The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank (available July 9)*
Anyone who’s ever been to middle school has, at least once, felt the dread of waking up in the morning, knowing it won’t be long before you walk through the front doors of a prison-esque humiliatorium designed to stupefy and bore. Kaitlyn – now calling herself “Katya” – has had enough. This will be the year she escapes the dull classes of MVB Middle School (which have lead her to some, er, creative trouble-making). Inspired by her wilderness camp experience with homeschooled friend Rosie and mentor Dmitri (who coined her new Katya moniker), she is going to design her own coursework, à la her summer at wilderness camp. Her parents need convincing, though – school is not camp, and their idea of homeschooling is just as rigid as MVB! When Katya meets a homeschooled boy (a very cute, very talented homeschooled boy named Milo) who would give anything to live a normal life at a regular high school, she starts to reconsider her angle. With the help of her new friend Francesca and new crush Milo, Katya stumbles into the Homeschool Liberation League. This sweet, funny novel makes for great summer reading, and will surely inspire many teens to discover a Homeschool Liberation League of their own.
Crash Into Me by Albert Borris (available July 7)*
This somber debut is a real punch in the gut. Four teens in a suicide pact – or pack, as they’ve named themselves “The Suicide Dogs” – met online and have taken off for one last road trip. The itinerary? To visit the sites and graves of famous suicides across the country before taking their own lives in two weeks. Each teen has chosen one suicide – Anne Sexton, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, Hunter S. Thompson – and throughout their journey they plan to stumble upon as many others as they can. Owen has the laptop filled with plans and research. But what he doesn’t know, and can’t predict, is the bond that he will form with the three other lost souls with whom he is sharing the confined space of a car. While this book is not for the faint of heart, it is a terribly well-written narrative that is sure to speak to many, many teens who have struggled with the issues that Owen, Audrey, Frank, and Jin-Ae are determined to put behind them. Crash Into Me is a remarkable debut, and I look forward to reading more from Albert Borris.
Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart (available now!)
To label this as a novel about loss is a gross misrepresentation that does Beth Kephart‘s latest no justice at all. To think of it as another grieving daughter story or an issues book takes so much away from this multi-layered narrative. Nothing But Ghosts is as much a mystery about the town in which Katie D’Amore lives, the woman she works for but has never seen nor spoken to, her father’s genius and the painting he’s restoring, and the blossoming of new relationships as it is a mystery of personal loss. As Katie remembers her mother’s final days, their trip to Barcelona before she was diagnosed, her childhood, spending time with friends before she began ignoring them (avoiding their questions about her mother), she is evolving. Where many young adult novels lay aside the adult characters to focus solely on the teens, Kephart has created a father for Katie who is as 3-dimensional as the hand in front of your face. The buildings are characters too – the libary, the D’Amores’ home, Miss Martine’s estate – they all live and breathe life into a story that cannot be laid to rest even after you’ve turned the last page. I urge you: pick up this book, enjoy it.