Recently, I was looking through my credit card statement and was surprised (and a little bit concerned) to see how many books I had downloaded to my Kindle this summer. I used to live close to the central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, so I often popped in there to stock up on books, and during the school year, I borrow lots of books from our school library. But for a stretch of this summer, I was averaging one new Kindle book a week. Oops.
I bought so many Kindle books this summer partly because I got hooked on the convenience and immediate gratification of purchasing a book with just one click, and partly because I have sped through a lot of very engaging books recently. So while we still have a bit of summer left, here are some recommendations for summer reads* brought to you by my excessive Kindle purchasing. (*I have a feeling they would be just as enjoyable in any other season, too.)
Fifteen-year-old Amelia is in love with her co-worker, Chris. He’s charismatic, funny, easy to talk to…and twenty-one years old. This smart, humorous book offers sections from Amelia’s perspective and excerpts from Chris’s journals. It’s fun to get both of their takes on some of the same events and to observe the difference in how Amelia and Chris see themselves versus how they come across to each other. Buzo offers a fresh take on first love and the gradual transition from childhood into adulthood.
Ann Galardi is determined to lose forty-five pounds before she has to stand up in front of a crowd of people wearing a bridesmaid’s dress at her aunt’s wedding before the end of the summer. Ann is easy to root for because she is an active character with a great sense of humor and a clear goal. Her journey is triumphant, but her struggles to lose weight and feel more comfortable in her own skin definitely aren’t sugar-coated. K.A. Barson includes endearing secondary characters, rich friend and family dynamics, and a touch of romance in this debut novel.
Last summer, I went to Nantucket for the first time since I was a kid. I’m not going to make it there again this summer, but at least I got to revisit the island alongside Cricket, the main character of Nantucket Blue. Cricket gets a job as a chambermaid so that she can spend the summer in Nantucket, where she plans to support her grieving best friend and pursue her long-time crush, but nothing goes according to her plan. I enjoyed the book’s vivid setting, the romance that catches Cricket by surprise, and the way Howland weaves in some of Cricket’s mother’s journal entries from a summer she spent in Nantucket as a teen and doesn’t shy away from having Cricket make major mistakes and then confront the consequences of them.
Golden is part mystery, part romance, and part coming-of-age novel. Parker Frost has done everything she was supposed to do all throughout high school, and her hard work has paid off: she’s gotten into Stanford, and now she’s one of the finalists for a scholarship that would make it financially possible for her to go. The scholarship was established in memory of Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz, a “golden” couple everyone adored, who died in a car accident after graduating from high school ten years ago. When Parker gets her hands on the journal Julianna kept during her senior year, she becomes fascinated with finding out what really happened to Julianna and Shane. I have a soft spot for stories about single-minded, studious types rethinking what’s most important, and I like the way Kirby includes Julianna’s journal entries within Parker’s story.
Ten-year-old Annie Richards is worried about all of the bad things that could happen to her. She bandages up her ankles to prevent sprains, makes a game of riding her bike as slowly as possible rather than racing, and spends her free time reading a book about diseases. Other people try to get her to lighten up, but Annie knows she’s right to be cautious, because nobody was cautious enough to save her brother Jared, who died. This is a beautiful, sad, and funny book about Annie’s process of dealing with her grief and re-engaging with her life. I love books with fallible first-person narrators, who strongly believe something that the reader knows is a bit misguided. It’s such a poignant reading experience to understand where a character is coming from and come to love that character, but also root for her to get past a belief that is holding her back, and Annie is such an endearingly fallible main character. This book made me wish I taught younger students because I would love to use it as a read-aloud with upper-elementary-school kids.