I was asked to compile a list of young adult books to recommend for the summer, but I wanted some recommendations myself.
I know what I like (YA books that feature romance … and sometimes vampires), but I wanted to broaden my horizons.
To get a more comprehensive list, I asked a pack of local YA authors to tell me about a YA book they’d recommend, a story that stuck with them.
I told them it could be old or new. It just had to be great.
No matter your age, you might want to try these novels, as well as the books by the Boston-area (and Boston adjacent) authors who recommended them.
Maurene Goo isn’t technically local — she’s a California writer — but she went to Emerson College for grad school, so she has Boston in her heart. Goo, author of the 2019 K-Pop romance “Somewhere Only We Know,” says her summer read of choice is Leah Johnson’s June release, “You Should See Me in a Crown,” which Goo says “has all the elements of what I want in a summer read: prom shenanigans, enemy-to-lovers queer romance, humor, and a whole lot of heart.”
YA author Sara Farizan, whose latest YA novel is the locally set “Here to Stay," (disclosure: Sara and I watch television together almost every Sunday, now by phone during the pandemic) picked an anthology for her summer read – the March release “A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope.” She said the collection, edited by Patrice Caldwell, is perfect for readers who want great writing but might want to consume shorter stories right now. Contributors include “Dread Nation”‘s Justina Ireland, “When You Were Everything”’ Ashley Woodfolk, and Dhonielle Clayton of “The Belles”.
Holly Black, known for fairy (a.k.a. faerie) tales such as “The Queen of Nothing” (part of the “Folk of the Air” series), lives in Amherst. She recommends the March release “The Midnight Lie” by Marie Rutkoski, an LGBTQ fantasy romance. Black said, via e-mail, of the novel, “Marie’s writing is emotional and beautiful, and her intrigues are twisty and intricate. This is tied into her ‘Winner’s Curse’ series, but can be read on its own. It is a delight!”
Katie Cotugno, Boston author of coming-of-age romances such as “You Say It First”, also chose a fantasy book for those who need escape. “Fantasy usually isn’t my thing,” she wrote to me, “but Leigh Bardugo’s [2015 release] ‘Six of Crows’ is exactly the kind of book I’d like to sink into on a lounge chair on a hot afternoon — lush world-building, a motley cast of vibrant characters, and the slowest of slow-burn romances. Think ‘Ocean’s 11’ in an old-timey shipping hub, but with teenagers and magic.” What a pitch.
Jennifer De Leon, whose story “Home Movie” was Boston’s One City, One Story read in 2015, will debut her young adult novel, “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From,” in August. De Leon’s pick for a summer read is “We Are Not From Here” by Jenny Torres Sanchez, a May release about young characters who journey from Guatemala to the US/Mexico border. DeLeon said “I could not put this book down. It will stay with me for as long as I am reading and writing books, because this is a story that does what literature does at its very best — it moves you. It takes a (now) familiar news story and makes it singular, personal.”
Shawnna Thomas is the 16th Associates of the Boston Public Library Writer-in-Residence. She’s been working on her book “Salvages,” which she describes as a story that follows two teens in a flooded New Orleans. Thomas’s pick for the summer is 2018′s “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson, which is about a teen’s search for her friend, a story Thomas says “explores mental health, friendship, the issue of missing black children, and the lack of attention and care their disappearances are given. It’s a heartfelt and heartbreaking read.”
Northeastern University grad and former Boston resident Ryan La Sala, whose recent book tour for the fantasy novel “Reverie” included a drag performance at Brookline Booksmith, knew exactly what to recommend for a summer read (besides his own book, of course). “Right now I’m reading for summer vibes, witty explorations, and stories about queer teens learning how to live their best lives. ‘Camp’ by L.C. Rosen has all of that and more, so far. I’m enjoying it immensely.”
Arlington author Malinda Lo, who just celebrated the 10th anniversary of her fantasy book “Ash” (the new edition features an introduction by the aforementioned Black), loved the April release “Goodbye From Nowhere." Lo says the story, about a teen who realizes his mom is having an affair, is “a tough but cathartic story, masterfully told by Sara Zarr.”
Cassandra Clare, who gifted us the “Mortal Instruments” series (her new book, “Chain of Gold,” the first in a trilogy), tells us to read “The Night Country” by Melissa Albert. That’s the recent (January) sequel to 2018′s “The Hazel Wood,” the story of a girl who discovers a secret world of real-life fairy tales. Clare, of Amherst, said it’s “a charming, mysterious fable that unpacks what it means to be a story and whether we are all simply the stories we hear and tell.”
OK, fine, I’m giving myself one pick. I recommend Camryn Garrett’s “Full Disclosure” (2019) this summer. Garrett’s book centers on Simone, a character who is born HIV-positive and must figure out how to deal with a crush and the desire to become sexually active. I adore this story about friendship, community, musical theater, falling for someone, and self-acceptance, which Garrett wrote when she was 16 (she’s 20 now).
More love this summer in general, please.