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The Ultimate YA Summer Reading List

by Laura Lambert


No matter where you live, this summer will be a summer like no other. Perhaps sleepaway camp has been cancelled. Trips abroad, or to see far-flung family and friends, deferred. In some cases, school might not even be in session for fall. Lucky for us, the latest crop of YA books — some brand new, some new in paperback — will still be there to help pass the time, to invite you into new worlds — beyond the walls of your own home, with characters both familiar and strange.

  • Books to break your heart:

  • When You Were Everything

    by Ashley Woodfolk

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    What happens when best friends drift apart — and then are unceremoniously forced back together? That’s what Ashley Woodfolk explores in When You Were Everything, which Publishers Weekly calls “a satisfying coming-of-age friendship story.”

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  • A Girl in Three Parts

    by Suzanne Daniel

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    In this debut coming-of-age novel, set in 1970s Australia, Allegra Elsom grapples not just with the loss of her mother, who died when she was just three years old, but also the complicated relationships she has with the people who are left in her life — her maternal grandmother, Matilde, her surfer father, and his mother, Joy. “This is both a story of self-discovery and one of family healing,” says Kirkus.

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  • How to Make Friends with the Dark

    by Kathleen Glasgow

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    Now out in paperback, How to Make Friends with the Dark takes place in the tumultuous weeks after the death of 16-year-old Tiger Tolliver’s mother — her only family. Amidst the chaos of foster homes and funeral arrangements, Tiger learns how to move forward.

    “This narrative is chiefly a first-person experience of the void left behind when the most important person in a young woman’s life is suddenly gone,” writes Kirkus. “It’s visceral and traumatic, pulsing with ache.”

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  • How It Feels to Float

    by Helena Fox

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    How It Feels to Float is the story of 17-year-old Biz, who is awash in depression, grief, and undiagnosed, intergenerational mental illness, as she navigates her teen years without her father, who took his own life a decade before. “Biz’s mental health crisis, which primarily takes the form of hallucinations, dissociation, and panic attacks, is portrayed with raw, vivid authenticity,” writes Kirkus.

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  • Books to make you swoon:

  • Jo & Laurie

    by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz

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    For anyone who couldn’t get enough of Greta Gerwig’s adaption of Little Women — and in particular, for those who still don't understand Jo and Laurie’s unrequited love story — Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz collaborated on this treat, just for you. Written in the style of the original and based on real letters and events in Louisa May Alcott’s life, Jo & Laurie reimagines an alternate world where these childhood best friends make a different choice. “This is the fan fiction of fan fictions, and we honestly wrote it for ourselves more than anyone else,” Stohl told Paste Magazine.

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  • Time of Our Lives

    by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund Broka

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    In this YA romance, Fitz Holton and Juniper Ramirez meet on a college tour in Boston, but they seem to be heading in different directions. Fitz wants to stay close to home and his mother, who has early onset Alzheimer’s; Juniper can’t wait to get far, far, away — and they learn a lot from each other as they cross paths again and again. The back story here is equally of interest.

    Time of Our Lives is a uniquely personal book for us,” Wibberly and Broka told Penguin Teen. “Not only are Juniper and Fitz’s feelings about college taken directly from our 18-year-old selves, but the idea for this book came from our experience as a young couple facing futures in different cities.”

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  • No One Here Is Lonely

    by Sarah Everett

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    For 18-year-old Eden, the only person she can talk to about her broken friendship and broken family is Will — her long-time crush. The thing is, Will died in a car accident before graduation, and Eden’s blossoming romance is with his digital facsimile, thanks to a service called In Good Company. “Everett … makes the improbable seem plausible in this novel, which is part unrequited love story, part cautionary tale about grief turning to obsession and fantasy,” says Publishers Weekly.

  • Books to make you think:

  • We Are Not from Here

    by Jenny Torres Sanchez

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    We Are Not from Here is the story of Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña, three teenagers fleeing the dangers of their hometown in Guatemala for an unclear future across the border in the United States. Says Kirkus, “Sanchez delivers a brutally honest, not-to-be-missed narrative enriched by linguistic and cultural nuances in which she gracefully describes the harrowing experiences the young people endure after making the choice to survive.”

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    by Laurie Halse Anderson

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    New in paperback, SHOUT is Laurie Halse Anderson’s memoir, written in free verse, which addresses her own rape, at age 13, and how it took her 23 years to talk about it. Anderson — the author of the 1999 book Speak, the fictional story of a 14-year-old who stops speaking after she is sexually assaulted — began writing SHOUT as the #MeToo movement came together. “This book was written in rage, literally,” Anderson told Time. “Lines of poetry just started raining in my head.”

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Looking for summer reading ideas for younger kids? Check out our 2020 lists for Kids Ages 3 – 5, Ages 6 – 8, and Ages 9 – 12.