The best summer books blend elements of typical beach reads (romance, adventure, mystery, etc.) with reflective themes that explore friendship, loss, self-discovery, family, and more. The awesome plotlines of these titles will have readers tearing through pages, but the original and complex characters will leave them feeling that these tales, like the season itself, were over far too quickly.
“Before My Eyes” by Caroline Bock (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014)
The lives of three young people — Max, the unhappy son of a state senator, Claire, a poet who feels responsible for her sister ever since their mother had a stroke, and Barkley, a troubled 21-year-old who hears a voice in his head — become joyfully and tragically intertwined one Long Island Labor Day Weekend.
“The Last Forever” by Deb Caletti (Simon Pulse, 2014)
“Here to there is the sometimes barren land you must cross to find the way to begin again.” Since her mother’s death, a rift has opened between Tessa and her despondent father. When he abandons Tessa on Parrish Island with a paternal grandmother she has never met, the teen has a summer full of unexpected experiences that help her heal and discover where she belongs.
“The Tyrant’s Daughter” by J.C. Carleson (Knopf, 2014)
In her unnamed Middle Eastern country, 15-year-old Laila was royalty. But as a refugee in Washington, D.C., she is just another immigrant fleeing a war-torn land. As Laila adjusts to her new life and American customs, she learns the truth about her past and struggles to prevent her power-hungry mother from undoing her future. Carleson, a former undercover CIA officer, infuses her story with compelling details and gripping authenticity.
“Otherbound” by Corinne Duyvis (Amulet/Abrams, 2014)
When 17-year-old Nolan Santiago experiences one of his frequent seizures, he is transported from Arizona into the body and world of Amara, a mute servant girl with healing abilities who is charged with protecting the cursed princess of the Dunelands. As the novel progresses, Nolan’s and Amara’s lives become more and more dangerously tangled.
“Half Bad” by Sally Green (Viking, 2014)
Nathan Byrn is a “Half Code,” equal parts Black Witch and White Witch. He is imprisoned by the White Witch Council, which hopes to use the teen to kill his powerful Black Witch father. However, love, unexpected kindnesses, and Nathan’s desire to be free help him triumph over the evils he endures. The first title in a planned trilogy.
“Hostage Three” by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury, 2013)
English teen Amy Fields is angry and lonely in the wake of her mother’s suicide. Her banker father forces her to go on a family cruise around the world, and when Somali pirates take over their luxury yacht, the closed-off 17-year-old must open her heart again. Printz-winner Lake tells this thriller with nuance and poetry.
“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart (Delacorte, 2014)
The “Beautiful Sinclair Family” summers on a private island off the Massachusetts coast. But something terrible happened the season Cadence Sinclair Eastman was 15 — something so terrible she cannot remember it. Now, she’s 17 and returning to Beechwood Island for the first time, ready to unravel the mystery. Lockhart’s latest is lyrical suspense with a breath-stealing twist.
“Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
Emily Hughes’s best friend, Sloane Williams, has disappeared. However, she leaves behind a list of 13 tasks (“Kiss a stranger,” “Hug a Jamie,” etc.) for Emily to undertake. In hopes that completing the list will lead her to her missing friend, the shy protagonist accepts the challenges and has the summer of her life. This romance/friendship story is as sweet and enjoyable as sprinkle-coated ice cream.
“The Living” by Matt de le Peña (Delacorte, 2013)
Shy Espinoza takes a job with a cruise line in order to help take care of his family. However, the teen’s visions of cute girls and easy money are dashed when a mysterious passenger commits suicide and a massive storm hits his ship off the coast of California. This new title from the author of “Mexican Whiteboy” packs plenty of action in with its summer-blockbuster pace.
“Swim That Rock” by John Rocco and Jay Primiano (Candlewick, 2014)
In this adventure tale, 14-year-old Jake Cole needs to believe that his father is still alive and that he can save the family diner from being repossessed. His determination causes him to risk everything by working with a shadowy pirate he knows only as “captain.” The Rhode Island setting and insight into the world of quahog catching gives this winsome YA debut plenty of New England appeal.
“Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew Smith (Dutton, 2014)
The end of the world begins in Ealing, Iowa. Amateur historian Austin Szerba, 16, records how 6-foot-tall insatiable, praying mantis-like “Unstoppable Soldiers’’ were accidently released from a secret lab experiment as well as his thoughts on lust, his complex love life, and the past’s connection to the present. Smith’s latest is a brave, strange, and fantastic accomplishment.
Read the Book. See the Movie.
Retellings of “Sleeping Beauty”
“Maleficent,’’ a reworking of “Sleeping Beauty” that stars Angelina Jolie as the evil queen, opened in theaters May 30. If teens can’t get enough of the fairy tale there are plenty of compelling YA retellings (“Briar Rose” by Jane Yolen, “Kill Me Softly” by Sarah Cross, “A Long, Long Sleep” by Anna Sheehan, etc.) to last them from June to August.
“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green (Dutton, 2012)
The hotly-awaited film version of Green’s bestselling novel about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love is in local theaters now.
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993)
Lowry’s classic about a dystopian society whose order is based on the repression of memories is finally being made into a movie with Jeff Bridges in the titular role. Revisit the entire quartet before seeing “The Giver” Aug. 15.
“If I Stay” by Gayle Forman (Dutton, 2009)
On Aug. 22, Forman’s story about a talented, teenage cellist in a coma who must choose between death and life appears on the big screen.Chelsey Philpot’s debut YA novel, “Even in Paradise,” will be published in October 2014. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseyPhilpot.