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Summer reads: Young adult

For book-loving kids and teens, it’s not Memorial Day weekend, the smell of barbecue charcoal or even that first dripping ice cream cone that signifies the start of summer. Rather, the rituals of revisiting sunscreen-soaked paperbacks, downloading a wish list of ebooks and piling up a stack of library hardcovers mark the beginning of the season.


“The Reluctant Assassin” by Eoin Colfer (Hyperion, 2013). This time-travel adventure about a 16-year-old FBI agent and a too-smart-for-his-own-good orphan takes readers on an action-filled trip from Victorian to modern London and back again.

“The Thing About Luck” by Cynthia Kadohata. Illustrations by Julia Kuo (Atheneum, 2013). When 12-year-old Japanese-American Summer gets stuck with her strict and stubborn grandparents for harvest season, she discovers that if your luck is bad, it’s up to you to change it.


“From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum, 1967). Konigsburg passed away this spring, and anyone who has not read her story about 12-year-old Claudia and her younger brother, Jamie, who hide out in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, must. While fans should enjoy the classic all over again.

“Pi in the Sky” by Wendy Mass. (Little, Brown, 2013). Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe, and he feels pretty insignificant. But when he’s charged with bringing back the Earth (which has disappeared) and watching earthling Annika, he learns how important he truly is.

“Far Far Away” by Tom McNeal (Knopf, 2013). Jeremy Johnson’s mother ran away after taking a bite of legendary cake; children in his town, Never Better, are disappearing; a beautiful girl mesmerizes him; and he hears the ghost of Jacob Grimm in his head. A bizarre and enchanting modern fairy tale.

“The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail” by Richard Peck. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. (Dial, 2013). Mouse Minor, the smallest mouse in London’s Royal Mews, runs away to escape bullies. He ends up meeting Queen Victoria and discovering secrets about his past. This novel for the younger set will be published in July.


“Navigating Early” by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte, 2013). Newbery-winner Vanderpool’s latest is a beautifully written adventure starring Jack Baker and “the strangest of boys,” Early Auden, who set off from their boarding school to find Early’s brother in the Maine wilderness.

“P.S. Be Eleven” by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, 2013). In 1960s Brooklyn, Delphine must navigate middle school, the return of her uncle from Vietnam, family, and a host of other worries. Fans of “One Crazy Summer” will not want to miss this triumphant sequel.


“Tiger Eyes” by Judy Blume (Bradbury, 1981). This month marks the premiere of the first-ever Blume novel to be made into a movie. Revisit her novel about a New Jersey girl with “tiger eyes” who is struggling to cure her grief in the desert of New Mexico.

“The Moon and More” by Sara Dessen (Viking, 2013). Set in the small beach town of Colby, N.C., this story stars 18-year-old Emaline, who must reconfigure her aspirations and future when her birth father and handsome filmmaker Theo come to town.

“Nantucket Blue” by Leila Howland (Hyperion, 2013). After her original plans fall through, teenager Cricket Thompson gets a job as a chambermaid on Nantucket, leading to a summer of sand, secrets, Nantucket Reds, and romance. A fresh, feel-good debut.


“September Girls” by Bennett Madison (HarperTeen, 2013). There are f-bombs, drinking, and sex. But there is also stunning writing in this story about a 17-year-old boy trying to find out who he is in the wake of his mother’s abandonment and the otherworldly girls who haunt a town in the Outer Banks.

“Gorgeous” by Paul Rudnick (Scholastic, 2013). Eighteen-year-old Becky Randle’s life changes forever when fashion designer Tom Kelly promises to make her three dresses, one of which will make her the most beautiful woman in the world. The catch? She has to find love in one year. A laugh-until-you-cry satire.

“This Is What Happy Looks Like” by Jennifer E. Smith (Poppy, 2013). A small town in Maine, a teen movie star and a girl who has no idea that a young actor is the guy behind the romantic e-mails she’s been receiving make for an ice-cream sweet, yet earnest, beach read.

“Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” by April Genevieve Tucholke (Dial, 2013). Part supernatural mystery, part Gothic romance, this story about a seaside town with secrets, a mysterious stranger, and an unusual girl torn between her heart and her conscience is a perfect read for stormy summer nights. Unfortunately, you will have to wait until August.

“In the Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters (Amulet, 2013). The year is 1918. The Spanish flu and World War I are testing everyone’s strength, but when Mary Shelley Black, 16, discovers she can see the spirit of her dead true love, she must draw on all her courage to help him find peace. Devour this debut under the covers with a flashlight.


Chelsey Philpot is a book reviews editor at School Library Journal. Her first novel, “Even in Paradise,” will be published by HarperCollins. She can be reached at