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Teen

The Ultimate YA Summer Reading List

by Laura Lambert

Photography by Seana Williamson

I don’t know about you, but escape has been my constant daydream over the last two years. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I was anywhere but here.

It’s much easier to pick up a book than to book a trip to the South Pacific or South of France. And to that end, here are 20 books to help teens experience a bit of escape this summer, at home or wherever they might find themselves.

  • Hotel Magnifique

    by Emily J. Taylor

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    If Hotel Magnifique — a magical hotel that transports itself elsewhere every night at midnight — sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. In this richly imagined fantasy world, 17-year-old Jani and her 13-year-old sister Zosa aspire to work for the legendary hotel, which appears once every 10 years in the port city where they live. Once inside, their aspirations meet a darker reality. “Taylor eloquently builds an immersive, believable world of magic, heavily influenced by French culture and brimming with interesting characters readers will grow to love and care about as they solve the mysteries of the hotel and free themselves from their gilded cage,” says Kirkus. “Even those well-read in the genre will enjoy some genuine surprises.”

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  • Flirting with Fate

    by J. C. Cervantes

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    Fans of The Storm Runner series, which is loosely based on Mayan mythology, will welcome J. C. Cervantes’s first YA romance novel. In Flirting with Fate, 17-year-old Ava Granados misses a family blessing she was supposed to receive from her dying grandmother, only to discover that it was given instead to the “random” stranger she collided with on her way to her grandmother’s deathbed. Is it fate?

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  • The Noh Family

    by Grace K. Shim

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    K-drama plus YA equals an irresistible story. Penguin Random House’s imprint Kokila published Grace K. Shim’s debut novel, The Noh Family. It follows 18-year-old Chloe Chang as she discovers, through 23andme, the wealthy, sprawling Korean family in Seoul that she never knew growing up with her single immigrant mother in Oklahoma. (Shim herself grew up as one of two Korean Americans at her high school in Oklahoma — the other one being her sister.)

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  • Cinder & Glass

    by Melissa de la Cruz

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    Who wouldn’t want to escape into a retelling of Cinderella, set in Versailles and featuring actual historical figures from the court of King Louis XIV?! Fifteen-year-old Cendrillon de Louvois — a.k.a. Cinderella — is tormented by her stepmother and stepsisters after her father’s death. And after the fated ball, she must choose between love and freedom.

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  • The Fault in Our Stars

    by John Green

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    Entertainment Weekly called John Green’s 2012 novel “the greatest romance story of this decade.″ And with its 10th anniversary on the horizon, there’s no better time to revisit Hazel Lancaster and Augustus “Gus” Waters, two teens who meet in a cancer ward as they navigate life and love on a limited timeline.

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  • Kiss & Tell

    by Adib Khorram

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    From the acclaimed author of Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Kiss & Tell follows the exploits of a Canadian boy band called, you guessed it, Kiss & Tell. Seventeen-year-old Hunter Drake is the only openly gay member of the band, and when his love life goes viral while the band is on a North American tour, it’s drama. Kirkus calls the novel “an absolute bop.”

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  • Beauty and the Besharam

    by Lillie Vale

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    This Beauty and the Beast-inspired rom-com, featuring an Indian American heroine and a Korean American hero, challenges the notion that “Belle” must be sweet and selfless. “I hope that Beauty and the Besharam challenges the idea of who we can be,” Lillie Vale wrote on GoodReads. “I hope we can start changing some of the language we use about ‘unlikeable’ girls. Characters shouldn’t have to be perfect or forced to conform in order for their stories to be worthy of understanding.”

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  • I Guess I Live Here Now

    by Claire Ahn

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    I Guess I Live Here Now whisks us away to Seoul, Korea, where Melody Lee finds herself after moving away from New York City with her mother. Her new life is a rich, dazzling fantasy world filled with things money can buy. But is it worth it?

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  • Kings of B'More

    by R. Eric Thomas

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    Kings of B’More is the first YA novel by R. Eric Thomas, best known for his wildly popular book of essays, Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America. This coming-of-age story follows two Black queer best friends, Harrison and Linus, who squeeze a lifetime of friendship and discovery into one final day together in Baltimore.

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  • The Agathas

    by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

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    Who are the Agathas? Alice Ogilvie and her tutor, Iris Adams, who, inspired by the detective novels of Agatha Christie, are trying to figure out who killed Brooke Donovan, Alice’s best friend and fellow ex-girlfriend of the same guy. Told from two points of view from two beloved YA authors, “the mystery thrills and gratifies thanks to escalating stakes and devastating reveals,” per Publishers Weekly.

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  • Melt With You

    by Jennifer Dugan

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    Perfect for summer, Jennifer Dugan’s latest queer YA romance follows Fallon and Chloe, best friends who fell out after they hooked up, briefly, before Chloe leaves for college. Circumstances — and a gourmet ice cream truck — force them back together.

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  • Salaam, with Love

    by Sarah Sharaf Beg

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    In this debut coming-of-age novel, Dua Sheikh, a Muslim American teen, finds herself in a cramped apartment in Queens alongside her extended family during Ramadan. There, she gets up close and personal with her ambivalence about the culture and religion she calls her own and the flush of first love.

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  • The Fear

    by Natasha Preston

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    From the best-selling author of The Lost, The Twin, and The Lake comes The Fear — a social media-stoked YA thriller set in a small fishing town. High school senior Izzy is trying to figure out who killed a fellow student before others at her high school die in the exact way they’ve described as part of a viral meme. “This swift-moving slasher adventure proves to be a page-turning mystery,” says Kirkus.

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  • A Night to Die For

    by Lisa Schroeder

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    Yes, it’s prom, and yes, there’s a murder. But who’s to blame? When Mario Woods finds the Prom Queen, Maribelle Starr, dead in a ditch, what was supposed to be the best night of his life turns into the worst—because he’s the primary suspect.

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  • Family of Liars

    by E. Lockhart

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    This prequel to E. Lockhart’s acclaimed 2014 mystery, We Were Liars, takes place 27 years before, on the Sinclair family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Carrie Sinclair is 17 and grieving the loss of her youngest sister, Rosemary, when tragedy and family secrets upend the summer. Kirkus calls the book “beautiful and devastating.”

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  • Does My Body Offend You?

    by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt

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    Told in alternating first-person chapters by each author, Does My Body Offend You? is a story about friendship and feminism told against the backdrop of an outdated dress code at a high school in Florida. Kirkus calls it “An ultimately heartwarming story about activism and allyship, learning when to speak up and when to listen.”

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  • The Matchbreaker Summer

    by Annie Rains

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    The perfect summer escapism — a light, summer camp rom-com where an unlikely pair, 16-year-old Paisley Manning and newcomer Hayden Bennett, find common ground as they try to break up the impending marriage of Paisley’s mom. Online matchmakers, meet real-life matchbreakers.

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  • Six Crimson Cranes

    by Elizabeth Lim

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    You know Elizabeth Lim for her YA fantasy novels, but here, she deftly marries fantasy with classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and East Asia folklore. Six Crimson Cranes is the story of Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, who must save her six brothers, who have been turned into cranes by their stepmother.

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  • Castles in Their Bones

    by Laura Sebastian

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    The first in a new trilogy by Laura Sebastian, author of the beloved Ash Princess series, Castles in Their Bones follows 16-year-old triplets Daphne, Beatriz, and Sophronia — princesses pushed by their mother to marry into neighboring nations. Kirkus calls it “Dazzling, female-driven fantasy.”

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  • Skin of the Sea

    by Natasha Bowen

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    This is no ordinary retelling of The Little Mermaid. Natasha Bowen’s acclaimed debut weaves West African and Yoruba culture, and the brutal history of the African slave trade, into a richly imagined fantasy of a Mami Wata (mermaid) who falls in love with a man. Says Publishers Weekly, “Reinvigorating the image of West Africa as not merely a site of human suffering but a historical place of great invention, fellowship, and hope, Bowen relays a story as lushly described as it is cinematic, centering a brave, headstrong protagonist coming into her own power in an age of change.”

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Looking for summer reading ideas for younger kids? Check out our 2022 lists for Kids Ages 3 – 5, Ages 6 – 8, and Ages 9 – 12.