What’s out: school.
What’s in: reading minus the time logs, guiding questions or pop quizzes.
Yes, your child may have a summer reading assignment buried somewhere in his or her backpack, but summer break truly is the perfect time for your kids to read what they want. Sometimes that might mean re-reading the same beloved volume, but when they’re on the hunt for something new, you should consider our list of young adult and middle grade titles. And make sure to peruse our sidebar for the latest edition of Statesman Selects Kids, which spotlights diverse picture books for the youngest readers.
Sarah Dessen has built the most loyal of fan followings by chronicling the coming-of-age adventures of young women. Her newest young adult novel, “The Rest of the Story” (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $19.99), centers on Emma, whose painkiller-addicted mother passed away when Emma was just 12. As her father remarries, Emma spends the summer with her mother’s family. Over the course of a few weeks, she learns about the class conflicts that circumscribe her mother’s hometown and reconnects with her childhood best friend, Roo, who knows more of Emma’s complicated family history than she realizes. Dessen launches “Story” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at BookPeople; pre-ordering the book also includes a ticket for the signing line, as well as a Dessen-themed tote from the publisher. Visit bookpeople.com for full details. (Ages 13 and older)
Related: Dessen celebrates ordinary girls in new book
Sandhya Menon mixed modern love with traditional values in 2017’s “When Dimple Met Rishi,” a sweet, humor-inflected romance about two Indian teens. The next chapter in the saga starts with Rishi’s brother Ashish, who’s down in the dumps over his loss of mojo with girls and on the basketball court. Enter Sweetie Nair, who’s smart, a top track athlete and fat. “There’s Something About Sweetie” (Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster, $18.99) plumbs prejudice about weight and societal pressures on both genders through Menon’s tale of Ash and Sweetie’s burgeoning union. “My hope when telling this story is to encourage some long-overdue discussions about what it means to move through the world when you don’t look like a Vogue model,” Menon writes in an author’s note that opens the book. It’s to her credit that her exploration of the issue is fully entertaining as it delivers a potent message. (Ages 12 and older)
Elizabeth Acevedo won the National Book Award for her 2018 novel in verse, “The Poet X.” Now comes “With the Fire on High” (HarperTeen, $17.99), which focuses on teen mother Emoni Santiago. Emoni’s first day of senior year is also her toddler’s first at day care, but being a teen mom is only one part of this story. Emoni also wants to figure out how to leverage her culinary talents into a career and navigate her co-parenting relationship with her daughter’s father. Threaded through this novel on the realities of young motherhood is also cogent commentary on Emoni’s place in the world as an Afro-Latin young woman, and how she wants her daughter to have a different experience than her own: “I wanted to give Babygirl a nice name. … Because nobody ever met a white girl named Emoni, and as soon as they see my name on a resume or college application they think they know exactly what kind of girl they getting. … That’s why I fought Tyrone tooth and nail to name her Emma.” (Ages 13 and older)
Twelve-year-old Ollie is what parents in the current decade would call a free-range kid. In SoHo in 1981, roaming around unsupervised was just part of life, although Ollie (christened Olympia) has more to wrestle with than most. In Laura Tucker’s sparkling debut “All the Greys on Greene Street” (Viking/Penguin, $17.99), Ollie is the heart of a middle-grade story that touches on the nature of art, the meaning of family and struggling with a loved one’s mental illness. Ollie lives in a loft with her artist mother and her father, who was an art restorer before he suddenly disappeared. He’s left a note for Ollie’s eyes only, telling her not to worry and that he’ll call soon. She carries this secret with her as she grows increasingly concerned about her mother, who’s eschewed creating for sleeping until 4 p.m. Ollie’s observations about her world, her own moments of creativity and inspiration and the early-‘80s details (she brings her mother cigarettes and Tab from the corner store) make this a beautiful, absorbing read. (Ages 8-12)
Jude wishes everything could stay the same — movies with her friend Fatima, toasted pita for snack, no more talk from her brother of protests and uprisings. But danger is inching ever closer to their home town in Syria, and so she and her mother come to America to live with her uncle. In her luminous novel in verse, “Other Words for Home” (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $16.99), Jasmine Warga eloquently captures the feeling of a child being caught between two cultures: “My first class of the day is math./I arrive late./I know I am late because I hear the bell ring while/I am still wandering around in the empty hall/peering into every classroom,/willing it to be room 202/Pre-Algebra with Mr. Anderson./Pre is an English preposition that/means before./Pre Jude knew all the way to her classes,/Pre Jude never showed up late.” Warga personalizes and humanizes the plight of refugees in this bittersweet yet hopeful story of a girl embracing a new life she never would have chosen. (Ages 8-12)
Get inspired at Read-a-Palooza
Need another boost to jump-start summer reading? Consider the Scholastic Read-a-Palooza on Tuesday, which will include storytime, activity stations, giveaways and photo opportunities with Dog Man and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Attendees are encouraged to bring gently used books from home to donate to Bookspring, an Austin-based early literacy organization. The party runs from 10 a.m. to noon at BookPeople; visit bookpeople.com/event for more details.