13 of August 2015's Best Young Adult Books, aka What to Read While Your Summer Dwindles Down
Prepare to be dumping sand out of your bookshelf come fall, because you're going to need to tote these 13 August young adult books to the beach. This year has already come through on great summer YA reads, and the final month before dreaded Labor Day does not disappoint, either. Go ahead and take some "mental health" day trips to the beach or poolside, because summer reading season is almost over — and you are not going to want to miss these.
August brings us three highly anticipated sequels from three massive names: My Life Next Door 's Huntley Fitzpatrick, The Diviners ' Libba Bray, and Every Day 's David Levithan. Aside from these three musts, there's also a sophomore novel following up a sleeper hit of summer 2015, a graphic novel from one of the most respected in the biz, a female Robin Hood in a futuristic Sherwood Forest, a super feminist Cinderella, and, oh, did I mention a horror anthology from some of the best scary YA story writers out there right now? Pack this one for the campfire, and everyone will hate/love you for it.
You'll be spending the last 31 days of summer freedom hiding inside your sleeping bag from fear, absolutely swooning over the jitters of first love, remembering just how important your childhood BFFs are, vanishing into an exciting fantasy world, reinventing your favorite fair tales, and straight-up getting utterly drunkenly lost in a story — in the best possible way.
How else would you want to spend them?
Perdita by Faith Gardner (Aug. 1; Merit Press)
Arielle Delaney thinks she might be going crazy, or just needs some sleep. It's not that she doesn't totally believe in ghosts, but she's started seeing one in particular everywhere. Her older sister's former friend Perdita suspiciously drowned in a lake, and now Arielle is seeing her in her dreams, in her room at night, and whispering in her ear, trying to tell her something. Maybe Arielle is experiencing this trace-like state because Perdita's death is eerily reminiscent of Arielle's brother's drowning a decade before, and Perdita can tell her something during these "episodes." Oh, and then there's this whole potential relationship with Perdita's brother. Told in first person, Faith Gardner paints an intense psychological portrait that's fascinating and chilling
Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid (Aug. 4; Harlequin Teen)
Adi Alsaid made waves with his debut road trip novel last summer, Let's Get Lost . And his sophomore novel Never Always Sometimes won't disappoint everyone who loved the spirit of his first. It's the unusual summer love story you've been waiting for. BFFs Julia and Dave have seen enough John Hughes movies to know what high school cliches to avoid during their tenure — never dye your hair a crazy color, never hook up with a teacher, never pine for someone all through high school, never fall for your best friend. Ohhh, wait on those last two. Dave may have already broken them. But now that they've hit senior year, they realize they may have been missing out on that high school magic by avoiding these cliches and they take up a mission to cross everything off the list. Duh, Dave is on board.
Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon (Aug. 4; Bloomsbury USA Childrens)
I'm so psyched for the magnificent Kekla Magoon's younger young adult novel Shadows of Sherwood, which puts a futuristic, female Robin Hood into the city to challenge a greedy new governor. 12-year-old Robyn Loxley joins up with some thieving, misfit kids in a search to find her parents, who were taken by guards during a coup. Robyn is killer smart, both street-wise and bookish, techie-wise, just like our fabled hero, and so she leads a group of other kids to find her parents and help her impoverished peers along the way. And don't panic, it's going to be a full series until the "Robyn Hoodlum" name that delves into class warfare and race.
Not After Everything by Michelle Levy (Aug. 4; Dial)
Michelle Levy's Not After Everything is a raw, emotional love story that knows first love doesn't always go like the movies. Tyler Blackwell (not to be confused with your TV boyfriend Tyler Blackburn, aka Pretty Little Liars ' Caleb) and his childhood best friend Jordyn re-find each other in a time of vulnerability for the both of them. Tyler's mother committed suicide and left him with his abusive father — and it's affecting his entire present and future, with his football scholarship to Stanford and his group of friends and girlfriend. It's a tough one to read, as Levy doesn't shy away from the harsh topics or the graphic nature of his abuse. You can't help but root for him to find some peace and contentment with Jordyn, who offers him a break from his home life and figuring out where to go from here.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books; Aug. 4)
We're wading into middle grade territory here, but how could I ever leave off Rebecca Stead's latest after her cannonball of a splash, When You Reach Me? Plus it tackles early adolescent friendship, which really, is a topic that deserves all of the books. Stead has created three interlocking stories of 7th graders, but also of their older siblings, parents, and grandparents as they pass along advice from their own life stories. There's Bridge Barsamian who, as shown on the cover, starts wearing Ariana Grande-style cat ears and takes steps toward boosting her confidence after an accident. There's Sherm, who is suffering through changes in his family and won't respond to texts from his grandfather. Tabitha begins committing herself to human rights causes, and Emily has to deal with that thing we all do around 7th grade — our changing bodies. The result is absolutely relatable and full of heart.
Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond (Roaring Brook Press; Aug. 11)
Your summer wouldn't be complete without at least one graphic novel, and for my money, Bright Lights Dark Nights should be the one. (Or at least the first.) Stephen Emond's latest is insanely timely, dealing with racial profiling and the division between police and black citizens. Teenage Walter's dad is a police officer (and, it should be noted, is white), and he gets in hot water when he arrests a young black teenager for burglary and there's allegations of Walter's dad assaulting the boy, and of racial profiling as a whole. This puts Walter in a difficult position in his community and amid online bullying since he started dating his BFF's sister Naomi, who is black. Though it has a whole lot to say of our modern struggle with racial divides, it's also about family and is a killer first love story to boot.
The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (Kathy Dawson Books; Aug. 18)
OK, you guys. This one pulled me in by its comparison to my favorite book of 2014, E. Lockhart's We Were Liars . And while The Accident Season has a similar feeling of unease throughout, Moïra Fowley-Doyle's debut novel is entirely unique. Every year, toward the end of October, Cara's family prepares for the accident season when "bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom." Inexplicably, the family suffers accidents, even deaths, during this time, so they pad the edges of tables, go out wearing extra layers, lock away knives, and otherwise try to avoid any accidents. Fowley-Doyle imbues the whole story with this kind of drunk, underwater feeling, where readers are unsure what's actually happening and what is in the character's heads, and I've never read anything else like it.
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke (Dial; Aug. 18)
If your idea of an excellent summer night is telling ghost stories around the campfire, you'll be jumping for (horrific) joy over Slasher Girls and Monster Boys. This YA horror anthology has stories from heavy hitters like Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Danielle Paige, Nova Ren Suma, Megan Shepherd, and that's not even half. Bonus: It's all put together by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea's April Genevieve Tucholke. I'm already hiding this book in the freezer.
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Aug. 18)
With a World Fantasy Finalist Award under her belt, Kate Elliott is already a big name in YA fantasy. But Court of Fives may be the crossover, breakout hit she has deserved for ages. Jessamy is mixed race — her father born to the elite Patrons and her mother to the Commoners. Her heritage is protected by a wealthy aristocrat, but when he dies, the hate toward her mixed race family means she and her parents are no longer safe. Luckily, Jessamy has been training for The Fives, an intense and mysterious athletic competition that's open to both the Patrons and the Commoners. It's also where she meets Patron boy Kalliarkos, and their friendship and romantic bond pushes them both to look at racial and social identity in their world at large. Oh, and it's pretty thrilling, too.
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (Aug. 18; Dial)
Oh, Huntley Fitzpatrick. You always know how to give my feminist heart a little romance. Thankfully we get to go back next door this month with The Boy Most Likely To, a sequel to the swoon-filled My Life Next Door. Samatha + Jase forever, am I right? This time we follow Samantha's childhood BFF, the charming Tim Mason (hooray!) as he falls for Jase's sister Alice Garrett. Whew. Those Garretts are irresistible. We fans know that Tim was more the boy most likely to be the one guzzling beer at a party than the boy most likely to succeed, but maybe our girl Alice can help him tame his wild ways while he shows her that letting adventure into your life isn't a bad thing.
Another Day by David Levithan (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers; Aug. 25)
Raise your hand if you were dying to another David Levithan Every Day novel. (I can't see you all, but I assume a billion hands just flew into the air.) Another Day isn't a sequel but a companion novel, told from Rhiannon's perspective. "A," wakes up every day in someone else's body, but Rhiannon has to live her same life every day — until the day A wakes up in her boyfriend Justin's body and everything changes. And though we know how it all feels from A's perspective, we now get a peek into Rhiannon's feelings on losing the "Justin" who made her feel alive, even if it was just for 24 hours.
Mechanica by Betsey Cornwell (Clarion Books; Aug. 25)
Just when you think you've had your fill of fairytale retellings Betsy Cornwell gives us something wholly different with Mechanica, a feminist, steampunk take on Cinderella. (I know, aren't you sold already?) It leans more middle grade than YA, but it won't matter because you'll be all wrapped up anyway when you see this social justice-fueled, tech-savvy Cinderella who definitely doesn't need a traditional, boring Prince Charming to save her from anything.
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (Aug. 25; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
To cap off the highly anticipated sequels this month is Libba Bray's Lair of Dreams, which we have been waiting three years for after The Diviners brought us back to magical 1920s Manhattan. Now, everyone knows Evie O’Neill is a diviner, who can see into the past via objects, and she's become somewhat of a celebrity. But the mystery isn't solved, yet, as more people start turning up sick from a sleeping illness. It might not have Leonardo DiCaprio, but it does have Inception-like "dream walkers" and a healthy dose of love stories.
Image: Ed Gregory/stokpik