Books I want to read this summer that happen to be YA.

Books I want to read this summer that happen to be YA.

This year’s summer reading guide has 7 categories—and YA isn’t one of them. I’ve received repeated requests to share some young adult and kid lit titles for your summer reading.

Today I’m sharing a few tween and YA favorites I’ve already read and enjoyed, along with the YA books I want to read this summer.

Books I want to read that happen to be YA books

These titles are aimed at teens, not tweens. My own kids won’t be ready for these for a few more years. That’s okay: adults should be reading YA, too.

• The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay. I’ve heard raves about this novel, but have also been warned it’s dark, intense, and un-put-down-able.

• Rules of the Road, Joan Bauer. Sheila recommended it, and that’s good enough for me.

• Cinder, Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles series has been recommended by lots of bloggers. This is book #1, (just $2.99 for Kindle).

• We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. I’ve heard the less you know about this one before you pick it up, the better. (One word: secrets.)

• The Geography of You and Me, Jennifer E. Smith. Will surprised me by plucking this one from my library stack and reading it in a few days’ time. He says I’ll like it.

Tricking my kids into reading the good stuff

Books I want to read with my kids this summer.

We don’t homeschool year-round, but we read a ton during the summer months, and spend more time than usually talking about the books they’re reading. Jack (age 11), Sarah (age 9), and I made this list of promising (and age-appropriate) titles together.

We’ll probably each read these independently, then come together to chat about them. Except for Harry Potter—we’re listening to the audiobook together.

• A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith. My mom has been telling me to read this for forever.

• Rules, Cynthia Lord (already read—a big hit. Jack liked it too.)  A twelve-year-old girl helps her 8-year-old brother navigate life with autism.

• Princess Academy, Shannon Hale. I keep hearing this tween/young teen novel about finding your place in the world has more depth than the title indicates. By the author of Austenland.

• Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling. My kids are finally old enough for this modern classic. Hurray!

• The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate. This award-winning novel is inspired by a true story about a captive gorilla—and the power of friendship.

• In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Bette Bao Lord. Jack’s already read and enjoyed this historical fiction mash-up of immigrant life and American baseball.

My YA summer reading list | Modern Mrs DarcyMiddle grade and YA books I love and recommend:

• The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker. Premise: the rotation of the earth slows, wreaking havoc. A little science fiction, a little coming of age.

• When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead. 1970s Manhattan, with Madeleine L’Engle and time travel.  (Stead’s Liar & Spy is also good and a great conversation starter)

• Wildwood, Colin Meloy. A modern-day Narnia series, set in Portland. (I want to read the rest of the series)

• The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart. “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Four kids are tapped to save the world after responding to this newspaper ad.

• Wonder, R. J. Palacio. A story about a ten-year-old with a severe facial deformity who goes to school for the first time, told from six different perspectives. (I just downloaded the bonus seventh: The Julian Chapter. I’ll keep you posted.)

The Age of Miracles

A giveaway

I picked up a gorgeous hardback copy of The Age of Miracles at my library book sale, and I’m giving it away to one lucky reader.

Just leave a comment to enter. (U.S. only, eighteen or older, giveaway ends Friday, June 27 at midnight NY time.)

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended and the winner has been notified.

P.S. 3 kid lit picks for your summer reading list.

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170 comments

  1. The Lunar Chronicles are so much fun. Hope you enjoy! And oh my, I adore A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Definitely a must-read.

    I just read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – YA fantasy based on imperial Russia. Fascinating – I’m going to pick up the sequel.

  2. Natalie Hart says:

    I love middle grade fiction and I’ll be checking out a bunch of those books just for myself (now that my kids are “too old” to read it). Thanks for the list!

  3. Beth says:

    I read We Were Liars in one sitting last week. Stayed up until 2am to finish, still had to wake up at 6, oops. I always say that staying up late for a book is my favorite bad decision to consciously make. Liars was definitely a book I couldn’t put down!

  4. Jan in Utah says:

    I’ve always loved YA books. They’re usually “safe” when it comes to sex and violence but sometimes a risk for being dark- as if YA time period is always filled with angst and emotional turmoil. My favorite YA books are everything Lucy Maude Montgomery wrote, which I read continuously.

  5. Anne says:

    Ooooh, they sound good! Rules stands out at me.

    Hey, Anne, did you ever read Schooled by Gordon Korman? Fun read about a boy who grew up in a pretty crunchy commune and has to go to public school when Grandma is in the hospital. Sweet.

  6. Deanna says:

    I’ve only read one of those books – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (and I only read it 15 months ago)! Looks like I have lots for to add to my reading list. Thanks for the ideas!

  7. Kelly says:

    I just picked up In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson to read myself. I like to stay a step or two ahead of my kids to anticipate what they might like. The Lunar Chronicles are fabulous – full of action and suspense and just a bit swoony without going overboard.

  8. Heather says:

    Good list! I’ve read a few of the ones you mentioned, but there’s quite a few I’ll be adding to my goodreads!

  9. Ana says:

    Great booklist–I put several on hold! Also, does anyone have advice on how to talk to your kids about the good/evil in Harry Potter? I was strictly forbidden to read any books with those kind of fantasy/magic themes as a child, and although I’ve read the first Harry Potter, and didn’t have a problem with it, I don’t exactly know how to talk to my boys about them. My 9 yr old is a voracious reader, and I’m sure he would enjoy the first few books of the series, and I would like to read along with him so we can talk about them, but I’m a little at a loss over the situation. Thoughts?

    • Katie says:

      I would look for the book Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger. I think he has a blog, too. He’s a literature teacher who first read HP so he could tell his kids why they weren’t allowed to read them, but changed his mind when he realized the sort of big, classic, good-and-evil themes Rowling grapples with.

      Just be careful because there are several editions, as he updated his book as new HP volumes came out.

    • Melodee says:

      I do think the best way is to read with your kids, as you are planning and as Anne is doing. See what surprises them or bothers them and let that guide the discussion–it probably won’t have anything to do with magic, but maybe the themes of rejection/alienation in book 2, or certainly Voldemort’s casual disregard for life witnessed in book 4 (and following). I really think most kids don’t have much trouble discerning/processing the fantasy/magic: especially as the magic in Harry Potter is not occult–it’s not something an ordinary human can gain by “tapping into” some demonic power; it’s more like an alternate natural law. But there are deeply profound themes of good/evil, racism, totalitarianism, determinism, betrayal, sacrifice, love, redemption etc. that will either go over a kid’s head or disturb them. One final thought: maybe wait to start until your son is a little older: the later books are not (in my opinion) pre-teen appropriate, but all 7 books tell one intimately connected story, so it’s hard to stop reading!

      • Ana says:

        Thx! We may end up waiting–he isn’t really interested yet, which gives me some time to read and think on my own. Thx for your thoughts–I’ll keep them in mind whenever the time comes!

    • I’m always amazed at the Christian backlash against Harry Potter but the embracing of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. JK Rowling did not make it known because she didn’t want to give away the ending of the series but Harry Potter is full of Christian themes and is allegorical along the lines of CS Lewis and Tolkien.

    • Anne says:

      Good tips in the comments here. My oldest is a voracious reader who’s and HSP plus kind of squeamish about the whole fantasy thing, and we’ve waded in slowly (and we’ll stop at book 3 and hold there for a few years). He’s halfway through book 2 right now and we’ve been talking about them a lot. But I’ll tell you: Harry Potter doesn’t freak him out half as much as Star Wars does!

      This wasn’t a purposeful plan, but we happened to read lots of E. Nesbit (who Rowling cited as inspiration) and Edward Eager before we started in on Harry Potter. (Both mid-century classic British authors with lots of magic in the plot lines.)

      • Ana says:

        I’ll take this in a totally different direction–my oldest and youngest are both HSP’s, and have drastically different personalities–and they’re obsessed with Star Wars, while your son is also HSP and is bothered by Star Wars. I think it’s interesting that HSP’s can be so radically different from each other, which is why it took me so long to realize/accept that my baby is HSP.

        Learning about HSP has been so fascinating and helpful for my house–as the majority of us are HSP–before I knew what it was I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong in parenting, but now at least I feel like I have a map to navigate with.

        • Anne says:

          That’s so interesting about Star Wars and HSPs! I’m so glad that having some insight into your family dynamics have at least given you some tools to navigate by. 🙂

  10. I am totally obsessed with the Lunar Chronicles books. Please promise me you’ll jump on them!

    I made my husband and kids listen to In the Year of the Boar and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler on our last long car trip. My kids are really too young for them, but they are kid-safe for the car and I enjoyed revisiting these classics.

    Have you read Mockingbird yet? It definitely has some hard subjects (school shooting, grief, asberger’s) but I really think is worth the read and probably preteen to teens.

  11. Lucy says:

    Great list – thanks for the suggestions! I’m adding several to my library list! Joan Bauer is a favorite of mine – Rules of the Road is great, but my favorite is probably Hope Was Here.

  12. Mallory says:

    I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago (when this summer reading list came out). I didn’t know how it took me so long to find it! I’m glad I did.

    I just finished reading the one and only Ivan and now I’m planning the 2 hour drive to see Atlanta to visit the real Ivan.

    I read the age of miracles right after my son was born. It’s a strange read at three in the morning while nursing your newborn. You feel like you’re the only person left in the world. I had no idea it was young adult. Great book!

  13. Sarah M says:

    I’m starting to really come around to YA. I even have a few on my ‘to read’ list this year…that’s probably a first for me since high school. Would love to try this one out!
    Sarah M

  14. Whitney says:

    I love book lists! Thank you! I am reading lots of kids lit over the summer:

    1. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
    2. The Good Master by Kate Seredy
    3. Cheaper by the Dozen- by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

  15. Alison S. says:

    I would love to win!

    Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors, although Princess Academy wasn’t one of my favorite books by her. I’m currently working on one of her new books, Dangerous.

    I saw on Goodreads that you are reading Lizzy and Jane. I am so jealous! I loved Dear Mr. Knightley and can’t wait for L&J to be released.

  16. D says:

    I don’t think I have read ANY of these! Oh my!

    I have read Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord which I loved, but I am drawn to historical fiction and the story was so different than anything I had read before that it really stuck with me for a long time.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

  17. Erin says:

    If you love Wonder then don’t miss Counting by 7s. Geared toward a slightly older reader but AMAZING. Both my ten-year-old and I loved it.

  18. melyssa says:

    My favorite YA is The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. She is more known for the Shiver novels, which I don’t care for, but Scorpio Races is utterly amazing.

    All of Shannon Hale’s fairytale retellings are awesome, especially The Goose Girl.

    Also, The Madman’s Daughter is excellent.

    (And yes, Cinder is super).

  19. melle e says:

    Just reading the description, I wondered if my kiddo would enjoy it. he’s very into sci-fi. And coming of age… Lol
    Maybe we’ll win!

  20. Lauren Wood says:

    Please, pick me! 🙂 Love your lists…thoughts for an advanced reader 5 year old? She can read Magic Treehouse Books right now (by herself).

    • Erin says:

      My daughter is 8. Here are some you should look at: Heidi Heckelbeck series, Critter Club series, Ivy & Bean series, Keeker series. Oh, and Violet Mackerel! LOVE Violet. We did a first grade book club with the first book in that series. Also, It’s helpful for me to check out the book previews often available on Amazon to see if a book is truly the right level for my child. Good luck and have fun!

    • Acmommy says:

      Check out the Geronimo Stilton books (the chapter books), they are fun to read & fun to look at as the words sometimes are in color or different fonts, and with good story lines. :). Also, the first few Betsy-Tacy books, A To Z Mysteries, and Mrs Piggle-Wiggle.

  21. Pamela Mould says:

    You have a couple of my favs on your list – Rules is a great read. The female character is an older sister to a brother with autism. She is dynamic! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn received critical acclaim from my middle school students who read it for Battle of the Books. For my library science book, I had to read 72 tradebooks/novels of varied levels. The young adult books I read were award winners but not mainstreamed. I fell in love with young adult books during that course. Turnabout and Double Helix are great reads for upper middle and highschoolers who will understand the complexity of the situations.

  22. Katie says:

    I thought Princess Academy was pretty meh, though I see a lot of commenters say that’s not Hale’s best work. I wasn’t inspired to look for more by her after PA, but maybe I’ll give her another shot.

    The Lunar Chronicles are pretty good. And I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough for Harry and Co. A lot of the rest of these are on my TBR list. Yay YA!

  23. Cathy says:

    Thank you for this list! Have you read Navigating Early? The best book I have read this year!!! A great read aloud with kids or read alone kids 9 – 13. Everyone in my house has read or will read this book (including DH).

  24. keely says:

    A friend of mine just recommended this book! I’d love to win.
    And I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on The Julian Chapter. I loved Wonder.

  25. barbara n says:

    I am so glad that I found you!! You have recommended so many wonderful books and they are making my reading list extra long this summer!

  26. Ronna says:

    Ooooh, that book sounds wonderful. Can’t wait to read it. I put it in my Amazon wish list, but winning it in a giveaway would be even better!

  27. Melodee says:

    I love reading YA, but feel like I’m falling behind! I hadn’t even heard of most of these. Would love to try The Age of Miracles, and who can resist a “gorgeous hardback”? 🙂

  28. Sammy says:

    Thank you so much for your summer recommendations! I definitely will add them to my list. I definitely look forward to reading Age of Miracles. That is my kind of book!

  29. Sammy says:

    Also – I work with Lucasfilm Publishing and we have some great kids books coming out soon! Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan is coming out soon and is absolutely wonderful. Let me know if your kids would like a copy for their summer reading!

  30. Jenny says:

    I would love to win this book!
    I read lots of YA. I want to read them before my kids so I know what they are getting into and if it is age appropriate. But also because I love it! I don’t have to worry too much about graphic sex and murder like when I just pick up a book randomly from the library. Thanks so much for all of your book lists. They are keeping me in good supply.

  31. Rebecca says:

    I love YA and now my daughter is starting in on them as well- we love the Kiki Strike series- love mighty girls in YA!

  32. Vanessa says:

    The Age of Miracles is one of my favorite books of all time. It really moved me. It captured the essence of adolescence in a way I’d never seen before.

  33. Stephanie says:

    I love running across the books you recommend on Kindle or Scribd and haven’t been disappointed! I’ll have to check some of these out!

  34. Kirsten says:

    Oooh, what a wonderful list! My 10-year-old is devouring Wildwood right now, and we all love the Benedict Society series, so I’m betting your list will have a lot of winners for us. We read aloud one Harry Potter book each summer as a family (and then have a movie night), and we’ve finally made it to Goblet of Fire. I’m so excited! 🙂

    Thanks for the chance to win, but more, thanks for the recommendations I can trust.

    • Anne says:

      Yes! That’s such a good one. (Although it really packs a punch!) I’m adding that to the list of books to read with my kids. We tried a few years ago and they just weren’t ready, but now I think they are.

  35. Erin says:

    I just found a very old copy of my all time favorite book at an estate sale — Little Women — and the seller told me that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was her all time favorite read. I must add that to my list as well!

  36. tammy cordery says:

    Thank you for the giveaway. We are always looking for new books tor read over the summer vacation. they sound like great books to read I am always reading YA books.

  37. Julie R says:

    Btw, I’m on the third book of the Legend series by Marie Wu. Can’t put them down! I think they’d be considered YA.

  38. Kristin says:

    Loved The Princess Academy. Great message in that one. For Young Adult, might I suggest The Selection series? I’m also starting The Testing series, it looks good!

  39. Emily says:

    An avid reader, I started reading contemporary YA when my first voracious reader child came along. I wanted to keep ahead of him and be aware of what he was absorbing from his reading. Two additional readers later, I read YA because it’s fascinating and well-written. Thanks for this giveaway!

  40. Emily C. says:

    Finding books for my kids is like a part-time job. They read well and lots but are still young enough that it’s not anything goes. Thanks for sharing!

    • Anne says:

      I get that! My own kids are strong readers, but there’s so much emotional content they’re just not ready for—even in children’s literature.

  41. Diane says:

    I am sharing this list with my 16 year old daughter. She is always looking for something new to read. I’ve already put “We Were Liars” on hold at the library last week because I heard it was very good.

  42. My daughter read “Wildwood” in her 7th grade English class. The Forest Park location is right in our Portland backyard. We own it. Now I need to read it.

    “Wonder” is a fave in our house. “When You Reach Me” and “Age of Miracles” both beautiful.

  43. Acmommy says:

    Great lists, I always enjoy reading your bookish posts. :). I still have Wonder on my list of YA To-read, and right now I’m enjoying a re-read of Mysterious Benedict Society. :). I have never heard of The Age of Miracles.

  44. Laura says:

    I’m reading Wonder with the kids very slowly but they are enjoying it. We are listening to “Ungifted” which is very cute middle grade book. Thanks for recommendations. Never heard of that book would love to win thanks.

  45. Laura says:

    I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago, and am really enjoying it so far. I especially love all the reading recommendations and lists. Thanks!!

    • Anne says:

      Right? My local branch has a designated shelf year-round where you can buy anything you want for a dollar. Patron donations stock it. (I donated a ton of books right there when we were moving!)

  46. My absolute best find of the year so far is the False Prince book by Jennifer Nielsen, it is a great book, and appealing to both adults and intermediate, elementary students. The best part about it is that there are three in the series: The Runaway King and the Shadow Throne.

  47. Liza Lee Grace says:

    I cannot recommend Princess Academy enough. It it one of my favorites! I love most of Shannon Hale’s books and Princess Academy is probably her best, next to The Goose Girl.

    My sister has been raving about the Cinder series. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I plan on it! I know I’ll like it because we have very similar taste in books.

  48. Leah says:

    I LOVED The Age of Miracles, though I’m a little hesitant to label it YA. Yes, the main character is a child, but it struck me as more of an Adult novel. Either way I absolutely adored it & have been recommending it (rather forcefully…!) since it came out.

    Wonder, Wildwood, Benedict Society, Cinder…yes.

  49. Kiana says:

    Ooohh! Thanks for the great list! I stole Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater from my daughter….been curious about it for awhile and decided to finally read it! Would love to win a copy of this book!

  50. Hillary says:

    I’ve been working on my summer reading list too! This past school year was my first year of teaching and my first year of grad school. (I don’t do anything by halves, apparently.) I LOVE to read, and I’m looking forward to picking up the habit again with gusto now that summer vacation is here!

  51. Angie C says:

    I just finished Navigating Early, and really enjoyed it. Lots of depth and symbolism, but it’s also a really good, straightforward story about two young men dealing with loss and death.

  52. Amy says:

    We Were Liars is on my list for this summer, too. And I love your list for kids. Mine are a bit littler, so we’re just now jumping into the world of chapter books for the first time. We are slowly working our way through the Magic Treehouse series (I don’t really love them, but the chapters are short enough to hold my kids’ interest.) I’m hoping soon we can move to books like James and the Giant Peach and Charlotte’s Web.

  53. Claire Cecil says:

    As always, I love your recommendations.
    Have you heard of “Tales of Goldstone Wood”? It’s a series of six books (so far), very Narnia-esque, and beautifully told. I recommend them! They’re YA-ish 🙂

  54. Misty says:

    Great list here. I am probably most well read in children and YA right now because venturing out of that section of the library with my kids is still formidable. But it suits me just fine! I have to say that while I can see how “Princess Academy” wouldn’t be loved as well as some of Hale’s other books, I still think it is a great read. I also enjoyed the sequel a lot. All of her stories are easy to get lost in and portray smart, strong young women that I will be glad to let my daughter read when she is a bit older. I thought I would throw a couple of recommendations in myself as two of my favorites this year have been found a little off the beaten path at the old library. They are “Waiting for the Magic” by Patricia MacLachlan and “Protecting Marie” by Kevin Henkes. Both excellent. Love your posts! Thanks!

  55. Leigh Kramer says:

    Hope you like Cinder as much as I do! We Were Liars in sitting in my library stack at home. Hoping to start it this weekend. I really enjoy Jennifer E. Smith’s books but haven’t read her newest one yet. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a childhood favorite! I should reread it again soon.

  56. jillian says:

    I just found your site while browsing on Pinterest. I teach high school English, and I’m currently working on my YA summer reading list as well. I’m trying to read books from my classroom library. 🙂 I’ve seen The Age of Miracles at bookstores several times–it looks great! It’s on my to-read list. I hope you’re enjoying your summer reading as much as I am!

  57. Amanda says:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorites. Just a heads-up though: there is a little bit of a sexual-abuse-like incident in it. If I recall (it’s been a while), it isn’t real graphic or anything, and it’s basically just one little scene, but it seems like I remember you saying something about stuff like that being extra stressful for you to read about. I don’t mention it to say you shouldn’t read it (it a wonderful book), just so you’re prepared in case it’s a bigger deal to you than it would be to others. And if I’m misremembering what you said about “triggers” for you, then disregard 🙂

    • Alix says:

      I was just scrolling down to comment about this! I read this book at age 10, after a selection from it was in my literature anthology, and I loved it. My parents took the book out of the library for me, and I read it. I remember being a little confused by some of those scenes, but I loved the book; it is still one of my favorites. However, my parents read it after I did, and were upset both by that scene, as well as by the later incident when the boy wants Francie to sleep with him, and her mother later says she should have. I don’t think I was harmed by reading this book at that age, but I don’t think I’d let my preteen read this one alone or too early. Its also interesting to me that you include this with YA, as I wouldn’t consider it that – but maybe that goes back to our tendency to label books about girls YA and boys growing up as regular lit. Either way, enjoy this book, it’s wonderful!

  58. Judy Morrow says:

    Wow. Reading your post, Anne, and then scrolling though all the comments has me wanting to curl up in a corner to read for a long time! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn definitely is coming off the top shelf of the tall bookcase in my living room to be devoured.
    Thank you for your terrific lists. I look at book recommendations as gifts, and you are one of the best gift-givers I know of in that category. Thanks! (And thanks for the giveaway opportunity–fun!)

  59. Judy Morrow says:

    I just have to add that a friend of mine, Jill Osborne, has written her first three books for kids, ages 8-12. It’s called the Good News Shoes series with the delightful main character, Riley Mae.
    The first two came out this spring, with the third to release in September. “Kids” of all ages are gobbling them up; they make a fun read-aloud for families. Check them out on Amazon–the reviews are great!

  60. Miranda says:

    In of my favorite YA novels from growing up was The Giver and I’m curious to see how the movie turns out this summer! Thanks for the new recommendations!

  61. Tee says:

    Your suggestions are great! I loved Wonder, and The Mysterious Benedict Society was fantastic! I’m very curious about We Were Liars and The Age of Miracles.
    My dad read to my brother and me every night while we were growing up. Tuck Everlasting, Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Indian in the Cupboard were some of our favorites. 🙂 I’m hoping to do the same with my own kids someday.

  62. Michelle says:

    I agree, more adults should be willing to pick up YA titles. I teach middle school, so I have to read them, but I frequently recommend titles to family and friends because they are so good.

  63. Jo says:

    I read ‘We Were Liars’ based on this recommendation and wow…excellent book! Can’t stop thinking about it, and may have to read it again very soon. Thanks for the rec 🙂

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