and mayhem under military guard ever since. Now a handful of Alpha “young people” are being integrated into the local high school; the parallels to school integration in the 1960s are clear. The heroine, Lyric, is a spunky 16-year-old whose family hasn’t fled like most; the reason is complicated, creepy and clever. A trilogy begins with this inventive tale. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ages 14 and older)

‘An Ember in the Ashes’ by Sabaa Tahir

This epic fantasy set in the Martial Empire has it all: danger and violence, secrets and lies, brutal battles, strong characters, high intrigue, forbidden romance and a touch of the supernatural. Slave girl Laia and reluctant soldier Elias reveal the captivating story in alternating chapters. “Ember” is ideal for those who have devoured the likes of George R.R. Martin’s “Games of Thrones” or Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials.” Paramount has already grabbed the movie rights. (Razorbill/Penguin, ages 14 and older)


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