Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Good Summer Books for Teens, Tweens and Adults

Simpson's Point in Maine

Now that summer is finally here, you'll find me biking four miles to Simpson's Point to swim at high tide. It's paradise if you ignore the green head flies. Great blue herons and snowy egrets fish in the shallows while bald eagles and ospreys circle above. As I wait for my suit to dry, I perch on a warm rock with a good book. Here are my recommendations of books published this year in hardcover or paperback with links to my full-length reviews:

Literary Historical Fiction (paperback) 

Euphoria by Lily King: set in tropical New Guinea and inspired by Margaret Mead, this sensuous summer read was one of my favorite books from 2014 and is now available in paperback. Follow the first link to my review and interview of the Maine author.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: this year's Pulitzer Prize winner alternates between a blind French girl and a German radio operator during World War II. This book would cross over well to young adults since the two protagonists are teenagers. Gorgeous writing and a well constructed plot makes this a compelling read. The author attended Bowdoin College in Maine. One third into this Dickensian story, I'm enjoying it. My husband will be reading this next for his book group. Thanks to all the people who recommended this book to me.

Commercial Fiction

Summer Secrets by Jane Green: I'm saving this newly released hardcover for Nantucket. Summer Secrets is set on that island and in Primrose Hill, London, where I lived on sabbatical with my family. This British American author knows her settings well. I've enjoyed five of Jane's novels; she writes the best beach books. You can read an excerpt from Summer Secrets here. Her last book, Tempting Fate, with my doppelganger as the protagonist, is now available in paperback.

Young Adult Fiction 

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein: this historical novel about a family of pilots in 1930s Ethiopia would appeal to adults as well as to older teens. The perspective alternates between an Italian American teenager and her foster brother, an Ethiopian American boy. Although slow to start, this literary book soars when it takes to the skies. Elizabeth Wein is one of my favorite authors (hardcover).

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales: this 2013 novel, recently released in paperback, is edgy, fresh and fun. An unpopular, depressed teen finds friends and romance while DJ-ing for a pop-up underground dance club. I loved this book and its alt rock music selections, stretching from now to decades past. The book includes thematic playlists and should have been sold with a soundtrack. I found this novel while browsing at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine.

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio: a homecoming queen discovers that she is intersex and is bullied at school when a friend reveals her secret. She turns to an online community for support. This novel will speak to anyone who doesn't fit in and will help others to be more understanding. The author is a urologist/surgeon who was inspired by a teenaged intersex patient (hardcover).

P.S. I Still Love You (hardcover) by Jenny Han is the follow up to last year's To All the Boys I've Loved Before (paperback). When Lara Jean's secret love letters are sent to her crushes, her love life gets complicated. The first book ends without much resolution, enticing you to buy the second one. These paired romances also focus on sibling relationships following the loss of their Korean-American mother. A good choice for reluctant readers.

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart: set in Florence and narrated from the perspective of a teen who fears that she is losing her mind. The style is poetic and dreamlike without much plot structure. Best for fans of literary fiction and psychology. I've read six other novels by this most unique author (hardcover).

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is the 2015 Printz Award winner about a family of artists was one of my favorite books from last year. Narration alternates between a gay teenaged boy and his twin sister. If you want to understand why realistic young adult fiction is so big right now and crossing over to adults, try this book. I love Jandy Nelson's writing style (paperback).

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman is the much anticipated sequel to the award winning Seraphina (2012, now paperback). In this literary fantasy, an unstable truce between humans and dragons is under siege. Seraphina, a half human/dragon music mistress, hides her secret parentage while trying to prevent war. These books reminded me of The Dragon Riders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. I loved Seraphina (my niece's favorite book) so much that I bought the sequel the day I finished reading the first book, and I don't usually like fantasy. I bought a second copy for my niece's fourteenth birthday. Although Seraphina is a teenager, most characters are adults so it would crossover well to an adult audience (hardcover).

Young Adult Nonfiction (hardcover)

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch: teenaged American-Zimbabwean pen-pals form a deep friendship over seven years in this inspiring memoir. The accessible style would appeal to younger teens and to tweens. Thanks, Main Point Books, for recommending this book to me.

Middle Grade Fiction (ages 10-12, hardcover)

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. An Hispanic migrant girl breaks traditions by entering the Downeast Blueberry Queen beauty pageant. Twelve-year-old Salma hopes to win a savings bond for college. No one captures small town Maine better than local author Cynthia Lord. This aptly named novel received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, won a Best of Maine Children's Book Award from Downeast Magazine and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Halfway through, I'm reading a chapter a night to savor it; A Handful of Stars would make an excellent read-aloud bedtime story for the summer.

The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy: this paranormal mystery set in a real world middle school would be a good choice for reluctant readers. The protagonist is a 13-year-old girl who reads sparkle memories on inanimate objects to find a missing girl.

Reviewer's Disclosure: I read/recommend mostly realistic young adult fiction since that is what I write myself. Beth Kephart and Barrie Summy are my blog buddies, and at my request, I received review galleys from their publishers. I also requested a review galley of Elizabeth Wein's novel from her new editor, who is my friend. All other books I purchased at indie bookstores (Gulf of Maine Books, Longfellow Books and Bull Moose) and was not compensated for my reviews. Jane Green is an art client. Cynthia Lord and her editor are my neighbors/friends. My daughter went to school with Lily King's daughters. Yes, the Maine literary community is basically a small town.

Blog Watch: for more recommendations check out the summer reading lists posted @From The House of Edward@ The Cue Card and @ Midlife Roadtripper.

What are you reading this summer?


Rose said...

I always look forward to your lists of recommended books, Sarah. We read "All the Light We Cannot See" in my book club a few months ago, and I think I reviewed for Barrie's book club, too. I agree it's a beautifully written book and well worth picking up. I had forgotten about "Euphoria," though; I remember reading your review and wanting to add it to my want-to-read list at the time--thanks for reminding me! Hope your summer is going well.

Kelly H-Y said...

Oooooh, thank you! I have a couple of these 'waiting' on my Kindle as samples, and the rest sound wonderful too!

A Cuban In London said...

Great recommendations. My summer reading will probably comprise the other two books by Marlen Haushofer I bought recently. I would also like to catch up with some literature in Spanish. So German and Spanish and back to English in the autumn! :-)

Greetings from London.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Just read your review of Euphoria. I truly enjoyed it so was pleased to read your interview with the author. Also, thoroughly enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See. Has been a good time for good literature of late.

Appreciate the young adult recommendations also since I'm not in the classroom anymore to see which books young people are reading.

thecuecard said...

Thanks for the shout-out Sarah. Nice of you. Indeed the Maine literary community sounds small and connected. I enjoyed your review of Euphoria as well as your interview of Lily King. I'm amazed she was totally an armchair traveler and never took an anthropology class. Gosh her imagination just went there!! Went to New Guinea. How did she do it?! Enjoy your swims.

Donna said...

Thanks for the recommendations! I read All The Light We Cannot See earlier this year and I was so impressed with the writing and the plot. I'm going to add "Summer Secrets" to my summer reading list. I especially enjoy reading books that are set on the Cape or its islands when I'm out there. A friend of mine just read Shadow Scale and she loved it, so now with your endorsement too, I'm adding Seraphina and Shadow Scale to my list.
Happy reading this summer!

Linda said...

This is a great selection of books.

Amanda Summer said...

Summer Secrets and the beach sound like a fine duo.

Sarah Laurence said...

Rose, you were one of the many who recommended Doerr’s book to me. Thank you! I love this cross-fertilization between bookish blogs.

Kelly, Linda and Amanda I’d love to hear your reactions to these books.

ACIL, I knew that you were bilingual Spanish/English but you’re reading in German too? I’m impressed!

MR, I’m in a good reading company.

Cue, Lily King wrote a marvelous novel, The Pleasing Hour, set in France too.

Donna, thanks for your feedback on Doerr’s well-plotted masterpiece. Yes, Summer Secrets would fit your Cape setting too, although it might be darker than Green’s earlier books since it deals with a recovering alcoholic.

Carol said...

What a beautiful setting to sit and read except for those tenacious flies. Thanks for reminding me I want to read "All the Light We Cannot See" I just called the library. I will have to check back to read some of the reviews.

Robert Linde said...