11 hot YA novels for your summer reading list

Every year I try to put a YA category in the summer reading guide, and every year I give up at the last minute. It’s so hard to find 5 titles I can recommend without hesitation. (Although this year I came darn close.)

While I don’t read piles of YA, I do enjoy a good YA novel, and summer is a great time to enjoy this genre. With that in mind, here are 11 of the season’s best YA novels. Some I loved, some were okay (but you might love them), some I have high hopes for but haven’t read yet. (Don’t worry, I tell you which is which.)

I know we have a lot of YA fans here: I’d love to hear what YA novels—new and old—are on your summer reading list. Please tell us in comments!

Your YA summer reading list
Tell Me Three Things

Tell Me Three Things

I feel like I've been holding out on you on this one because I read and loved this book months ago. (I DID recommend it on this episode of What Should I Read Next with Leigh Kramer.) A girl-next-door type suddenly finds herself in an elite California prep school, and has to figure out how to navigate this new privileged world while still grieving her mother's death. When she gets an email from an unidentified boy who calls himself "Somebody Nobody" offering to be her spirit guide to her new school, she doesn't want to say yes—but she really needs his help. A sweet and fun teen romance, but also a pitch-perfect portrayal of the grieving process. I couldn't stop myself from cheering for Jessie as she put her life together again. Published April 5 2016. More info →
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The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything

Fans of Morgan Matson books (raises hand) don't want to miss her latest. Andie is a politician's daughter who has her life, and her summer, all planned out: she can't wait to flee town (and the ever-watchful eyes of her father's staff) for her perfect summer internship that's going to help her land her spot at the perfect college. But that was before the scandal. Now her summer plans are off ... and a girl who never does anything unexpected faces a whole summer full of just that. This isn't great literature or anything but Matson does what she does really well. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Smith or Jenny Han. Without giving too much away, I'll just say you writerly types have an extra reason to love this one. Published May 3, 2016. More info →
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Finding Audrey

Finding Audrey

This is Sophie Kinsella's 24th novel but her very first for teens. (Would you believe it's the ONLY Kinsella novel I've read so far?) After a bullying incident at school that's never fully described, 14-year-old Audrey is practically crippled with anxiety. She's been making steady progress, but when her older brother brings home his friend Linus, she's pushed way out of her comfort zone. But maybe that's just what she needs. This engaging novel weaves together family, friendship, mental illness, and video games. Published June 9, 2015. More info →
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Shuffle, Repeat

Shuffle, Repeat

Think When Harry Met Sally for the YA crowd. I read this in a day. Two teens who seem like total opposites are thrown together, not exactly happily, and each discover there's more to the other than meets the eye. The book unfolds in a series of rides to school, and comes complete with playlist. Perfect for Morgan Matson fans. Published May 3, 2016. More info →
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Suffer Love

Suffer Love

I enjoyed this, especially the literary references woven into the story. Sam and Hadley meet at high school and fall in love, but Sam soon discovers an unfortunate (think: Romeo and Juliet) connection between their parents. He can't bear to tell Hadley, which simplifies—and complicates—their relationship. This is a smart, well-executed teen romance that also does a good job of exploring the joy and pain of love, and the devastating ripple effect of a single decision. Published May 3, 2016. More info →
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The First Time She Drowned

The First Time She Drowned

I read this in the spring. When she was 16, Cassie was wrongly admitted to a psychiatric hospital—by her mother. Now, at age 18, she struggles to find her true self and her independence at college, but her tormented relationship with her mother threatens to pull her under. For fans of R. J. Anderson's Ultraviolet. Published March 15, 2016. More info →
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The Last Boy and Girl in the World

The Last Boy and Girl in the World

I'm looking forward to this new release from the author of the critically acclaimed The List. Keeley's small working class town is literally sliding underwater, and it finally gets so bad that government officials order everyone to pack up and leave. Keeley and her friends decide to go out with a bang: to make the most of the time they have left, before they're all forced to scatter. And for Keeley, that means taking a shot at the boy she's always loved. Published April 26, 2016. More info →
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Bellweather Rhapsody

Bellweather Rhapsody

While not technically a YA book, it sure reads like one. (No wonder it won the Alex Award, which goes to adult books teens will love.) In a remote tumbledown hotel packed with hormone-fueled high school students gathered for a statewide music festival is the backdrop for this whodunit. Entertainment Weekly calls it "Delightfully odd...A fine cast of misfits and dreamers and foes." Strongly reminiscent of Greenglass House and Clue: The Movie. Essential reading for Rainbow Rowell fans. More info →
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Every Exquisite Thing

Every Exquisite Thing

This brand new release from the author of The Silver Linings Playbook is on my summer reading list. In this coming-of-age story, good girl Nanette is drifting through her quiet suburban life—until her teacher gives her a copy of the cult classic The Bubblegum Reaper . She obsesses over the book, and is challenged to confront the conformist way she's been living. But when she chooses a different path, she realizes every choice has a cost. Critics are praising this for its strong female lead and numerous Catcher in the Rye references. Published May 31, 2016. More info →
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Part historical romance, part time-travel adventure. 17-year-old Etta is a talented violinist about to make her debut in New York City. But her future changes in a moment when her mentor is killed and she suddenly finds herself aboard a sailing ship ... in 1776. She's soon indoctrinated into a whole new dimension, and a world family secrets. The book ends on a major cliffhanger: there's clearly more to come. (I'll be reading book 2.) Reminiscent of Outlander and Sara Zarr's The Lucy Variations. Published January 5, 2016. More info →
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With Malice

With Malice

The publisher says this is perfect for fans of We Were Liars and The Girl on the Train, and after reading it myself I can't argue with that. Yale-bound student Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of the last six weeks, only to discover that her best friend was killed on their Italian Adventures Abroad trip, and Jill is accused of her murder. There are definite echoes of Amanda Knox here. The real interest in this cinematic novel isn't the characters (a little thin) but the twisty plotting and Jill's frustrated attempts to unravel what happened, what people think happened, and what she remembers happening. Publication date June 7, 2016. More info →
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What’s on YOUR YA summer reading list?

Your YA summer reading list


Leave A Comment
    • Stharris says:

      Kinsella is my once a year, lock myself in my room, and laugh my heart out until I feel better about life. And think the little bit of naughtiness is just what makes it seem so satisfying!

    • Laurie says:

      Hi! I’m obviously tardy to the party, but a friend just shared your blog with me. My 16 year old daughter is a voracious reader; her favorite book used to be The Help, now she’s stuck in YA mode. The books seem to all have the same formula; one or two characters with mental illness, maybe an abusive parent, sometimes s tortured soul or two. Or three or four. Teen characters have sex and ‘save’ each other, etc. Your list is helpful, but would you mind helping me by sharing which ones are more upbeat, and maybe not so heavy on the sex and angst? I would appreciate it so much!

  1. Leigh Kramer says:

    I have been dying to read Passenger! Shuffle, Repeat and The First Time She Drowned are also high on the list.

    I’m reading an ARC of a new YA series called Ink and Bone, which is set in a world where no one can own books and Scholars control the Library. It is fascinating! I’ll let you know if you should add it to your list.

  2. I’ve read The Unexpected Everything and Tell Me Three Things, and both books were just OK for me. I’m in the middle of Finding Audrey right now, and it’s entertaining as well. The romance is adorable.

    A bunch of these other books are on my TBR list, but I’m not sure I’ll get to them this summer. Here’s the list of books I’ll be reading this month: http://www.momsradius.com/2016/06/books-ill-be-reading-in-june.html There are a few YA titles on the list. Later this summer I also plan to read:
    – A Study in Charlotte
    – The Distance Between Us
    – Fine Art of Pretending
    – Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

  3. Julie Y says:

    As an adult reader of YA books, I love how YA books don’t take a huge time commitment. I recently was wowed by “Okay For Now” by Gary D. Schmidt. It starts out depressing (about a boy who encounters meanness everywhere) and I almost didn’t stick with it but, slowly (through the artwork of Audubon) the boy’s life begins to change, as well as the lives of those around him. I then read Gary Schmidt’s newest book, “Orbiting Jupiter,” which is a very quick, sweet read about a teen father.

    I also recommend “Duel of Fire” by Jordan Rivet and its sequel “King of Mist” (third book to come out later this summer). These are YA fantasy books about a young woman who doesn’t have the talent/interest for her family’s business (working with fire) so she develops a passion for dueling and ends up training with a prince and trying to protect him from those trying to take over the kingdom. Fun books with likeable characters!

  4. Krysta says:

    I’m a Teen Librarian and love YA novels not just for my job but for myself…they can be complex and fascinating to read. They unfortunately can be sad and brooding as well. I’ve never read any Sophie Kinsella either and think this one sounds fun. Just from the description Shuffle, Repeat sounds just like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and I wasn’t a big fan of that book. These are some of the books I love in the YA genre…

    Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)- Carriger, Gail
    The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight- Smith, Jennifer E.
    Fangirl- Rowell, Rainbow
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian- Sherman Alexie

    • Erin in CA says:

      Krysta, any recommendations for my son? He’s 12 (almost 13). He’s a big reader. Recent faves are Ready Player One, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and I Will Always Write Back. He loves history and graphic novels as well. Recently he said to me, “Ugh! YA is all apocalyptic, which I’m SO over, or romance.” And as you noted, he’s not a huge fan of sad and brooding. He just finished We Were Liars, and was like, “wow, that was depressing.” It’s been a couple months since he’s had a book he really loved, so if you (or anyone else) have any suggestions, I’d love to hear!

      • Deb Watley says:

        Powerless by Matthew Cody–contemporary–A 12-year-old boy finds out his friends have super powers, but they need him to save them from an old enemy.
        Bomb by Steve Sheinkin–nonfiction–About the development of atomic bomb during WWII, but tells about spies, pilots, sabeteurs, and scientists. Reads almost like an adventure book.
        Across a War-Tossed Sea by L.M. Elliott–WWII story set in Virginia
        Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Santos–Funny historical fiction
        Duel in the Wilderness by Karin Clafford Farley–Historical fiction about George Washington
        The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander–contemporary–Think The Godfather for 6th graders
        The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer–set in modern and 1763 England

        • Erin in CA says:

          Deb, I know for sure he has read Bomb (and the rest of Sheinkin’s books) and Dead End in Norvelt (and liked them!), so you are definitely on the right path. We’ll look up the others at the library (and I’ll give him Across a War-Tossed Sea first — he LOVES WWII). Thanks so much, I really appreciate it!

      • I’m a 7th grade reading teacher, so I love this question! Here are just a few that come to mind:

        -Peak by Roland Smith (a boy who climbs Mt. Everest)
        -The Boy on the Wooden Box (a WWII memoir from a child who was on “Schindler’s List”)
        -Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick (Reconstruction Era in Richmond, racial tensions, etc.)
        -The President Has Been Shot by James L. Swanson(about JFK, fast-paced, and he also wrote Chasing Lincoln’s Killer)
        -March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (graphic novel about John Lewis and the Civil Rights movement, first in a series of 3)

        I hope those help!

        • Erin in CA says:

          Sarah, he has read Peak (and the sequel) and March, but not the others (at least I don’t think so). They are going on the list as well. Thank you!

      • Amy says:

        Here are 2 series that my 12-year-old son has enjoyed:
        1. The Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The first book is called Found. It’s got a historical connection in it that’s intriguing.
        2. The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann. She just published the 7th and final book, and my son finished that book quickly.
        I’ve read the entire Unwanteds series, and the last book is my book published this year for the 2016 Reading Challenge. My son had urged me to read Found, so that’s another check mark on the challenge list.

      • Selma Toews says:

        My son loves the Rangers Apprentice series and the Brotherband series by John Flanagan. And there’s lots of books in the series, so if he likes them it’ll keep him going for awhile.

    • Krysta says:

      Has he read the Anthony Horowitz “Alex Rider” Series, The “Young James Bond” series by Charles Higson? I liked both of those series and boys at my library like them a lot.
      Other Suggestions:
      -Magyk by Septimius Heap
      -The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
      Both of these are series

      • Erin in CA says:

        Thanks, Krysta! He has read Magyk, tried Monstrumologist and for some reason that one didn’t stick. But the first two are new to him so they’re going on the list.

    • Anne says:

      I get what you’re saying about the plot line of Shuffle, Repeat and E&P, but the tone and writing are completely different. Shuffle, Repeat is much more Jennifer E Smith than Rainbow Rowell (except for maybe Attachments).

  5. Melanie says:

    I love YA novels! Here are a few of my suggestions.

    The Mara Dyer Trilogy: Part psychological, paranormal, and thriller. This series kept me turning the page.

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home: While this wasn’t really touted as YA, some disagreed and thought it should have been. In fact I read one Goodread review that said had it been, they would’ve given it 5 stars. Which doesn’t make a whole of sense to me, but to each his own. I really liked this book and it’s take on familial relationships and the times in the 80’s when AIDS was heavily in the spotlight and we didn’t know much about it. Highly recommend.

    Out of Darkness: At time this book seemed to drag a little, but overall was a very compelling story set in the late 30’s that is based around facts of the East Texas school explosion. Covers racial tensions, forbidden relationships, and just how deplorable we were as a people in that time.

    Dumplin’ : This was a fun read for me. Fans of Dolly Parton will love.

    Thirteen Reasons Why: A teen girl commits suicide. That’s not a spoiler you know that from the start. Before she died she left audio cassette tapes to be passed along to all she felt played a part in her decision to do so. It took me a long time to ever read this book, because I didn’t like the premise of it. But, if anything, it is a reminder how our actions towards others can effect them, even when to us it may seem petty. A reminder to be kind, you never know what someone is going through.

  6. Deborah Larson says:

    Finding Audrey is the only novel I’ve read by S.K. as well.

    I write YA fiction, so I read lots of YA fiction for market research. You named a couple titles I wasn’t aware of (like Siobhan Vivian’s latest novel). Thanks!

    I recently read ‘Salt to the Sea’ by Ruta Sepetys. Although fiction, it’s based upon the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustoff during WWII. Told from the viewpoint of 4 young adults. I highly recommend it. Very moving story.

  7. Julia says:

    I finally got my hands on a copy of The Passenger and I can’t wait to get started!

    I also picked up a copy of The Chimes by Anna Smaill, a YA dystopian fantasy set in a world where music is power.

  8. Cindy H. says:

    You had me at YA.

    I absolutely LOVE YA. I have two teenaged daughters. They are not obsessed with YA.

    I have recommended some of these and I am mildly shocked when I get feedback “wow. that was really dark.”. I mentioned in comments here before that I have a special “dark” genre that I like, which is probably more like “black”. 🙂

    Here are some of my favorite YA novels:
    My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga – two words: suicide partners
    Mosquito land by David Arnold – Runaway girl’s journey
    Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – oldest child’s death’s affect on the family
    All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – two attempted suicides save each other
    Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight – mother reconstructs the last days of her daughter’s life
    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – just. beautiful.
    Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira – letters to the dead, like Kurt Cobain

    These are from the past year. I warned you that I like dark books.

    • Mary Kate says:

      Loved loved loved All The Bright Places, Aristotle & Dante, and Love Letters to the Dead. Now I have to read everything else you listed as it appears we have the same taste 🙂

  9. Rae says:

    Would any of these be good for an almost 16 year old boy!? I realize he isn’t your target audience but any suggestions or help would be much appreciated! xo, Rae

    • Anne says:

      This list was written with adult readers in mind, and mostly female ones at that. 🙂

      My oldest is 13 and I’m so uncomfortable with the idea of him reading what’s standard YA these days because of common themes (so much alcohol, so much sex!) and what YOUR 16yo wants to read depends very much on his interests. With that being said, these two lists may help you both find some books that are right for him:

      My own teen is required to pick two books from NPR’s list of top 100 teen books for summer reading: http://www.npr.org/2012/08/07/157847723/top-100-teen-books

      The Alex award is given annually to a book written for adults that also has great appeal for teens. A list of current and past winners is here: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/alex-awards#alex

      Also: Ready Player One is a teen boy favorite (and well, it was also one of the most popular books in last year’s summer reading guide for the adult female set). So fun and a surprising crowd-pleaser!

      • Mary Kate says:

        I had to comment on the “so much alcohol, so much sex” part of your comment. I write YA and recently queried an agent who loved my story but couldn’t accept me as a client because she only works with “clean teen” books that “do not include drug/alcohol use or progressing beyond kissing, among other things.” It’s called Blink and it’s a division of Harper Collins, so if you’re looking for “cleaner” YA you could check there! (Though you will never find anything I write there, hahaha).

  10. Christy says:

    I’m excited that my pre-order copy of Moonburner by Claire Luana is arriving in the mail today! It’s a YA fantasy novel, and Claire’s first published book. She’s a good friend of mine, and very talented. Thanks for this list, will have to see about picking some of these up from the library.

  11. Kelli says:

    I love love loved Greenglass House when you once recommended it, and I’ve wanted to find others like it ever since (my search led me to Tuesdays at the Castle, but I didn’t love that one in the same way) – so I can’t wait to read Bellweather Rhapsody! (along with everything else on this list)

    I currently have Finding Audrey checked out and will read that as a lighter followup to the current Louise Penny I’m finishing this weekend.

    Anne, you’ve mentioned possibly making the foray into SK’s other books before – you could start with one or two of the novels she wrote under her real name – Madeline Wickham. They are a bit different from her others, a la your conversation with Cara Strickland about British vs. American chick lit.

    • Kelli says:

      I wrote this comment and was just driving along and suddenly thought “But they’re ALL British novels!” 🙂 So I’ll clarify – the Shopaholic series written under the SK name remind me more of American chick lit and her Madeline Wickham books feel more British – story-wise – to me.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the tip on Sophie Kinsella (or Madeline Wickham, I should say).

      And a caveat: while the tone of Bellweather strongly reminded me of Greenglass, the former is definitely for older teens, while my 7yo nephew read the latter.

  12. KRISTIE POOVEY says:

    Anne, just had to share this… Took an unexpected day trip to Asheville, NC today and just happened to go into a local bookstore there, Malaprop’s, and it turned out that Matthew Quick was going to be there tonight to talk about Every Exquisite Thing!!! I’m currently standing in line to get my copy autographed! It was amazing to hear him speak!!

  13. LadyWoman says:

    I read mostly scifi/fantasy/horror YA, so…

    Husband and I BOTH loved The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist and the Frontier Magic trilogy by Patricia C. Wrede. They could be “slow” reads because they’re not super action-packed, but I found them so fascinating!

    The Gone series by Michael Grant was freaking addictive. I read the first 3 in 2 days. But its definitely not for everyone because it gets pretty dark and violent (LOTS of character deaths). I love Stephen King, so consider that. For actual teen readers I’d def recommend only for older teens.

  14. Justine says:

    This is a great list! I’ve been looking for new books to get & found so many great releases! I’ve got a ton on my TBR but in terms of YA, Glass Sword and I’ve only just gotten into Colleen Hoover (yeah, only just!).

  15. I love a good YA novel and a lot of these are new to me. But the Matson is sitting on my vacation stack – I love her!

    Someone mentioned A Study in Charlotte – I thought it was so much fun. Holmes & Watson at a 21st-century prep school.

  16. Brenda says:

    Hello Anne,
    I came to your blog while listening to the “actually knitting podcast” (knitters love books) and I Can’t stop reading your blog!

    I was wondering, do you have a list of books for 7-9 years old boys? I have 3 boys and want to introduce new books this summer.
    Thank you!

  17. Mary Kate says:

    I write YA, so I also read a tremendous amount of YA. Therefore, I love this post. Here are some faves:

    Everything by Patrick Ness, especially the Chaos Walking trilogy (epic sci-fi)
    Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (epic fantasy)
    The Book Thief (historical fiction)
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower (contemporary)
    Everything by Rainbow Rowell (contemporary and also a fantasy)
    Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel trilogy (the rest of her books are decent, too, but these are the best IMO–these are steampunk fantasy)
    Everything by Stephanie Perkins (contemporary romance, so light and fun and well-written)
    Everything by Jandy Nelson (beautiful contemporary)

    Also I second All The Bright Places, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and Love Letters to the Dead–all beautiful contemporaries.

    Here’s to more YA posts!

  18. Kim says:

    I’ve read precisely one YA book ever, but my reading goal this year is to diversify (which for me mostly means reading anything that isn’t literary fiction). Quite a few of these sound interesting!

  19. Billie says:

    The Last Boy and Girl in the world was “meh”….there were some great scenes, but I guess I was expecting something different?

  20. Penelope says:

    Is there a list of YA books that are actually acceptable for a 14-year-old girl? No sex or alcohol or drugs, no rape, no vampires, no games of killing people? Her rules, not mine. She wants good stories, historical fiction, etc. and it’d be nice if there were books she could read that were written in the last 50 years.

    • Anne says:

      I hear you, I don’t want my 13yo reading pretty much anything that’s marketed as YA! This list was put together with grown-ups in mind, not young teens. That being said, Finding Audrey and Passenger would meet your daughter’s criteria.

  21. Kathy Vitale says:

    The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall is a great book for YA (guys too). It is a quick read and adults would like it also. It just won the 2016 Ohioana Book Award for Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature. I am a fan of all of Shelley’s books.

  22. Kaitlyn says:

    Just finished Passenger. Stumbled upon it in one of those “blind date with a book” things and fell in love. Like it’s probably one of my new favourite books. Sequel out Jan. 3. 🙂

  23. Mary Carver says:

    I just read Shuffle, Repeat and had to come see if you were the one who’d recommended it. Now I realize I’m slacking in my YA summer reading, since I’ve only read three of these. (Tell Me Three Things and The Unexpected Everything are the other two.) Good news, though! All three were fantastic – and summer’s not quite over yet. 😉

  24. Brandyn says:

    I sort of OD’d on YA in 2015, so I try to be more selective now. This summer I’m excited for:
    The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
    A Million Junes by Emily Henry
    When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
    I Believe in a Thing Called Love Maureen Goo
    I highly recommend
    The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  25. Amanda says:

    I thought the Lunar Chronicles were really unexpectedly good (and pretty mild, not boring ?, compared to some YA). I loved the characters which are strong, capable young women and my 11 year-old daughter is reading them now.

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