Really this is a year-round reading recommendations list! 'Tis the season, however, so here are a handful of personal recommendations for summer reading, with more to come in July & August. These aren't necessarily books published this year, they are simply books I've read, admired, and enjoyed.
YA & MiDDLE GRADE
GOBLIN SECRETS by William Alexander
This author studied folklore at Oberlin as an undergraduate, and it shows. I love the many superstitious details that surface throughout the story. The world feels both like an old folk tale and something totally new.
SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi
This is a tense adventure in a dystopian future. That could describe a lot of YA books, but this one has a particularly interesting setting that really sets it apart from some I've read.
THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall
This book is character-driven realistic fiction, with a set of girls reminiscent of the sisters in Little Women, but even more fun. They spend a summer having mild yet somehow thrilling adventures in a cottage they’ve rented behind a huge mansion in the Berkshires. They meet a boy who lives in the mansion, Jeffrey, whose mother is a bit of a tyrant. I’d call the storytelling “old-fashioned,” but it’s so refreshing I’m not sure that’s it. The whole book is enjoyable start to finish.
THE SCHOOL OF GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani
This tale follows two girls, Sophie and Agatha, who are stolen away from their town to attend the school of Good and Evil. When they arrive, both are shocked at the schools to which they are assigned. The lines between good and evil blur. A very fun read; I’m looking forward to the next one!
GOOSE GIRL by Shannon Hale
This is the story of a princess named Ani. She is betrayed by her guards and her lady-in-waiting, disguises herself as a "goose girl," discovers her magical gifts, and thwarts an evil plot. One of my favorite books ever, truly.
INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai
This is a middle grade novel in verse about a girl who is forced to leave her homeland of Vietnam during the war. She tells about her adjustment to life in America as a Vietnamese girl in the 1970s. It is well written; the style adds a lot to a genuinely touching story. A++ would read again.
WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin
I loved this book. I just absolutely loved it. It’s about a girl named Minli who leaves her home by Fruitless Mountain to try to find The Old Man of the Moon and improve her family’s fortune. She frees a dragon along the way, and has many adventures.
HATCHET by Gary Paulsen
This is pretty intense YA. It's the story of a 13-year-old boy named Brian who survives a plane crash. He finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with little to his name but a hatchet, and he must fend for himself until he is rescued. I love survival stories–MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN was one of my childhood favorites–and HATCHET satisfies in a similar, exciting way.
SPLENDORS & GLOOMS by Laura Amy Schlitz
This is just my kind of book. It has spunky children, an evil puppet master, a magic ruby, kidnapping. Bliss!
GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES! VOICES FROM A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE by Laura Amy Schlitz
I am a fan of Laura Amy Schlitz, as you may have guessed! This is a fantastic collection of 22 monologues and dialogues, delivered by children who live in and around a manor in the 1200s. The stories they tell are terrific, and give a sense of what life might have been like in the Middle Ages.
WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
This is impressively layered MG/YA with a science fiction element. Without giving away too much, I'll say Miranda finds out things in the future are different from her present. In the present, she’s dealing with friends who seem standoffish, a missing father, and a boy who makes her head spin. It’s a lot, and it’s fun to follow.