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Ever notice how, as the school year comes to an end, your bedside list of “must-reads” goes from substantial, to totally monstrous? We sure do.
That’s why we’ve dedicated this entire issue to all of the hot summer reads we just know you won’t want to miss.
With awesome new books like Stephanie Kuehn’s debut thriller Charm & Strange, Tim Federle’s hilarious new middle grade novel, Better Nate Than Ever, and Tina Ferraro’s dreamy book, The Starter Boyfriend, you’ll be kept busy (and entertained!) all through those hot summer days. And just in case you do find yourself wanting more, be sure to peruse Caela Carter’s interview as she dishes about her emotional new novel, Me, Him, Them, and It. Trust us, you don’t what to miss it. And don’t forget to check
out what kids all over the world are reading, too! Hey, it’s like going on vacation without ever even leaving home!
So whatever your mood this summer, rest assure, our Hot Summer Reads issue will keep your chill season filled with hot hot heat. :)
Reviewed by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
Chatted by Jill Mackenzie, Shel Delisle, and Kerry O’Malley Cerra
This is that book. Ya know, the one everyone seems to be talking about. I mean everyone! I didn’t know this at first. I simply bought Eleanor & Park because the cover was so freaking out-of-this-world that I couldn’t resist. And what came after was no let-down.
Eleanor’s a big girl with blazing red hair who totally sticks out as the new girl when she gets on the school bus her first day. Insults are immediately slammed her way and no one rushes to make room for her next to them. Finally, Park—the only Asian kid in Nebraska and a desperate to fly-under-the-radar type kid—moves over, only to save everyone from an inevitable fight otherwise. Destiny? I sure think so.
Told in alternating points of view, we are given the greatest gift of watching two total opposite misfits as they discover love in all its passion, pain, and in its truest form—putting each other before themselves no matter how much it hurts their hearts.
Yep, I can see why everyone’s raving about this book and I guarantee it’ll be hot for years to come.
Shel: jill i'm so glad you recommended this book. i'd been wanting to read it
Kerry: funny i had already bought it to read when jill recommended it. :)
Jill: really, i had never heard of it when it fell into my hands, but the universe is soooo good to me, book-wise. :)
Interviewed by Jill Mackenzie
JM: Hey there all you WRN’ers! Guess which FABULOUS debut author, I’ve got with me right now, to talk about her inspiring new YA novel, Me, Him, Them, and It….you got it! Caela Carter! Whooo! Let’s dive right in, Caela! You know the first thing I’m going to ask is…
Whatcha Reading Now?
CC: I have been reading a ton of awesome books lately! In the past week I finished ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King which I loved, cherished and adored! I also just finished RAPTURE PRACTICE by Aaron Hartzler, and I am still in awe at the way he captures the inner turmoil of being a kid/teen and disagreeing with the people who run your life, aka your parents.
JM: Whoa. I’m such a huge fan of BOTH those authors…looks like you and I have the same taste in good reads! :) But let’s talk about your debut novel now. As we both know, there really is no shortage of YA pregnancy books out there. So, when you were writing Me, Him, Them, and It, what made you just know that this one would be different from all the rest? What was your driving force behind Evelyn’s very touching story?
CC: Thank God I didn’t know about this plethora of YA pregnancy books when I started writing! I started the project as a submission for my first workshop at my MFA program at The New School. I was not a “student of the industry” while I was drafting the book. During that time I was reading like crazy (thanks to a two-page single-space list of authors the amazing David Levithan had given us in our literature seminar and a part-time job at an awesomely-stocked school library). I was also writing two hours a day. But, because I didn’t think I’d ever actually get published, I wasn’t worried about how Evelyn’s story would fit into the grand scheme of YA lit. If I did think about that, I probably would have gotten so overwhelmed I’d never have finished the draft. It was only when the querying process began and the I-don’t-want-to-see-yet-another-pregnancy-story rejections letters started piling up that I realized my book would be considered a “Problem Novel,” “Another Pregnancy Story,” etc. I set out to write a story about family. I went for honest more than different. And I hope that’s what I got.
Reviewed by Jill MacKenzie
Let it be known, it’s not often I encounter a story that feels so masterfully crafted, so woven with delicate, intricate details that when I come to the end (after reading the entire thing in one sitting) I’m like, “Wow. I have to read the whole thing all over again just to make sure I didn’t miss a single thing.”
Such was the case with Stephanie Kuehn’s stunning debut psychological thriller, Charm & Strange. Split into alternating chapters of “matter” and “antimatter,” Kuehn tells the story of smartly quiet Win who believes he has a wolf inside of him, trying to get out and force him to “change.” It is the also the story of Win’s younger self, Drew, a troubled boy plagued by motion sickness and the pressure to remain the unwavering tennis star. Blended as one, these stories provide for a beautiful backdrop to a tale I can honestly say is like none I’ve ever read before.
The horror that lay beneath Charm & Strange kept my heart beating fast, and my fingers turning pages to the point where I felt like I was actually living them. Still, even though I could feel that something terrible had happened (or was going to happen) to Win/Drew, I was still overwhelmingly shocked as each twist and turn emerged in the final chapters.
Undoubtedly, I will be thinking about Charm & Strange for many, many weeks to come. Even now, days after I’ve finished reading, I can feel his darkness just beneath my own skin.
Reviewed by Jill MacKenzie
I’m always on the lookout for something new. Something with a subject I haven’t read a thousand times before and characters I haven’t encountered over and over and over. Luckily for me, I stumbled across Erin Richard’s debut novel, Vigilante Nights.
Vigilante Nights is a multifaceted story that tells of the deeply threaded bond between twins, and the lengths one will go to avenge a loved one’s untimely death. While I wouldn’t like it to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Alice Hoffman’s Property Of, or Jenny Downham’s, You Against Me, as the book jacket description suggested, Vigilante Nights was, without a doubt, something unlike anything I’d ever read before. Filled with plot-twists and unexpected outcomes, I really enjoyed reading this story from beginning to end. Although not as emotional as I had hoped, the characters were likeable and realistic, making it quite simply a fun read. Most of all, I delighted in the “good guys” plight to make a world gone wrong…right. After all, in a day and age wrought with bad news, who couldn’t use a little more triumph in their lives?
Reviewed by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
Better Nate Than Ever is the perfect example of why I love middle grade books more than a perfectly made Starbucks Vanilla Chai Latte. There’s something about kids in this age range that is so freaking cool. They’re still finding their way in a giant, often scary world, but their perceptions are so dead-on I sometimes wish we could all wear middle grade blinders daily.
Nate’s tired of living in the grey world of Jansksburg, PA. Worse than that, he’s sick of being bullied for his love of musical theater by classmates and made worse by his own highly messed-up family. When his best friend Libby—and let me tell you everyone should have a best friend as awesome as her!—spills the deets about an open casting call for the role of Elliot in the musical version of ET, they hatch a plan for Nate to sneak off to New York City via Greyhound Bus and be back again before anyone discovers he’s gone. It’s foolproof!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a great book without lots of mishaps on Nate’s voyage, and the hilarious audition we have the privilege of experiencing right along with Nate is brilliant. Seriously, if you don’t laugh out loud, you’re not human. And just as quickly as you laugh, you’ll be brought to tears with Nate’s inner thoughts about knowing—more than anything he’s ever known before—that NYC is just where he belongs. It’s the one place he finally feels comfortable and accepted for who he is. So how could he ever return to Janksburg? Is knowing NYC will be his future someday, enough to get him through the next few years if he has to go back to PA? Read it and find out. But don’t forget to have a tissue nearby. PS The references to different musicals throughout the book are totally an added bonus. Grab this hot summer read and down it in one sitting. Author, Tim Federle, deserves a standing ovation!
Reviewed by Kerry O'Malley Cerra
As much as I often weigh decisions for far too long, choosing What Will It Be, Penelope? for our picture book feature this issue was easy peasy.
Adorable (yes, the illustrations are super, super cute) Penelope has a hard time deciding anything and everything, from what sock to wear to what games to play. And the longer she waits, the more her friends and family get frustrated until, eventually, they’re making decisions for her.
Penelope realizes that making the wrong choice is better than making no choice of her own, and soon, she’s making quick decisions all by herself. Tori Corn’s debut book is a gem that would be a great addition to any home or classroom because Penelope is totally relatable and equally fun. Pick up this brand new hot summer read and see for yourself. And now back to making tough decisions of my own…what books to feature in our next issue.
Reviewed by Michelle Delisle
When I think of summer reading, I think light, fun, entertaining, and perfect for the beach. Tina Ferraro’s The Starter Boyfriend fits all my requirements and supplies just a little bit more.
The book’s main character, seventeen-year-old Chloe, has all the stress that comes with senior year in high school—college plans, friends, sports, the Prom, and a part-time job. Her job as an assistant in a local tux shop is the hub around which the rest of the story revolves. It gives her an excuse to avoid the endless parties (and the drinking that goes on at them), it gives her a chance to meet a lot of the guys from her high school, and it allows her to steer clear of rejections from any of them by fantasizing that the mannequin, who she has named Tux, would be the ideal boyfriend for her. Chloe has perfected the art of avoiding conflict and her job is the crutch she uses for support. When Tux is stolen during a year-end prank, Chloe is forced to take risks in order to get him back and keep her job.
I thought this story was a lot of fun with a completely worthy love interest—Adam, a surfer boy, not the mannequin. The beach-y, California setting is perfect for summer reading. The characters are engaging and (mostly) likeable. And, I especially appreciated the way Ferraro handled the family sub-plot of Chloe’s father’s impending wedding and her mother’s alcoholism. While it didn’t detract from the entertainment of the story, it also added a depth to Chloe that made it easier to connect with her.
Every issue we give you a list of our picks for teens, kids and tots, but this month we have a bonus for you!
Members from our WRN? Community have told us what they most want to read this summer! So here’s Our Readers' Summer Picks ! We hope you’ll join them by coming to our Facebook page and posting what book you most want to read –who knows – you might even win something.
Meredith M., Age 19, Pennsylvania USA Looking for Alaska by John Green
Becky S., Age 17, Florida, USA, Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin
Mitchell S., Age 19, California USA The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Griffin C., Age 13, Florida USA, Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Erik G., Age 18, California USA, Icons by Margaret Stohl
Josh W., Age 16, Florida USA, Allegiant by Veronica Roth (but it’s not out yet!)
Sarena T., Age 19, Virginia USA, Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Morgan W., Age 13 Florida USA, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Alex C.., Age 12, Georgia USA, The Raft by SA Bodeen
Ryan D., Age 13, Florida, USA, If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
ChinLin P., Age 19, Texas, USA, The Name of The Star by Maureen Johnson
Sara W., Age 8, Florida, USA, Nancy Drew 15: The Haunted Bridge by Carolyn Keene
Kimberly S., Florida USA, Age 12, The Theodore Boone Series by John Grisham