10 Young Adult Reads to Enjoy this Summer and Recommend to Your Students

You’ve probably heard it before…Young Adult fiction isn’t just for young adults. But it’s true—some of the most engrossing reads in recent years are hidden in the YA section of your local bookstore. Use this list to find the best of the best, and go into the school year with a better understanding of what your middle and high school readers are interested in. These novels tackle social and racial issues, explore friendship and grief, and provide solace and joy.  Get in touch with your students’ way of thinking and communicating, and you might be able to recommend someone’s new favorite book.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Described as “powerful” and “necessary,” The Hate U Give broaches the topic of police brutality through the lens of a black teenager who lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a suburban prep school. The novel deals with the difficulties of activism, systematic racism, and classism through the eyes of a young girl, importantly working to personalize the deaths that we see so frequently in news headlines. The Hate U Give is praised for its multi-dimensional characters and gripping, emotional storyline.

We Are Okay – Nina LaCour

The cover of We Are Okay is striking, in bold pink and blue. If you’ve read Nina LaCour’s other work, you might guess that it is indicative of what’s inside—a vivid portrait of love and grief, friendship and loneliness. Recommended for grades 8 and up, LaCour’s novel is short and lyrical, perfect for readers who enjoy a character study or are feeling isolated themselves. Read this if you want your ideas about the quality of Young Adult fiction to be blown out of the water; Bookpage described LaCour as an author that “keeps redefining and elevating her genre.”

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

The debut novel from Becky Albertalli is truly emblematic of its time— Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda depicts teens in the age of the internet, and is filled with the lingo and references of the late 2010s. Albertalli pulls you effortlessly into this heartfelt page-turner about a 16-year old high-schooler who struggles to keep his sexuality secret after he is blackmailed. It’s a high school romance that will leave you grinning. Make sure to read it before the film adaptation comes out next spring.

Gem and Dixie – Sara Zarr

From National Book Award’s finalist, Sara Zarr, comes Gem and Dixie, a novel about sisters. On a short road trip, Gem reevaluates her familial relationships after her absent father returns home for the first time in years. Gem tries to forge her own path, separate from her codependent parents, while looking out for Dixie, her younger sister. It is Zarr’s most personal novel to date, drawn from her experiences as a child and her journey of upward mobility. The novel is honest and bittersweet: hallmarks of Zarr’s writing.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

It feels like a fault of marketing that The Book Thief got categorized as Young Adult, as it’s beauty and complexity surpasses much of the material in the fiction market today. The novel, narrated by Death, tells the story of book-loving Liesel, a young girl in Nazi Germany. The biggest mistake a reader can make is casting the novel off as simple historical fiction. Zusak writes engrossing, lovable, complex characters, who work to show that despite the unfair brutality of the world, there is power in love and hope.

Noggin – John Corey Whaley

Noggin has an unusual premise—A sixteen-year-old boy is brought back to life after choosing to have his head cryogenically frozen in case of his passing when he was diagnosed with cancer. Now his head is attached to someone else’s body, and he must adjust to the life that he left behind five years prior, despite the fact that he feels as if he’s woken up from a single night’s sleep. A quick, thought-provoking read from one of the most exciting young adult novelists writing today.

Seedfolks – Paul Fleischman

This Newbery Medal winning collection of short stories centers around a community garden in Cleveland. Diverse neighbors find hope and unity in each others’ small contributions. A short, inspiring read, Seedfolks is small enough to keep in your pocket.

Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare

If fantasy is your genre of choice, check out Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifice Series. Lord of Shadows is the second in the series, and it is ramping up to be one of the biggest releases of the summer. Romance, violence, and a fantastical Los Angeles are all on the table in Lord of the Shadows, an extension of the popular world Clare created in The Mortal Instruments series.

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is a gorgeous, heartbreaking novel, set on a private island in the summertime. Lockhart captures the magic of summer friendships and the fleeting feelings that seem to altogether disappear with the change of seasons. Beautifully crafted, with a satisfying and unforgettable twist, We Were Liars is a thrilling beach read.

A List of Cages – Robin Roe

Praised by Emma Donoghue (Room), A List of Cages tells the story of Adam Blake, a senior in high school who is reunited with his foster brother. Told through alternating perspectives, Roe powerfully depicts friendship between two struggling individuals.

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