Summer reading has become my new favorite industry. We're lawfully required to have a book in hand if we're within ten miles of water, and I'm all...
Some of my favorite reads have been in past guides - The Secret Keeper, Ready Player One, Eligible, Jane Steele - but the bulk of her suggestions are new releases, i.e. library waiting lists are months long and hard copies won't be on sale for awhile.
So what's a girl to do? If you're impatient, here are some beloved books to read this summer while you wait for your turn at the library. A few of these are currently just a few bucks on Kindle, so click the title and see if your favorite is super cheap right now.
Token YA Pick
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Have you seen Juno? Mosquitoland doesn't resemble it in terms of plot, but do you remember how you felt after you watched it? How it was unlike anything you'd ever seen but still seemed so familiar? That's how Mosquitoland feels. It was quirky and quick, lighthearted and heartbreaking, and a delight to read.
The story follows a teenage girl who runs away from home after her parents split up. It's a self-discovery road trip story but without being dumb and predictable. I laughed, I cried more tears than a person should, and the cover is super dreamy. I adore this book.
Weird Psychological Thriller
Black Chalk by Christopher Yates
The premise is head-scratchy but super interesting. Six college students create a game, a social experiment of increasingly embarrassing and even dangerous social situations, to see how they react, how they withstand ridicule, and maybe a little because they're insane? Who knows. The story is fascinating, the characters are rich, and the writing is solid. The ending? Meh. Until the last few pages, this book was one of my favorite page-turners ever, but the ending didn't do it for me. I'm still glad I read it, but if a lame ending ruins your experience, skip this one. Otherwise, crazy good. And also crazy.
Even Creepier Psychological Thriller
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
You've heard the name because Gillian Flynn wrote Gone Girl. This didn't get the same buzz, but man is it good. The story centers around Libby Day, a woman who's lived an oddly secluded life ever since her mother and sisters were murdered when she was seven. The murderer? Her 15 year-old brother. But there has been a vocal group of people who believe Ben is innocent, and 25 years later, they come to Libby hoping to unofficially open the case. The story is dark because it's about a murder but even more so because Libby's soul is tragically wounded. Her angst, anger, desperation, and vulnerability ooze off the page. Super engrossing, creepy, dark, and awesome.
Dystopian Series You'll Forever Be Obsessed With
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
I still don't understand why more people haven't read this trilogy. It's one of my favorites EVAH. It's if The Hunger Games and Star Wars had a spy thriller baby. Y'all, it's so good. SO. GOOD. Darrow lives and works in a mining colony on Mars, preparing the planet for habitation. After his wife is accused of treason and executed, he joins a secret society trying to overthrow the government that took his wife and has been lying to him his whole life. And, y'all, that's like the first couple of chapters. It's rich. In all three books, I'd read a climactic scene and think, "I can't believe the book is almost over!" and suddenly realize I wasn't even halfway through. It's such a ride, so well written, full of characters you love to root for, and the story is unlike any I've ever experienced. READ THIS SERIES NOW, OH MY GOSH.
Dystopian Series That Feeds the Divergent/Hunger Games Hole In Your Heart
Legend by Marie Lu
The United States is in turmoil (obvs), and 15 year-old June is a prodigy being groomed by the government to help bring peace and maintain control for The Republic. Day is The Republic's most wanted criminal. When June's brother is murdered and Day is the prime suspect, the manhunt leads to surprising results. Of course it does. This story is fantastic. It's really easy to imagine, the characters are believable, and there's always someone to root for, a quality that's important for a lot of readers. This entire trilogy made me so happy and narratively satisfied.
Light and Fun
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Anne recommended this book to me when I was on her podcast What Should I Read Next, and it was a perfect read to counteract all of the dark dystopias I usually go for. The Waverleys have odd abilities, magical even. One sister, Claire, is a caterer who uses ingredients from the secret family garden to make delicious food that also makes the eater feel any number of feelings. Another sister, Sydney, is recently returned to the Waverly house with a daughter in tow and a mound of emotional problems that zipped-up Claire isn't ready for. It's a story about sisters, romance, and wonky Southern social circles with a few magic flowers thrown in. A perfectly lovely summer read.
Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls
My favorite memoir ever is The Glass Castle. If you haven't read it, you're welcome for the bonus pick. P.S. The movie comes out soon. Half Broke Horses is Walls' second book, but the story is technically a prequel to the first. Can memoirs have prequels? That feels weird. It's about her grandmother and mother, both of whom we experience as much older people in her own memoir, so it's fun to see their origin story. Well, maybe fun isn't the best word. It's heavy with atmosphere and drama. Half Broke Horses reads like a dusty Kevin Costner film; you practically need a glass of water as you read. But Jeanette's grandmother is AWESOME. Like, one of the coolest ladies ever. So hardcore, willing to make the tough choice, totally flawed, and a feminist before her time. I luuuuuuved this one.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
This was the first Oprah Book Club choice I ever read, and I think about it to this day. Astrid and her tortured artist mother, Ingrid, live a colorful but unpredictable life. When Ingrid is convicted of murdering an ex-lover, her teenage daughter is sent from foster home to foster home, dealing with situations she never asked for or deserved. From the foster-for-profit home to the desperate-to-have-a-baby home, Astrid keeps looking for what her mother never gave her, and we wonder if she'll ever find it. It's beautiful, tragic, and hopeful. And after you read the book, the movie's actually pretty good.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Susie Salmon has been murdered. Now she lives in an unusual version of heaven, watches over her grieving family, her confused friends, and her murderer who's still at large. All of those things make her an excellent narrator. This story is riveting, the writing is my favorite kind - beautiful and descriptive but not flowery and over the top, and even though his performance was lame in the movie, I like imagining Mark Wahlberg as the dad taking justice into his own hands. Y'all know how I feel about Mark Wahlberg. I have this one on my shelf and have grabbed for a reread more than once.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Yes, you get a Jane Austen pick. But have you read this one? Most people I know haven't. And if you're in those ranks, you're missing out on an amazing part of life. Persuasion is a masterpiece. If you're into unrequited love, DUDE. This one has it in spades. And the crazy part? Persuasion is said to be majorly autobiographical. Score.
Anne Elliot is plain, well mannered, and part of a respectable family, a family which persuaded her to long ago reject the proposal of a poor man she loved. When that man returns to their lives as a wealthy, successful admiral, oh man. It ain't pretty, y'all. But it's SO PRETTY. This one is a dollar on Kindle and four in paperback. Click that title up there, and get it. Right now.
Heartwarming Fantasy Series
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
Here's what I want you to do. I want you to read the first book On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and just trust me. Yes, it's a little slow in places, and longtime songwriter turned novelist Peterson is finding his way. But I PROMISE he finds it midway through the first book and KILLS IT in the final three. I love this four-book series more than Harry Potter. And Narnia. It's sacrilege I know, but it's the truth. It's BEAUTIFUL. Hopeful, engaging, exciting, fantastical, and everything you want in a series. I can't wait to read this to my kids soon, but even if you're on your own, it's well worth it. Prepare to sob like a colicky baby.