Even those of us who read for labor still love the idea of curling up with a couple good books over the weekend-when-we’re-not-supposed-to-be-laboring. I’ve got my pile all set, but in case you’re looking for a few suggestions to chill out with over the holiday, here’s a motley crew of titles I’m excited to recommend. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below!
Every Day by David Levithan. In this stunning new title, A., the protagonist, wakes up each day in a different body. But what’s an unmoored soul to do when a fabulous girl suddenly comes into the picture? Yes, romance drives this story, but deeper, more thought-provoking issues of gender and identity lie at its core. Highly, highly recommended.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. A tenuous peace exists between the human characters in this gorgeous fantasy and the dragons with whom they once warred. But beneath the peace bubbles prejudice—and worse, fear. Main character Seraphina must use her talent for understanding both worlds to keep the two sides in balance. But will her dark secret be her undoing?
YA Realistic Fiction
Since You Left Me by Allen Zadoff. Sanskrit Aaron Zuckerman has more problems than most ordinary teenagers, beginning with his super-wacky mom and ending with…well, his super-wacky mom. After she fails to show up for yet another key meeting at Aaron’s swanky Jewish private school, Aaron offers up a lie that sets his whole world spinning. This book does a great job exploring, then cracking open, the myopia that often characterizes the teenage years. Even better is its deft treatment of faith and spirituality.
No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Michaeux Nelson. In this mostly-nonfiction story, voices from Lewis Michaux’s colorful life tell the story of Harlem’s first bookseller. A beautiful, life-affirming account of a man who believed in his community enough to risk everything for it—and whose persistence left a powerful legacy.
Middle Grade Fiction
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. You’ll read this one in a heartbeat, but slow down if you can. This slim little novel is a carefully-woven tapestry of mystery, quirks, and emotional insights. Get my full review here.
Middle Grade Fantasy
Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes. In Keara’s world, every child has a darkbeast—a creature that teaches its child how to be better, even as it takes away its child’s sins. Most children hate their darkbeasts, but not Keara. What will happen when Keara’s twelfth birthday forces the sacrifice of her darkbeast, Caw? The metaphor of the darkbeast could be better developed, but as a meditation on the power of childhood, and what adulthood forces us to leave behind, Darkbeast is an interesting—and enjoyably fanciful—read.
Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine. Borrowing liberally from William Carlos Williams, Levine spins out a book’s-worth of fake apology poems which range from amusing to side-splitting. To add to the humor, classic fairy tale characters, as well as other noteworthy cultural icons make appearances. Well worth a peek—if not a cover to cover read.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand. Do yourself a favor: Start this book by daylight, will you? In this uber-creepy story, Victoria’s life is perfect, except for her one and only friend, Lawrence. Lawrence, dear readers, is an unfortunate smudge. A stain. A real nuisance, actually—especially when he goes missing. Fans of Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl will especially enjoy this disturbingly delightful debut.
Oldie but Goodie
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I sort of feel silly including this one, since almost every avid reader I know remembers it as a childhood favorite. But one of the joys of summer is not just new books, but the old ones it allows me to re-read. If you haven’t spent time with Sara Crewe recently, consider this your impetus to do so. LOVE.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. If you enjoy the wit and charm of Jane Austen but don’t want to be bothered by the, um, complications of late 18th-century language, you’ll love this witty, charming modern novel set in a quaint English village. A love story, a social commentary, a meditation on unlikely friendships—this book is, by turns, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and completely wonderful.