Pull out your calendars, readers, because your summer is about to get all booked up. Make plans for long afternoons soaking up the sunshine and getting lost in tales from favorites like Sarah Dessen and Kasie West. Set aside a weekend to take a trip across Europe with a bisexual gentleman and his hilarious entourage. And don’t forget to make time for a getaway in a small Connecticut town to solve a suspenseful mystery. Buckle up and keep your nose inside the book at all times; it’s going to be a wild ride.
Here comes the skeptic
It just isn’t summer without Sarah Dessen, who remains a pro at dishing out novels that mix together heartache, hope, and love. In Once and For All, readers meet 17-year-old Louna, who lost any faith that true love existed when her boyfriend was killed in a school shooting. Helping out with her mom’s wedding planning business is the closest she allows herself to get to love, and even then she wonders just when each happily-ever-after will fall apart. Then she’s tasked with training a new hire, Ambrose, and her determination to avoid romance is put to the test. Dessen’s latest is about new beginnings, but it’s also about coping with unimaginable loss and finding ways to move forward.
On shelves: June 6
There are as many kinds of love as there are hearts
Natasha “Tash” Zelenka’s Leo Tolstoy obsession sparked a webseries called Unhappy Families, based on Anna Karenina. It’s her passion project, done purely out of love, until high praise from a popular vlogger puts her and her series on the map. Suddenly her show is beloved by Tumblr and her new subscriber count is through the roof! And so begins Tash’s performance anxiety: Can she deliver the kind of content her new fans crave? Her problems only grow when she has the chance to meet her cyber-crush, Thom Causer. They’ve been flirting heavily online for a while, but before anything happens Tash needs to find a way to tell him that she’s romantic asexual. Too bad Tolstoy never wrote a book about surviving internet fame and exploring the nuances of sexual and romantic attraction. Tash is going to have to figure this one out on her own.
On shelves: June 6
Fighting to survive
Keely Hutton’s debut novel is inspired by the life of Ricky Richard Anywar, who was abducted at the age of 14 and forced to become a child soldier in Joseph Kony’s rebel army in Uganda. The novel tells Ricky’s story, revealing the brutality he experienced and the spark of hope he kept alive inside of him. The narrative is shared with Samuel, a fictional character, who represents the children that Anywar rehabilitated through his charity, Friends of Orphans, as well as the child soldiers still fighting an adults’ war today. This is a harrowing and heartbreaking tale, but also one of courage and hope thriving even in the darkest of times.
On shelves: June 13
The Grand Tour
Henry “Monty” Montague is doomed to a boring life of lordship, but his fate isn’t sealed quite yet. This 18th-century bisexual gentleman is determined to say goodbye to his freedom with a bang by drinking his way across Europe and hopefully indulging in a few kisses, namely with Percy, his biracial best friend. This plan quickly falls apart when Monty ends up nude in the Palace of Versailles and decides to steal a small trinket. Turns out the object is no mere bauble, and soon Monty, his sister Felicity, and Percy are being chased across Europe. Mackenzi Lee’s historical novel is packed with rollicking fun, adventure, and danger, but it never tries to dodge dealing with this time period’s racism, sexism, and homophobia. This book will leave readers with three new favorite characters and have them hoping that many more historicals featuring queer protagonists are on the horizon.
On shelves: June 27
There and gone
Historical fiction readers who want a healthy dose of suspense and a dash of magical realism will not be able to put this one down. After her mother dies and her father is drafted to fight in World War II, Aila Quinn and her brother Miles are sent to their mother’s home town of Sterling. Their new neighbors are less than friendly. They blame Aila’s mother Juliet for the curse: Every seven years something disappears from the town, such as the ability to dream or the scent of flowers. The next disappearance is due soon, and Aila decides to break the curse and the solve the mystery of its origin before anything else goes missing.
On shelves: July 4
Real or not real?
At the age of 12, Adam was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He does what he can to manage it, but sometimes struggles to differentiate between reality and the hallucinations he experiences. Four years later, looking for anything to help him handle his symptoms, he starts taking an experimental new drug called ToZaPrex. And for the first time in his life, Adam feels in control. The visions and voices are still present, but he recognizes that they aren’t real. He tentatively starts to make friends and even begins flirting with a girl, Maya. Told in journal entries addressed to his therapist, Adam explores the ups and downs of living with schizophrenia and the challenges of mental illness being misunderstood by his peers. This is a disorder that is often poorly represented in the media, and Julia Walton’s thoughtful portrayal helps to clear up some of the many misconceptions about the illness.
On shelves: July 4
The power of control
Matt, a gay high school junior, believes that he is gifted with powers: to see things other people can’t, to tap into people’s minds, to change the world. He thinks that they come from starving himself, so he begins to cut back on his food intake. He needs the powers to get closer to Tariq, a boy Matt both mistrusts and feels attracted to, because he thinks that Tariq knows where his missing sister is. Readers will clearly see Matt’s behavior as self-destructive, even as he continues to deny any disordered eating. And despite Matt’s belief that his powers come from limiting his calories, the book doesn’t glamorize anorexia. Starred by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, this blend of reality and magical realism is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the season.
On shelves: July 11
The winner’s curse
Money is tight for Maddie’s family, and she knows that the key to her college dreams will be the scholarships she can earn. But all of that changes when she buys a lottery ticket on a whim and wins big: $30 million. Suddenly the weight on her shoulders vanishes: She can pick a college based on where she wants to go rather than what she can afford, her family can pay bills, and her troubles seem far behind. That is until the vultures start circling and asking for payouts of their own. Family members, friends, suddenly everyone seems to want a cut of the pie. Seth Nguyen seems to be the only person who doesn’t want anything from her, or at least nothing more than the time they spend together, laughing and talking. Kasie West weaves together the perfect summer read, and her fans will not want to miss out on this one.
On shelves: July 25
Are we out of the woods yet?
Not so long ago, Ben Gibson was setting out on a camping trip with his girlfriend Rose. But now Rose is dead and Ben is sitting in a jail cell for crimes he fully admits to committing. Where did it all go wrong? Since he has some time on his hands, Ben is willing to tell you everything, and he promises not to lie. Stephanie Kuehn’s suspenseful tale will keep readers on the edge of their seats, flipping pages to find out what happened to Rose and why Ben refuses to apologize for any of it. In a starred review, Kirkus called it “a satisfying, sophisticated study in complicated relationships.” Careful, you may have trouble trusting anyone after this one.
On shelves: August 1
Since you’ve been gone
Beth and Josh were the last two to see Sam Walsh before he was abducted on his way to the mall. Neither is prepared when Sam returns three years later, traumatized by his experiences but living and breathing. They had thought he’d been lost forever. Beth, Sam’s sister, is desperate to do whatever she can to help him. She wants to know what happened, but faces constant pushback from their parents, who refuse to talk about Sam’s disappearance. Then there’s Josh. He was Sam’s best friend, maybe he still is. But Josh is harboring two secrets. The first: He’s beginning to develop feelings for his best friend. The second: He never told the police everything he saw the day Sam went missing.
On shelves: August 1