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A young girl is lying on her back with a book in her hands. She's lying on a red and white checkered blanket on the grass. She's surrounding by grass, trees, and the sun.

If you’re looking for some good summer reads, consider diving into the world of young adult fiction. For those of you who teach grades 6 to 9, these novels will equip you with reading recommendations for your students, and they’re also great for starting book discussions.

Some of you may also have your own young adult living in your home—or soon-to-be young adult. In that case, do some reading together, or preview these books and make suggestions. And if you’re just looking for something engrossing and compelling to read, these will fit that bill.

Top 10 Young Adult Reads

My recommendations include classics that you might have missed, as well as a few others:

Little Brother

My 12-year-old son and I read this gripping novel by Cory Doctorow over the course of a few days. It’s got all the makings of a terrifying—only slightly—contemporary science fiction novel. It has a fast plot and great characters, and it takes on some of the big issues of our time: homeland security, Guantanamo, and the Patriot Act. My son and I talked about the issues raised in this book for weeks.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie’s humorous, semiautobiographical novel follows 14-year-old Junior as he leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation for a mostly white school in a nearby town. While this book is about the pain and awkwardness of adolescence, it is also a thoughtful exploration of the devastation that poverty, racism, and alcoholism have wreaked on Native American communities. If you’ve never read Sherman Alexie, start here. You’ll be left wanting more of his heartbreakingly beautiful prose.

The House on Mango Street

This book is a series of poetic vignettes about a young girl growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic neighborhoods. Written by Sandra Cisneros, it’s the kind of book that you can devour in one sitting, or slowly savor by reading one page per day. It’s beautiful and inspiring, and you’ll want to read it over and over. It’s also a powerful launching point for a conversation with young girls about their identity and self-image.

Feed

The premise of this book by M. T. Anderson is creepy and futuristic. In the future, most people have a feed chip implanted in their heads that connects everyone to a version of the internet. Privacy of any kind is gone. But during a spring break—on the moon—Titus and Violet meet and build a relationship when their feeds are hacked. This is a sharp satire that’s reminiscent of George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. This book offers a powerful entry to conversations about entertainment, the internet, and contemporary culture.

The Giver

Wait until your child is in eighth grade to read this one by Lois Lowry together. It’s the kind of book that they’ll get so much more out of with a little more maturity and background knowledge. This is a creepy, haunting story whose protagonist—12-year-old Jonas—lives in a seemingly ideal world of conformity and contentment. But when he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory, he begins to understand the terrifying secrets behind his fragile community. This is the kind of book that’ll launch conversations and reflections about freedom, justice, fairness, and democracy.

His Dark Materials

In the first of this trilogy by Philip Pullman, you’ll meet Lyra Belacqua, our young heroine, who tries to prevent kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments. When she helps Will Parry—a boy from another world—search for his father, she is pulled into a battle between the angelic forces of the Authority and those gathered by her rebel uncle, Lord Asriel. These fantasy novels are gripping and provocative and easily accessible even if fantasy isn’t your thing.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This is a unique book by Ransom Riggs, partly because the text is interspersed with photos. After a family tragedy, Jacob feels compelled to explore an abandoned orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales. He discovers that the children once kept there, including his own grandfather, may have been dangerous—and may still be alive. This novel’s haunting twists and turns will keep you glued to its pages.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

This realistic fiction series by Ann Brashares is funny, moving, and sad. It’s a quick and engrossing read, especially—I suspect—if you are or ever were a teenage girl. The four best friends and backdrop of a Greek island might make some of us envious, but the real struggles the characters deal with are widely relevant. If you have a daughter in grades 7 to 10, this would be a fantastic series to read together.

Eragon and the Inheritance Cycle

This is a series by Christopher Paolini that begins as Eragon, a poor farm boy, grows into a master swordsman who fights alongside his dragon, Saphira, to help save the empire from evil and darkness. It’s complex and classic fantasy, and it’s further inspiring to young readers—and aspiring writers—because the author began the first book in the series, Eragon, when he was only 15 years old.

Finally, if you are among the few who have not yet read the Harry Potter series, or the Hunger Games series, now’s the time! I’m envious of anyone who hasn’t read them because you’re in for one of the biggest reading treats of your life.

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Dorothy Hastings's picture
Dorothy Hastings
Director of First school

If you are planning for a summer vacation and you are a good reader, you should read this blog. This blog has really very nice ideas and reasons for spending some times with your favorite authors.

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