What makes a great summer read? Adventure, suspense, humor, pathos, memorable characters are some of the ingredients, but the main requirement is great storytelling, a tale that sweeps you up from the first page and doesn’t let go. Whether the young reader at your house is fond of Rick Riordan or the Wimpy Kid books or has a long required reading list from school, hopefully there will be a few summer moments to check out some of the many entertaining titles out there for middle-grade and teen readers.
Middle-grade readers (8 to 12):
• “From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess” by Meg Cabot; Feiwel & Friends, $16.99. Meg Cabot offers her usual hilarious narration in this entertaining Princess Diaries spinoff, a Cinderella rags-to-riches tale set in New Jersey starring 12-year-old Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison (whose African-American mother died in a jet ski accident) and complete with nasty stepparents, spoiled stepcousins and a villainous nemesis named Annabelle Jenkins.
• “Woof” by Spencer Quinn; Scholastic, $16.99. Eleven-year-old Birdie and a rescue mutt named Bowser team up to track down the thief who stole the prize stuffed marlin from the family tackle shop in this finely plotted mystery (from an author, writing as Peter Abrahams, of terrific crime thrillers “Reality Check” and “Oblivion”) set on the Louisiana coast and hilariously told from the dog’s point of view. Harlan Coben said it best in a cover blurb: “I defy anyone to read this book – kid or adult – without a big goofy grin.”
• “The Penderwicks in Spring” by Jeanne Birdsall; Alfred A. Knopf ($16.99). Birdsall won the National Book Award for the first book in this charming series. The latest installment is the story of youngest daughter, Batty, who accidentally gets into the dog-walking business, discovers a new talent and conceals upsetting information she learns about her mother’s death while eavesdropping on an older sister’s conversation.
• “The Forget-Me-Not Summer” by Leila Howland, illustrations by Ji Hyuk Kim; Harper, $16.99. This entertaining tale of three California sisters roughing it with their Aunt Sunny in Cape Cod (in a house with no AC or cellphone reception) has humor, romance, a little drama and a worthwhile life lesson along with an engaging portrait of sibling ties between aspiring actress 12-year-old Marigold, 11-year-old Zinnia and 5-year-old Lily.
• “The Search for Baby Ruby” by Susan Shreve; Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic; $16.99. Twelve-year-old Jess, the “responsible” sister, gets stuck baby-sitting her infant niece in a hotel room while the rest of the family is at her older sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner when the baby disappears and Jess and 15-year-old sister Teddy, the kleptomaniac bad girl of the clan, use their detective skills to track her down. Edgar winner Shreve offers page-turning suspense, but her real strength is painting realistic portraits of young people struggling to find their way amid family dysfunction.
• “The 39-Story Treehouse” by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton; Feiwel & Friends, $13.99. In the third installment of this over-the-top zany series, Andy and Terry add a chocolate waterfall, baby dinosaur petting zoo and world’s scariest roller coaster to the treehouse, invent a writing machine (with “big toe recognition security”) that goes berserk and end up on the dark side of the moon trying to “uninvent” their machine.
• “The Sound of Life and Everything” by Krista Van Dolzer; Putnam, $16.99. This debut novel is an intriguing mix of historical fiction and sci-fi fantasy, set in the 1950s in a California town grieving the loss of its sons in World War II. Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee lost her cousin Robby in the war, but when a scientist uses the DNA from blood on Robby’s dogtags to bring him back to life, and the soldier produced is not Robby but a young Japanese man, Ella persuades her parents to bring him home.
• “Theodore Boone: The Fugitive” by John Grisham; Dutton Books for Young Readers, $17.99. Detective Theodore Boone, 13, spots an old adversary – Pete Duffy, a fugitive in a murder case – on the train during a class field trip to Washington, D.C., in the latest workmanlike courtroom drama from the veteran author of legal thrillers.
• “Emmy & Oliver” by Robin Benway; HarperTeen, 352 pages, $17.99. Ages 13 and up. (Publishes June 23). Benway offers an irresistible tale of friendship and romance in this story of best friends and next-door neighbors Emmy and Oliver, reunited at age 17, 10 years after Oliver’s father kidnapped him and disappeared in the midst of a custody battle.
• “Saint Anything” by Sarah Dessen; Viking, $19.99. In her 12th novel, Dessen explores the shock waves that rock a wealthy family when son Peyton is sent to prison for a drunk driving accident that disabled a teen bicyclist. Sydney Stanford has always felt invisible, overshadowed by her charismatic older brother, and Dessen does a masterful job exploring Sydney’s voyage toward healing as she is befriended by Layla, daughter of a pizzeria owner, finds herself part of a family circle and increasingly drawn to Layla’s brother Mac.
• “Adrift” by Paul Griffin; Scholastic, $17.99. (Publishes July 28). This gripping thriller, of five teens lost at sea, starts with working-class guys Matt and John invited to a party on Montauk with gorgeous, wealthy Driana and her friends JoJo and Steph. It quickly turns terrifying as Steph goes out too far windsurfing on the ocean at night, and the four steal a neighbor’s sailboat in a disastrous rescue attempt that becomes a survival adventure, as the prospect of starvation, dehydration and death exposes everyone’s hidden demons.
• “The Porcupine of Truth” by Bill Konigsberg; Arthur Levine Books/Scholastic, $17.99 ages 14 and up. (June publication). New York City teen Carson Smith arrives in Billings, Mont., to help care for his alcoholic father, when a chance meeting with smart, gorgeous black lesbian Aisha Simpson leads them both on an epic road trip in search of the grandfather who abandoned his family decades before. This life-affirming novel is a celebration of friendship, connection, the search for meaning and bridging gender and racial divides.
• “Hit Count” by Chris Lynch; Algonquin, $17.95. Ages 14 and up. Lynch, author of National Book Award finalist “Inexcusable,” offers a fascinating tale of family dysfunction and sibling rivalry as he tackles the critical topic of head injuries in youth sports in this football action-packed tale of Arlo Brodie, a high school football star whose addiction to violent collisions on the field threatens to take him forever out of the game he loves.