fb-pixel Skip to main content
chelsey philpot

Young readers’ (nonrequired) summer books list

Summer is nearly here, and for book lovers the long vacation means piles of paperbacks, a well-stocked e-reader, and daily trips to the library.

Bring on thrillers, nightmare-inducing horror stories, action-packed science fiction, and romances as sweet as lemonade. It’s time for some armchair adventures, fascinating biographies, and fast-paced reads to tackle after Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy.

Enjoy these recently released titles below as well as some classics that have been making the news.

Ages 9 and up

“Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate” by Rick Bowers (National Geographic, 2012). This fascinating nonfiction title recounts how the “The Adventures of Superman’’ radio show stood up to the KKK in 1940s America.


“Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different” by Karen Blumenthal (Feiwel and Friends, 2012). Biography lovers, technology addicts, and budding entrepreneurs will devour this tale of a man who changed the world one gadget at a time.

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again” by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Candlewick, 2012). In this tale for a new generation, Ian Fleming’s famous flying car takes the Tooting family on a global adventure to reclaim its various parts.

“13 Hangmen” by Art Corriveau (Amulet, 2012). This Boston-set novel stars 13-year-old Tony, who must solve a historical mystery and features many local landmarks and figures.

“The Obsidian Blade” by Pete Hautman (Candlewick, 2012). Teenager Tucker Feye discovers that mysterious disks allow him to time travel in this complex, sci-fi adventure.

“Chomp” by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, 2012). The author of “Hoot” introduces readers to Wahoo Cray and his dad, Mickey, a wild-animal wrangler in Florida. Money is tight in the Cray household, so when a reality show offers Mickey a job he accepts and the hijinks begin.

“Same Sun Here” by Silas House and Neela Vaswani (Candlewick, 2012). River is a coal miner’s son in Kentucky, and Meena is an Indian immigrant in New York City, but that doesn’t stop the pair from bonding through their letters.


“Dumpling Days” by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2012). Pacy travels with her family to Taiwan for a month to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday. There she discovers a love of dumplings and a greater sense of her heritage.

“Promise the Night” by Michaela MacColl (Chronicle, 2012) This historical novel fictionalizes the childhood of Beryl Markham, the daughter of a white Kenyan landowner who grew up to be the first person to fly solo from England to America.

“Summer of the Gypsy Moths” by Sara Pennypacker (Balzer + Bray, 2012). Great-aunt Louise observes that Stella and Angel are nothing alike, but when tragedy strikes their Cape Cod household the girls are forced to help each other.

“Applewhites at Wit’s End” by Stephanie S. Tolan (HarperCollins, 2012). The zany, artistic Applewhite family must turn their family compound into a summer camp in order to avoid poverty.

“The Final Four” by Paul Volponi (Viking, 2012). Four basketball players from different backgrounds meet and compete in the NCAA championship in this tense and fast-paced novel.

“First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low” by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion, 2012). Published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, Wadsworth uses plenty of illustrations and an engaging text to show how a woman ahead of her time became the organization’s founder.

Ages 14 and up

“Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies” by Marc Aronson (Candlewick, 2012). Using posters, photographs, comics, and a rich text, Aronson delivers information about a tumultuous period of American history and one of it’s most powerful figures.


“The Drowned Cities” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown, 2012). Set in a post-apocalyptic United States where friendship and loyalty are pitted against war and violence, this novel continues the story of Bacigalupi’s Prinz-Award winning “Ship Breaker.”

“Jersey Angel” by Beth Ann Bauman (Wendy Lamb, 2012). Seventeen-year-old Angel Cassonetti is unabashedly sexual, unsure what she wants after graduation, and refreshingly complex. A quick read about life on the Jersey Shore for mature teens.

“Bitterblue” by Kristin Cashore (Dial, 2012). The long-awaited companion to Cashore’s best-selling “Graceling” and “Fire” is finally here, and fans will not be disappointed by her latest fantasy about the seven kingdoms, “Graces” (special skills), and romance.

“The Year of the Beasts” by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell (Roaring Brook, 2012). Chapters of both prose and comics tell a moving story about sibling jealousy and love, tragedy, and healing.

“My Life Next Door” by Huntley Fitzpatrick (Dial, 2012). Samantha’s life and heart become intertwined with the family next door, the Garretts, despite her type-A state-senator mom’s wishes. A summer romance with depth.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green (Dutton, 2012). Hazel has cancer, and Augustus had osteosarcoma, but that doesn’t keep the two teens from visiting a reclusive author, falling in love, and discovering what it means to live.


“Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls” by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion, 2012). The author of “Wait Till Helen Comes” is back with another haunting story; this time the narrative, about a murder, is inspired by Hahn’s own experience.

“Keeping The Castle” by Patrice Kindl (Viking, 2012). In this clever take on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” 17-year-old Althea Crawley must marry a rich man to save her family’s castle, but her conniving stepsisters, a romantic rival, and love change her plans.

Grave Mercy” by Robin LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin, 2012). Historical fiction and adventure readers alike will tear through this series opener about killer nuns, treason, and, of course, romance.

“Second Chance Summer” by Morgan Matson (Simon and Schuster, 2012). Taylor’s dad has cancer, so her family makes a trip to their summer lake house where the teen must face an old friend and an old flame. Warning: tissues recommended.

“All the Right Stuff” by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad, 2012). This new novel from the national ambassador for young people’s literature features Paul Dupree, a 16-year-old from Harlem who learns about the “social contract” and himself while working in a soup kitchen.

“A Confusion of Princes” by Garth Nix (HarperCollins, 2012). Prince Khemri’s arrogance is tempered a bit when he discovers he’s not the only prince in the running to become the next ruler of the intergalactic Empire. He’s one of millions.

“For Darkness Shows the Stars” by Diana Peterfreund (Balzer + Bray, 2012). Inspired by Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” this dystopian novel centers on Elliot North, a member of the ruling class, who must protect her family’s estate and her heart when her childhood love returns.


“Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion, 2012). Set in World War II, this compelling story of friendship and espionage is full of twists and tension.

Classics in the news

■ From “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” to “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t,” many of Judy Blume’s titles were released as e-books in March and are ready for a new generation.

■ Susan Cooper is the 2012 recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for The Dark Is Rising Sequence. The Edwards prize honors an author for “significant and lasting contribution’’ to young adult literature. Introduce young fantasy fans to her books about epic battles between the light and dark.

■ Madeleine L’Engle’s genre-shattering “A Wrinkle in Time” was published 50 years ago this February. Commemorative, e-book, and paperback versions have been recently published, and a graphic novel interpretation is scheduled for fall, making this summer a great time to meet the Murry family all over again on a “dark and stormy night.”

■ J. K. Rowling’s books about a boy wizard need no introduction, but fans should know they can finally order the e-book editions through www.Pottermore.com.

■ “Son,’’ the final novel in Lois Lowry’s quartet, which began with the Newbery Medal winning “The Giver,’’ comes out in October. Prepare by revisiting the first three novels: “The Giver,’’ “Gathering Blue,’’ and “Messenger.’’

■ E.B. White’s beloved novel about a friendship between a pig and a spider, “Charlotte’s Web,” will celebrate its 60th anniversary in October. A recently published edition includes a forword from Kate DiCamillo, author of “Because of Winn Dixie.”

Chelsey Philpot is a book reviews editor at School Library Journal and can be reached at philpotchelsey@gmail.com.