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June 26, 2015

May and June Books to Add to Your Reading List


I love a lot of things about summer --- eating endless quantities of ice cream without feeling like I’m going to freeze to death, lazing on the beach on sizzling Saturdays and wandering the city for hours, basking in the sun and seeing where my feet decide to take me. Another thing, though? Summer reading! So many great books come out this time of year, and for once, we actually have time to read them. I decided to do a quick roundup of books that I loved that came out in May and June, and ready for you to grab and bring to the beach. See my suggestions below, and enjoy!

CUCKOO SONG by Frances Hardinge (ABRAMS, May 12) --- It’s post-WWI England, and Triss is not herself --- literally. After falling into a river, she suddenly has an enormous appetite, --- even eating dolls --- wakes up covered in dead leaves and is nearly attacked by scissors more than once. Triss has to figure out what’s going on, bond with her constantly-misbehaving younger sister and go on an adventure she never could have predicted. Based on the cover, I thought this book would be a lot scarier than it was. Instead of horror, I’d call it magical realism with a creepy edge, and I mean that in the very best way. I completely sympathized with Triss as she slowly fell apart --- both mentally and physically --- and loved the fantastical details that Frances painted with vibrant, atmospheric language.  

I AM PRINCESS X by Cherie Priest, illustrated by Kali Ciesemier (Scholastic, May 25) --- Best friends Lydia and May created Princess X --- a sword-wielding, Converse-wearing heroine who lived in a not-so-scary haunted house --- years ago. But then Lydia died, and that was that. Now, May is 16, and stickers, badges and even a webcomic featuring the long-lost character begin popping up all over Seattle. This fast-paced mystery mixes in a bit of everything --- it highlights the importance of friendship, is full of heart-pounding action and is interspersed with the actual Princess X “webcomics,” adding some cool format diversity. If you want a quick read that blends heart and suspense, this one’s for you.

INK AND ASHES by Valynne E. Maetani (Lee & Low, June 1) --- Claire Takata’s father passed away a decade ago, and she never knew much about him. But when she suddenly finds a letter that leads her on a trail of clues, she discovers he was a member of the yazuka, a Japanese organized crime syndicate, and that she is in grave danger. This book was a fantastic mystery --- you’re constantly trying to uncover the secrets of the past and the present along with Claire.  I also loved Claire’s relationship with her two younger brothers and her neighbors --- the teens had such a believable, dynamic relationship and I was sincerely jealous that I didn’t have such a tight-knit, hyper-local group when I was their age.

DEVOTED by Jennifer Mathieu (Macmillan, June 2) --- This deeply thought-provoking tale follows Rachel, a girl growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family who’s starting to question everything she believes. She doesn’t want to just be a wife and a helpmeet; she’s curious about the world around her and doesn’t want to get in trouble for asking questions, using the internet and having greater ambitions. DEVOTED follows Rachel as she digs deep inside herself and has to make the ultimate decision about her future --- and live with the consequences. DEVOTED is a beautifully written coming-of-age story that raises the stakes and asks all the big questions.

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera (Soho Teen, June 2) --- Aaron Soto hasn’t had the easiest life --- he lives in a tiny Bronx apartment with his mom and distant brother, his dad committed suicide and now, he’s starting to develop feelings for Thomas, a boy in his neighborhood, even though he has a girlfriend. Meanwhile, the Leteo Institute has recently developed a memory erasing procedure, and when things go south with Thomas, Aaron has to decide whether it’s worth it to delete his memories and forget being gay. This one is a doozy --- it truly makes you think about sexuality, socioeconomics, happiness, choices and what it really means to be yourself. Despite tackling tough themes, it’s written in a voice that feels authentically teen. This one will stay with you long after you finish it.

SHADOWSHAPER by Daniel José Older (Scholastic, June 30) --- Not only is the cover of this book amazing (check out that rainbow hair!), but SHADOWSHAPER itself is an intense ride throughout New York City. Sierra Santiago --- a teenager in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn with a knack for painting --- discovers that she has inherited her family gift of being a shadowshaper; she can infuse art with spirits. This isn’t as glamorous as it seems, though; the shadowshapers are in danger, and it’s up to Sierra --- along with her friends and an enigmatic fellow artist named Robbie --- to uncover the truth before it’s too late. I loved that this book blended magical realism with an urban setting and a genuine teen voice. Despite the fantastical elements, it’s also a fast-paced mystery infused with Puerto Rican culture and a budding romance. This has something for everyone, and it’s not like anything I’ve read before.

So there you have it --- pick up one of these, slather on the sunscreen, head into the sun and have what is guaranteed to be an excellent afternoon.