Throughout the school year, your teen has used books as one of the primary ways of gathering information and understanding new concepts. Summer is your teen's chance to read what she wants to read, just for the joy it brings. And, while she might not realize it, she's also keeping her vocabulary skills and reading fluency in shape. We know getting kids to put down the phone and pick up a book can be a challenge, especially during the carefree summer months, so we've looked high and low for exciting new titles for young adults. Here's our list of favorites to exhilarate, fascinate, and yes, educate.

Our 2012 Summer Reading List

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Fifteen-year-old Jacob is bored in his well-kept lifestyle, poised to take over the family drugstore chain, when his grandfather dies suddenly with Jacob on the scene. Armed with his grandfather’s cryptic last words, he sets sail for Europe, hoping to find out if the stories that his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, told of growing up in a magical orphanage were true, or if they were just his way of coping with a traumatic past. Wisps of chilling secrecy cloud this creeping and ominous novel. Rumor has it there’s a movie in the works; encourage your teen to read this novel now, so that when the film version hits theaters she’ll have the chance to say, “I liked the book better.” (Quirk, $12.23)

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk. Guy Langman is having trouble coping with the death of his father, or so his therapist says. In light of recent events, he doesn’t know if it’s a great idea for him to enroll in his school’s forensics team. He soon shows a knack for unraveling mysteries, which comes in handy when a family heirloom is stolen from his home and then he and the Berry Ridge High Forensics Squad stumble upon an actual dead body. Snark, sarcasm and slapstick humor pervade in this uproarious farce that takes a refreshingly silly approach to the typical coming-of-age melodrama. (Random House, $11.98)

Legend by Marie Lu. With Hunger Games fever still running high, you might be looking for a follow-up to keep your teen reading this summer. Look no further than this dystopian fantasy. Set in the future where the former United States is now the Republic, a place where war is constant, you’ll recognize a lot of similarities with Hunger Games: wealthy and poor districts, military control, class warfare. But it’s the two extremely likeable main characters, one groomed for military greatness, the other born into poverty, that keep the fire going here, page after page. Watching their relationship transform and their suspicion for each other dissolve, makes for super-charged summer reading.  (Putnam, $11.98)

Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, illustrated by Randy Duburke. Saddle up for a dusty ride through the Wild West! Nat Love, formerly known as “Deadwood Dick,” was one of the best cowboys in the West. But now he is retired, and the Old West is gone. Relive some of his wild adventures as he tells some of the tales of his glory days working as a cattle herder. This graphic novel is beautifully illustrated and will take you back to the time of outlaws and sharpshooters. Beware of mildly violent content and racial slurs of the era. (Chronicle, $13.59)


Our 2011 Summer Reading List

Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein. Lady Catherine's romance with Walter Ralegh gets her banished from Queen Elizabeth's court to the colony on Roanoke Island. Cate clings to survival on the island. To stay alive, she joins a community of Croatoan Indians, and falls in love with the warrior Manteo. When Ralegh suddenly shows up, Cate must make an agonizing choice. This is historical fiction at its finest, with a strong heroine, accurate details, and high-intensity action.(Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, $12.74) 

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster. This story begins when Kyle Straker lets his friend hypnotize him in front of the entire town. When the trance ends a new and bizarre world awakes around him. The question is why; the reality is frightening. Suspense, complex character relationships and funny quips make this book a page-turner for a sci-fi reader, videogamer or anyone who likes a good mystery. (Egmont USA, $11.55)

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. What can the bond of sisters endure? This haunting tale about sisters Chloe and Ruby is up for interpretation. Part-paranormal, part-psychological roller coaster, this book is filled with evocative imagery and ideas that will leave parents and teens something to talk about together. (Dutton, $10.58)

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Expect late nights and an infinitely distracted teenager: this series is insanely addictive. A dystopian fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world sets the scene for this incredible thriller, where breathless pacing and complex characters make for heart-stopping reading. Production is just starting on the movie version, so let your teen inhale this high-intensity adventure before Hollywood steals the books' thunder. (Scholastic, $31.47)

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford. Welcome to Arcane, Missouri, a crossroads town in 1913. For 12-year-old Natalie, life in Arcane is about building machines and making them work, but when the town doctor leaves, Arcane becomes vulnerable to the evils of the world; strange things can happen at a crossroads. It's not for the faint of heart, but may give you courage by the end. (Clarion Books, $6.99)

Our 2010 High School Summer Reading Picks

The Keeper's Tattoo by Gill Arbuthnott. Nyssa has lived with her adoptive parents ever since she turned up on their doorstep at the age of four. All she had were the clothes on her back, a broken flute, and a strange tattoo on her forearm. Everything changes when a boat of Shadowmen arrive on the island, looking for descendents of a clan they thought had been destroyed. Could Nyssa be the chosen one the evil Alaric has been searching for all these years? This fast-paced tale weaves an imagined age of darkness, treachery, and rebellion with a tone and style reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. A great choice for boys and girls alike, especially reluctant readers. (Scholastic, $12.95) 

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. This YA novel does the impossible: it makes a book about relationships, whether romances or friendships, gay or straight, not only readable, but enjoyable for the hard-to-reach high school boy as well as girl. It accomplishes this through an inventive plot, a talented duo of authors, and language that speaks to the way real teens think and speak (not to how their parents might want them to). This means that there's a fair amount of bad language and frank references to sex, depression, and homosexuality...and that's precisely why a high schooler might want to read it. Under the candor is a warm and compelling story full of humor and love, told from the eyes of two Will Graysons. One is a depressed gay teen whose only happiness comes from his Internet boyfriend. Another is a straight teen with a penchant for complicated friendships. When the two Wills cross paths, they both head in a new direction in this frank and frequently hilarious read. (Dutton, $11.69)

If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Bound for Julliard, teeming with talent, and deeply in love with her family, seventeen-year-old Mia immediately captures the head and heart of the reader. A bloody and brutal car accident changes Mia's life forever. Everything else falls away and she is left with only one choice--a choice between life and death. This heart-breakingly beautiful novel is not only a fantastic read, but it does something that every good book should do: it touches the reader in a way that is personal and potentially life changing. Forman's ability to articulate the deepest and most human of thoughts and emotions will keep the pages turning and your heart racing. (Dutton, $8.99) 

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien. Reminiscent of both 1984 and a Brave New World, this gripping page-turner is a perfect intro to futuristic, dystopian fiction. Set in the 2400's, the story follows Gaia, a midwife, on her quest to track down her parents and uncover the secrets of the oppressive regime that her family so dutifully serves. But to do so, she must make her way inside the walls of the Enclave. The hitch: with half her face covered in scars, she sticks out like a sore thumb among a government-cultivated population that's been bred to perfection. Readers accompany the novel's inspiring heroine on an undertaking brimming with danger, intrigue, and romance. And with lessons about DNA, vocabulary-building, and thinking for yourself, there's major educational value, too. (Roaring Brook Press, $16.99)

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. Forced to grapple with her intense grief after the sudden death of her older sister, 17-year-old Lennie tells a coming-of-age story that has a little bit of everything. Beautifully poetic verses, brutally honest narration, and a full spectrum of emotions make this book a heartbreaking masterpiece. Anyone who has ever experienced tragedy, the strength of the bond between sisters, or has lived a day in the life of an adolescent girl will find something to identify with here. But parents should be aware that this book is unabashedly real: it contains a few slightly graphic sexual passages, references to marijuana, underage drinking, and other genuine issues teens encounter. If yours is ready to face these topics in literature, she'll definitely be in for a treat with more depth than the average high school novel. (Dial Books for Young Readers, $17.99)

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkarraman. Fifteen-year-old Vidya is the odd girl out in British-occupied India. While her friends dream of the perfect arranged marriage, she wants nothing more than to head to college. Just as it appears she might achieve the impossible, tragedy strikes, and she's sent to live in the traditional household of her grandfather, where the men live upstairs and the women are segregated below. Set against the backdrop of World War II and the simultaneous protests of Mahatma Ghandi, this tale of teenage rebellion and finding one's place in the world will sit just right with teenagers fighting their own battle for independence, but happy to get swept away in a lush setting ripe with charged emotions. An atmospheric historical novel, with a bit of romance thrown in. (Putnam, $16.99) 

Our 2009 High School Summer Reading Picks

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji. Seventeen-year-old Pasha Shahed is enjoying one of his last summers at home in a middle-class neighborhood in Tehran. He is like many teens--gently spurning the worries of his overbearing mother, hanging out on the roof with his friend Ahmed, and thinking about his future. Except that it's 1973, and Iran is under the harsh reign of the Shah. Pasha's idyllic world begins to crumble when he falls in love with his next door neighbor, betrothed since birth to another man. All of a sudden he finds himself breaking centuries-old Persian traditions, and thrown into the middle of a dangerous revolution. A funny and heart-wrenching, sweet and dark, coming of age love story, set to the true-to-life backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. (Penguin Group, 2009, $10.20) 

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen. This boy-friendly thriller reads like a summer blockbuster, but has an emotional edge that gives it extra kick. When nuclear attack seems imminent, 15-year-old Eli's billionaire father rushes the family into "the compound", a lavish underground sanctuary where they are to wait out the 15 years before it's safe to come out. But while Eli, his parents, and his two sisters make it in time, Eli's grandmother and twin brother Eddy are stranded outside. Six years later, dulled by grief and the monotony of life underground, Eli encounters a horrible secret far worse than the family's dwindling food supply, as he must face hard truths about his father -- and himself -- in order to save his family. Equal parts dystopian fantasy, detective story, and family drama, this book makes up for its sometimes far-fetched conceits by delivering a rollicking ride to the very end. (Feiwel & Friends, 2008, $16.95)

Impossible by Nany Zwerlin. It isn't until Lucy Scarborough is 17 years old that she realizes the full significance of the secret letter she found on her seventh birthday. The magical past Lucy never knew she had, quickly becomes the reality that she must fight to survive. This fast-paced fairy tale inspired by the song “Scarborough Fair” is set in contemporary times, with just enough interplay between magic and realism to plunge the reader headfirst into this romantic thriller. Mature issues such as teen pregnancy, date-rape and teen marriage run throughout the twists and turns of the storyline, but above all, the story communicates a theme that teens will find deeply satisfying: no destiny is unchangeable, especially where the magic of true love is concerned. (Speak, 2009, $9.99)

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong. This teen thriller, the second book in the Darkest Powers series, is a mash-up of 1984 and Twilight. Chloe is a teenage necromancer who can raise the dead without even trying. She and her supernatural friends have discovered that they are part of an grand experiment: doctors at The Edison Group are altering their gene codes to suppress their supernatural abilities. Now, they are on the run to find someone who can help them, while Chloe begins to learn more about how to wield her own powers. The characters are realistic; each has flaws and insecurities which, when combined with their supernatural abilities, make for great drama! The pages of this suspenseful read will fly by, and your teen will be looking for the next book in the series before the summer is out. Unfortunately, she'll have to wait until "The Reckoning" is released in May of 2010. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2009, $17.99)

Genesis by Bernard Beckett. In the not-so-distant future, young Anaximander is called to undergo the grueling oral entrance exam for The Academy. Through her narrative, she relates the history of her Orwellian civilization, the last outpost of a world decimated by a plague, and guides readers through an edge-of-your-seat exploration of humans and robots, consciousness and thought, morality and the meaning of humanity. At just 150 pages long, this book offers a short dive into a deep subject that's sure to engage cerebral readers with a thought-provoking and suspenseful exploration of complex issues. Although the philosophical subject matter is heavy, the book's tightly written narrative and nail-biting backstory will have readers rushing to the final shocking plot twist. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, $20.00)

May 16, 2011