Best Summer Books / Beach Reads / Young Adult Novels 2016: Recommendations

Beach Reads, 2016.JPG

Summer Reading, Beach Reads, YA novels:

Here are 21 novels and collections, realeased in 2016, that I’ve sampled & enjoyed. Recommendations!

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01: RICHARD RUSSO, “Everybody’s Fool”

  • Russo can be cutesy, overly long, old-fashioned and stale – but I enjoy these characters.
  • 477 pages, Knopf

“Richard Russo returns to North Bath (upstate New York) and the characters from Nobody’s Fool. Sully has only a year or two left, and it’s hard work trying to keep this news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years and Sully’s son and grandson. Everybody’s Fool is filled with humor, heart, hard times and people you can’t help but love, possibly because their faults make them so stridently human.”

Everybody's Fool

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02: LINDSAY EAGAR, “Hour of the Bees”

  • smart, literary YA with a dash of magical realism
  • 360 pages, Candlewick Press

“Twelve-year-old Carolina is in New Mexico, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge… A novel of family and discovering the wonder of the world.”

Hour of the Bees

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03: WESLEY KING, “OCDaniel”

  • engaging middle-grade novel told in a fun, smart voice
  • 304 pages, Simon & Schuster

“A boy whose life revolves around hiding his obsessive compulsive disorder. Daniel spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time.”

OCDaniel

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04: MATT RUFF, “Lovecraft Country”

  • ambitious, dark, gripping: mainstream fantasy in an interesting historical setting
  • 384 pages, Harper

“Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours. A devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.”

Lovecraft Country

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05: MELANIE CONKLIN, “Counting Thyme”

  • charming middle-grade novel with HUGE mainstream appeal
  • 320 pages, Putnam

“Eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother Val is accepted into a new cancer drug trial and the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from everything she knows and loves. Thyme loves her brother—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird.”

Counting Thyme

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06: GRAHAM SWIFT, “Mothering Sunday”

  • one of my favorite British authors: this feels like a smarter version of Ian McEwan’s “On Chesil Beach”
  • 208 pages, Knopf

“Twenty-two year old Jane Fairchild, orphaned at birth, has worked as a maid at one English country estate since she was sixteen. She has been the secret lover to Paul Sheringham, the scion of the estate next door. On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, Jane and Paul will make love for the last time–though not, as Jane believes, because Paul is about to be married. As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane–about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembers–deepens with every beautifully wrought moment.”

Mothering Sunday

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07: CHITRA BANERJEE DIVAKARUNI, “Before we visit the Goddess”

  • historical fiction from India with strong characters & sociology
  • 224 pages, Simon & Schuster

“Three generations of mothers and daughters in a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love. The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal, India, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but her family’s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing, but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single, unforgivable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees abroad with her political refugee lover—but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she’d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path, she unwittingly imprints her own child, Tara, with indelible lessons about freedom, heartbreak, and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.”

Before We Visit the Goddess

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08: CLAUDIA GRAY, “Star Wars: Bloodline”

“When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory. Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with dangers from both within and without: underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians and Imperial loyalists. Senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.”

Star Wars: Bloodline

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09: JEM LESTER, “Shtum”

  • quirky and dark family novel about autism
  • 368 pages, Orion

“Fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships. Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope. When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.”

Shtum

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10: JUNG YUN, “Shelter”

  • complex domestic fiction, might be overly tragic/dour
  • 336 pages, Picador

“Why should a man care for his parents when they failed to take care of him as a child? Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them. A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. When an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes.”

Shelter

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11: ABBY GENI, “The Lightkeepers”

  • literary thriller/mystery – but I dislike the nature writing aspect: might be too ornate and dry
  • 340 pages, Counterpoint

“Miranda, a nature photographer, travels to the Farallon Islands, an exotic and dangerous archipelago off the coast of California, for a one-year residency. Her only companions are the scientists studying there. Miranda is assaulted by one of the inhabitants of the islands. A few days later, her assailant is found dead, perhaps the result of an accident. The Lightkeepers upends the traditional structure of a mystery novel —an isolated environment, a limited group of characters who might not be trustworthy, a death that may or may not have been accidental, a balance of discovery and action —while also exploring wider themes of the natural world, the power of loss, and the nature of recovery.”

The Lightkeepers

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12: E.K. JOHNSTON, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear”

  • engaging feminist YA novel about rape and trauma
  • 248 pages, Dutton

“Hermione Winters is the envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. But then someone puts something in her drink at a party. Victim. Survivor. That raped girl. Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend. Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma.”

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

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13: LEANNE HALL, “Iris and the Tiger”

  • middle-grade novel, magical realism, so-so reviews: I’m intrigued and charmed, but it might be too kitschy.
  • 168 pages, Text Publishing

“Twelve-year-old Iris has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune–and her sprawling estate–to Iris’s scheming parents. But from the moment Iris arrives at Bosque de Nubes, she realises something isn’t quite right. While outside, in the wild and untamed forest, a mysterious animal moves through the shadows.”

Iris and the Tiger

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14: SHOBHA RAO, “An unrestored Woman”

  • connected short stories from India and Pakistan: I dislike the (conventional) approach and characters – but I enjoyed the style
  • 256 pages, Flatiron Books

“1947: the Indian subcontinent is partitioned into two separate countries, India and Pakistan. And with one decree, countless lives are changed forever. An Unrestored Woman explores the fault lines in this mass displacement of humanity: a new mother is trapped on the wrong side of the border; a soldier finds the love of his life but is powerless to act on it; an ambitious servant seduces both master and mistress; a young prostitute quietly, inexorably plots revenge on the madam who holds her hostage. Caught in a world of shifting borders, Rao’s characters have reached their tipping points. In paired stories that hail from India and Pakistan to the United States, Italy, and England, we witness the ramifications of the violent uprooting of families, the price they pay over generations, and the uncanny relevance these stories have in our world today.”

An Unrestored Woman

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15: KEN LIO, “The Paper Menagerie and other Stories”

  • mainstream Sci-Fi and Fantasy for fans of Neil Gaiman
  • 450 pages, Saga Press

“Award-winning science fiction and fantasy tales.”

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

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16: KWEI QUARTEY, “Gold of our Fathers”

  • mainstream mystery series set in Ghana – seems smart, political and to-the-point
  • 368 pages, Soho Crime

“Darko Dawson has just been promoted to Chief Inspector in the Ghana Police Service—the promotion even comes with a (rather modest) salary bump. His new boss is transferring him from Accra, Ghana’s capital, out to remote Obuasi in the Ashanti region, an area now notorious for the illegal exploitation of its gold mines. The office is a mess of uncatalogued evidence and cold case files, morale is low. The body of a Chinese mine owner is unearthed in his own gold quarry.”

Gold of Our Fathers (Darko Dawson #4)

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17: DAWN TRIPP, “Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe”

  • historical fiction, character-driven and REALLY well-written
  • 336 pages, Random House

“A novel about American master painter Georgia O’Keeffe, her love story with photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and her quest to come of age as a woman. Passion, betrayal, and art. Georgia is a young woman, painting and teaching art in Texas, when she travels to New York to meet Alfred Stieglitz, the married gallery owner. She becomes his mistress and his muse. As their relationship develops, so does Georgia’s place in the art world, but she becomes trapped in her role as the subject of Stieglitz’s infamous nude photographs of her; the critics cannot envision her as her own being.”

Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe

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18: JULIE BUXBAUM, “Tell me three Things”

  • mainstream YA that seems darker, smarter and less conservative than the book cover/design
  • 336 pages, Delacorte Press

Everything about Jessie is wrong. That’s what it feels like during her first week at her new ultra-intimidating prep school. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country. Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.”

Tell Me Three Things

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19: KERI ARTHUR, “City of Light”

  • Urban Fantasy/YA dystopia, start of a trilogy: seems competent and professional
  • 304 pages, Piatkus Books

When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between this world and the next, they allowed entry to the Others—demons, wraiths, and death spirits. A hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay. As a déchet—a breed of humanoid super-soldiers—Tiger has spent her life in hiding. Then, she risks her life to save a little girl.”

City of Light (Outcast, #1)

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20: NATASHA FRIEND, “Where you’ll find me”

  • light and friendly YA novel, might be too soft/pedestrian
  • 272 pages, Farar, Straus and Giroux

“The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself… dumped by her best friend, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.” Deserted by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. But with help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.”

Where You'll Find Me

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21: ANNA QUINDLEN, “Miller’s Valley”

  • mainstream literary fiction
  • 272 pages, Random House

“For generations the Millers have lived in Miller’s Valley. But as Mimi Miller eavesdrops on her parents and quietly observes the people around her, she discovers more and more about the toxicity of family secrets, the dangers of gossip, the flaws of marriage, the inequalities of friendship. Miller’s Valley reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too.”

Miller's Valley

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further lists and recommendations:

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