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Summer Reading Your Way

When you think of “summer reading,” what comes to mind? You might envision a pile of dusty hardcovers sitting neglected on your desk while you play video games, or a copy of Pride and Prejudice that stares at you accusingly from the floor where it fell (after you threw it in frustration). 

While it’s true that reading Jane Austen can prepare you for AP Literature, that’s not the only reason to read a book (and it’s definitely not the only reason to read Jane Austen!). 

Reading has a lot of benefits that aren’t restricted to the tried-and-true literary canon. 

Reading enlarges your vocabulary, strengthens your ability to empathize with others, reduces stress, and can even help you sleep better! There’s no reason you can’t earn those benefits while reading a book that you love. Reading for fun also helps you get better at reading for school. If you read regularly, you can improve your focus and attention span (which will make reading Victor Hugo a lot easier!). 

Here are some great new YA books that would make perfect summer reading.* And once you’ve devoured them, maybe you can crack open that copy of Les Miserables and give it another shot.

Fantasy: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forma

If you like: Harry Potter, Shadow and Bone

Inspired by West African folklore, The Gilded Ones follows Deka, a girl whose ordinary life is turned upside down when her village discovers that she has golden blood – a sign of otherworldly powers. She is given the opportunity to use her powers to serve her country, but things are not as they seem. Who can she trust?

Drama: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

If you like: The Hate U Give, Dear Martin

Concrete Rose – the long-awaited prequel to Thomas’s 2018 hit The Hate U Give – tells the story of Maverick Carter, the father of Starr Carter (The Hate U Give’s heroine). Growing up in Garden Heights in the 1990s, Mav navigates the complexity of a world dominated by gang life while also learning how to be his own man. 

Short Story Collection: Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

If you like: If I Stay, Where Things Come Back

Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town is a collection of short stories set in small towns across the American West, featuring a cast of teens living very different lives. However, there are threads that link them together, as they move in and out of each other’s stories and settings. Their stories span their experiences, dealing with grief, love, abuse, justice, loss, tragedy, and joy.

Romance: Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

If you like: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Tessa is an aspiring romance writer who earns a spot in a prestigious creative writing workshop. She’s eager to hone her skills and bring her romances to life…but she gets hit with a bad case of writer’s block as soon as her big chance arrives. Her best friend Caroline has a suggestion: Tessa just needs to experience some romance of her own for the sake of her writing. What could go wrong? Happily Ever Afters is a sweet, funny romcom about finding your voice and being the heroine of your own story.

Poetry: Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

If you like: The Poet X, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

If you prefer poetry to prose, Home is Not a Country may be right up your alley. Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo’s novel-in-verse tells the story of Nima, a teenage girl struggling with her identity and imagining the life she might have lived had her family not left their home country for America. Home is Not a Country is an exploration of culture, assimilation, love and friendship, written in breathtaking verse.

Non-Fiction: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (A Hip-Hop History) by Jeff Chang and Dave “Davey D” Cook

If you like: hip-hop music (both classic and modern!), history, the study of race

The young adult version of Chang’s 2005 hip-hop history traces hip-hop from its very beginnings in the 1960s all the way to the current day. He’s teamed up with Davey D, professor, entrepreneur, and hip-hop legend, to bring this new edition to life. The book features interviews from all aspects of the hip-hop world, from DJs to activists, and shows that the history of hip-hop is the history of our generation. 


The great works of literature that you read in school have so much to tell us about history and culture. And that’s important! But that doesn’t mean that they’re the only books you should read this summer. Dive into one of these new releases and hone your reading skills while sipping a lemonade in the backyard. Happy reading!


*Please note: these books are appropriate for high-school-level readers. They may contain profanity and references to racism, violence, drug use, and sexuality, so they may not be appropriate for younger readers.

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