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The 9 Most Overlooked Summer YA Novels You Should Read

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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SOLO

The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

This quiet read builds to a satisfying conclusion; readers will be glad to make space in their hearts—and bookshelves—for...

SAINTS AND MISFITS

Janna Yusuf has two major problems: the boy who assaults her at her friend’s party is well-respected in the local Muslim community, and now the boy from school she’s been crushing on likes her back.

Janna, a high school sophomore whose Egyptian mother and Indian father are divorced, is surrounded by caring friends and family, but there are things her non-Muslim friends don’t understand, and there are things she won’t tell her Muslim friends and family. It all comes to a head when her aggressor tries to publicly shame her by posting videos of her talking with her crush, a white boy named Jeremy, who, as a non-Muslim, is not considered a proper match for her…even if Janna did date, that is. As she stumbles through her social dilemmas, Janna finds out who her allies are—the everyday “saints” she’s overlooked. Finally, with the help of an unpredictable niqabi on her own mission to crush misogynists, Janna gets in touch with her rage and fights back, refusing to take on the shame that belongs on the aggressor. Ali pens a touching exposition of a girl’s evolution from terrified victim to someone who knows she’s worthy of support and is brave enough to get it. Set in a multicultural Muslim family, this book is long overdue, a delight for readers who will recognize the culture and essential for those unfamiliar with Muslim experiences.

This quiet read builds to a satisfying conclusion; readers will be glad to make space in their hearts—and bookshelves—for Janna Yusuf . (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9924-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

Daniels doesn’t just perfectly “queer the capes,” she delivers a book that’s tightly packed with brilliantly rendered...

SOVEREIGN

From the Nemesis series , Vol. 2

It’s been nine months since the last Dreadnought was blown apart and he transferred the mantle—and the responsibilities—to teenager Danny Tozer, and she’s already world-weary.

On a never-ending cycle of thwarting supervillains, dealing with local police, going over interviews with her lawyer/publicist, Danny keeps to herself how the one thing that she loves the most about the job is the fight. She sinks into the violence, feeling a bite of disappointment when she wins too quickly. The first book’s arc showed the white protagonist’s growth from a terrified trans teen to a powerful, revered superhero who physically resembles her truest self. This sequel drops readers at a waypoint where Danny’s physically comfortable and finding her place among her fellow “capes,” but her physical strength allows long-standing emotional damage to come thundering to the surface. Healing from a lifetime of emotional abuse, Danny has anger issues and tunnel vision that cause her to unknowingly hurt others or not to notice her own insensitivity. This complex is brilliantly threaded through an intense conflict against a billionaire supervillain and one of the more sinister of her old foes, not to mention some challenging subplots. Daniels’ world expands to include even more exciting capes, including a successor to an old friend and a brilliant, nonbinary cape called Kinetiq.

Daniels doesn’t just perfectly “queer the capes,” she delivers a book that’s tightly packed with brilliantly rendered fights, nail-biting scenes of peril, emotional authenticity, and a perfect first kiss. (Science fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68230-824-0

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Diversion Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

A thought-provoking, hilarious, eloquent story of a young man realizing that the world is much larger than the one set up...

WILDMAN

A high school valedictorian takes a madcap left turn in life.

Confident, white, 18-year-old Lance Hendricks’ life seems set for him. The all-around good guy’s got a gorgeous girlfriend of two years, early admission into Oregon State University on a scholarship, a 4.0 GPA, and he’s first chair trumpet player in the high school band. On his way home to Bend, Oregon, after a trip to Seattle, his 1993 Buick breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Washington, and the next five days change his life forever. Train-hopping, improbable brawls, whiskey shots, late-night parties at dive bars, and a mysteriously beautiful and unforgettable young white woman named Dakota are all part of the mix. Geiger’s first novel for teens is based in reality, but well-drawn elements of magical realism haunt its boundaries. There are genuine hairpin twists that will have readers wondering where the plot is headed and if it’s real. The ethereal Dakota is reminiscent of John Green’s Alaska, while the rest of the cast is crass, uncouth, dangerous at times, and winningly human. All of this is amplified by Geiger’s ability to spin laugh-out-loud, insight-filled one-liners to keep the pace up while the quieter moments balance the narrative with genuine beauty.

A thought-provoking, hilarious, eloquent story of a young man realizing that the world is much larger than the one set up for him. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4957-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

Full of secrets and plot twists, Kuehn’s latest is a satisfying, sophisticated study in complicated relationships

WHEN I AM THROUGH WITH YOU

A multiethnic group of teenagers goes camping on a school trip, but not all of them make it home alive.

Ben Gibson, a white teenager, is writing his story from jail. Straight off the bat, he throws readers a curveball with two pieces of crucial information: he loved brown-skinned Rose, his French-Peruvian girlfriend of two years, and he killed her. What follows next is a measured and uncensored narrative leading up to that exact moment. With a disabled mother to care for, Ben doesn’t have much hope for the future. The only spot of color in his life is Rose, but lately, their connection has been rocky. When he is asked to help lead a camping trip to the mountains for his school’s orienteering club, he embraces the challenge. With Rose and six other classmates in tow, the adventure begins—and quickly falls apart. Bad decisions, questionable motives, and possible fugitives hiding out in the mountain trap the teens in a train wreck readers can’t look away from. Hindsight is 20/20 as Ben explores his actions, and the more he reveals, the harder it is to take sides. Taut plotting combines with prose that’s by turns delicately plush and trenchantly foulmouthed for a riveting experience.

Full of secrets and plot twists, Kuehn’s latest is a satisfying, sophisticated study in complicated relationships . (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-10-199473-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

This thoroughly enjoyable read is a seductive invitation to relax and let life happen.

THE LAKE EFFECT

Future millionaire Briggs Henry has his course mapped (law degree and MBA) until an eventful summer as live-in caretaker and handyman for an elderly Serbian widow in a Lake Michigan resort town upends his plans and the bedrock assumptions they rest on.

The white teen has learned to work hard and aim high, to adopt his dad’s relentlessly upbeat demeanor, always remembering that “failure is not an option.” (His hardworking mother mostly keeps her views to herself.) Only grim Grandma Ruth, his dad’s mother, makes time to attend Briggs’ baseball games (until the bottom of the third inning). Rooted in a stressful past, the family work ethic and mandatory optimism take a toll on Briggs. They've cost him his girlfriend and given him digestive troubles. Now, between chores for eccentric Mrs. B., his new employer, and escorting her to funerals, he succumbs to laid-back, resort-town life and to Abigail, an intriguing white neighbor who questions his goals and expectations of success. Life is unpredictable, she knows; events beyond our control can change everything. All we have is now. Relinquishing his grip on what lies ahead allows Briggs to appreciate this truth—it’s an ability he’ll soon need. Observant, sarcastic, compelling, and very funny, narrator Briggs is entirely convincing and—ably abetted by an abundance of diverse characters—never less than good company.

This thoroughly enjoyable read is a seductive invitation to relax and let life happen. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4052-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

Full of surprises both cultural and emotional, and narrated in the strong voice of a memorable protagonist, this is a tale...

THE AUTHENTICS

Fifteen-year-old Daria is determined to fight against her mother’s party-planning for the extravagant Sweet 16 she doesn’t want, but the battle she is not prepared for comes when she discovers family secrets that turn her world upside down.

Daria is proud of her Iranian culture but wants no part of the posh Beverly Hills Persian community. She finds solace with the Authentics, her small, diverse group of friends who have proven to her that they are real, and she nurses resentment toward the Nose Jobs, a group of pretentious Persian princesses led by her former best friend, Heidi. When Daria begins researching her family history for a school project, she makes some unexpected discoveries that challenge her senses of herself and her family. She loses trust in her parents and turns to her friends, but even they fall short of her standards of complete honesty. Having fallen for a Mexican guy her parents would never approve of adds excitement and romance but also brings her crisis to a boiling point. The ferociously authentic Daria is a memorable protagonist, narrating in a trenchant, self-aware past tense that carries readers through her personal cultural minefield. Her gay brother and his husband are but one small detail that celebrates the complexity of and diversity within modern American Islam.

Full of surprises both cultural and emotional, and narrated in the strong voice of a memorable protagonist, this is a tale of integrity, identity, family, love, and sacrifice that is sure to satisfy. (Fiction. 11-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-248646-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

A clever, thoroughly enjoyable addition to the growing body of diverse teen literature.

TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY

A 17-year-old amateur vlogger must come to terms with sudden internet fame and her own sexuality in this original, compulsively funny novel.

Tash Zelenka has a major thing for Tolstoy—so much so that she and her best friend, Jacklyn “Jack” Harlow, have adapted his sprawling masterpiece Anna Karenina into a modern Web series with a modest following. When their series goes viral overnight as the result of a shoutout from a famous internet personality, Tash, Jack, and their colorful cast must contend with the overwhelming excitement and pratfalls of internet fame while maintaining a rigorous filming schedule and navigating their increasingly complicated personal lives. Tash identifies as romantic asexual but finds it difficult to articulate her feelings to her lifelong best friends, Jack and her older brother, Paul, who may have a thing for Tash. Complications ensue, but through it all, these wisecracking, oft-prickly teens remain supportive of one another in genuine and heartfelt friendship. Ormsbee’s predominantly white cast of characters represents a depth and diversity of sexualities not often featured in teen fiction, including not only a gay and a bisexual character, but a nuanced, trailblazing depiction of a protagonist who identifies as romantic asexual. Whip-smart, funny, flawed, and compassionate, these are characters readers will want to know and cheer for.

A clever, thoroughly enjoyable addition to the growing body of diverse teen literature. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8933-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

Hop aboard and prepare for the ride of your life.

BLACK LIGHT EXPRESS

Reeve picks his story up directly after Railhead (2016), with more of everything, from destruction to fun.

Zen and Nova have discovered a new network populated by numerous alien races (three-legged antelopelike creatures are the least strange). There’s no Datasea or Guardians; even the sentient trains are different, but the rails are the same, and carvings of the mysterious Station Angels point to a shared origin. Meanwhile the Prell corporate family has staged a coup in the Network Empire, and Empress Threnody, accompanied by a professional criminal and a Guardian’s interface, is on the run aboard an old war loco, Ghost Wolf, who is destined to steal readers’ hearts. Reeve’s bizarre but compelling far future boasts a mainly brown population (only the strange, standoffish Prells are white) of people who are equally diverse in their personalities. There are gay AI gods, sentient bugs, and machines who very nearly think they are human but turn out to be so much more. The action-packed plot never flags; Reeve’s great strength is that he can weave worldbuilding and character development into even the most literally explosive scenes; his writing bristles with evocative details, and those details reveal worlds about the characters. Exposition is nearly nonexistent, and yet even new readers can glean enough back story to catch up.

Hop aboard and prepare for the ride of your life. (glossary) (Science fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63079-096-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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