Beyond ‘Twilight’: A YA Summer Reading List for the Uninitiated

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Major franchises like Twilight, Divergent, and The Hunger Games have helped popularize young adult literature for adults, and as a YA novelist and editor of kids books myself, I couldn’t be happier about it. But don’t stop there: for every one of these movies, there are hundreds of well-written, thought-provoking, envelope-pushing, and thoroughly entertaining teen novels.

A truly great YA novel goes down easy, but it’s not candy. It has substance and nuance, too. It’s more like ice cream: a delight to consume that leaves you feeling full afterward. And what’s a better season for ice cream than the summer? So as you put together your summer reading list, make sure to pack some of these books for your trips to the Rockaways and your picnics in Prospect Park.

 

51Jm9MEk+gL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_June: Go on a Globe-Trotting Adventure

Heist Society, by Ally Carter

Heist Society is basically Ocean’s 11 starring teenagers. It’s jam-packed with action, international travel, high stakes, shifting alliances, constant surprises, and some delightful romance. This plot is so tightly wound you’ll want to start it all over again as soon as you reach the end, just to see how it all fit together.


10798418July: Have a Summer Romance

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman

A teenage alt-girl looks back on her five weeks of dating the school basketball star with so much love and pathos, using mementoes from their relationship—a pack of matches, a bottle top, etc.—as touchstones. Anyone who has ever dated the wrong person (not a bad person, just the wrong one) will find this novel beautiful, relatable, and cathartic.

 

 


11925514August: Hang out with Your Best Friend

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

This is the story of two British teen girls who undertake a covert mission in France during World War II. You spend a lot of the book not completely understanding what’s going on before discovering, and then discovering again, who to trust and what this mission truly is. What will ultimately stick with you is not the ingenious plot but the overwhelming strength of the friendship between these two girls. To quote the narrator: “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”

 


51SErELwasL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_September: Indulge in a Fantasy

Chime, by Franny Billingsley

This is a story about twins living in a slightly magical version of turn-of-the-century England—sort of like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale crossed with Dickens with a feminist bent. The writing is striking in its originality, the magic is captivating, and Briony is a complex and broken heroine of a sort rarely seen in fiction.

 

 


6a011570fa04d9970c01a51164b09d970cBonus Summer Fun: Hit up a Dance Party

This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales

I’m biased because I wrote this novel! And the paperback edition just came out. This Song Will Save Your Life is about a deeply unhappy and unpopular teen girl who discovers an underground dance club, where she rises through the ranks as an indie DJ sensation. The music and community she finds there give her a passion and a purpose in life, but juggling that with her old identity turns into an impossible challenge. It’s an exciting dance party of a book, but it also explores meaningful issues of self-determination, self-worth, and what makes a life worth living.

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