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Updated by Jen Blair on Jun 09, 2021
Headline for Summer Reading - Best of 2021 - High School
Jen Blair Jen Blair
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Summer Reading - Best of 2021 - High School

The following is a list of the top ten books I've read (so far) this year. Too many to include them all on this list!

The Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz

The Awakening of Malcolm X - Ilyasah Shabazz and Tiffany D. Jackson

Social justice and history all wrapped up in a book that reads like a thriller. You thought you knew everything about Malcolm X, but you didn’t.

From the publisher:
Sequel to X : a novel. While in Charlestown Prison in the 1940s, young Malcolm Little reads all the books in the library, joins the debate team and the Nation of Islam, and emerges as Malcolm X.

The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4) by Maureen Johnson

The Box in the Woods - Maureen Johnson

You don’t have to read the Truly Devious trilogy (although, why HAVEN’T you?) to enjoy this book. But know that Maureen Johnson is at the top of her game with this intriguing, creepy, hilarious mystery. Stevie is back to solve the 1970’s murders of camp counselors.

From the publisher:
After solving the greatest unsolved mystery of the century, Stevie Bell goes undercover as a camp counselor to investigate the strange going-ons at Camp Wonder Falls--the site of the infamous "Box in the Woods" murders.

Concrete Rose (The Hate U Give, #0) by Angie Thomas

Concrete Rose - Angie Thomas

I think this might be the best of the Garden Heights books. Maverick has long been one of my favorite characters and his moving story of being a GOOD teenage father against impossible odds is everything you would expect in tribute to him.

From the publisher:
A gang leader's son finds his effort to go straight for the sake of his child challenged by a loved one's brutal murder. Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.

Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town - Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

I love Hitchcock’s writing so much. This is a short story collection, which I usually tend to avoid because I hate when the story is over too soon. As this collection is short stories interwoven to tell a larger story, when stories are entwined as brilliantly as these I could read them forever. I was sad to see this book end. I want MORE.

From the publisher:
A lyrical story collection shares the experiences of teens from small communities in Alaska and the American West, whose lives are impacted by wildfires, child predators, disappearances, and other traumas.

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter - Angeline Boulley

This title has been getting a LOT of buzz for a reason. This is about a teen named Daunis who has a foot in two worlds: with her Native family and her well-to-do white family and how she navigates these worlds to help stop a crime ring.

From the publisher:
Daunis, who is part Ojibwe, defers attending the University of Michigan to care for her mother and reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation of a series of drug-related deaths.

The Girls I've Been by Tess Sharpe

The Girls I’ve Been - Tess Sharpe

Do NOT underestimate the power of a smart young woman. Especially a young woman who has been training for the long con her entire life. Nora (and all of her past lives) are unforgettable. I think I need to read this one again.

From the publisher:
When seventeen-year-old Nora O'Malley, the daughter of a con artist, is taken hostage in a bank heist, every secret she is keeping close begins to unravel.

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Kate in Waiting - Becky Albertalli

I love the world constructed by Becky Albertalli - where friends share confidences from separate stalls in the (relatively) unused boys bathroom in the theater wing, where blocking the school play is all-consuming, and watching Tangled 23 times is completely acceptable behavior. I laughed out loud. I also cried. Hard. I never wanted to leave this world or these characters.

From the publisher:
Best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker share a love of theater and crushes on the same guys, but when one of their long-distance crushes shows up at their school, real feelings might end their friendship.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph Club - Malinda Lo

Why AREN’T there more stories of Asian American lesbians in the 1950’s? Lo’s portrayal of Lily and her compatriots is loving and multi-faceted. And necessary. How is it possible that so recently you could go to jail for kissing your lover in public?

From the publisher:
Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible.

But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

Pride and Premeditation (Jane Austen Murder Mystery, #1)

Pride and Premeditation - Tirzah Price

You had me at “Pride and Prejudice re-telling.” Add to it that it is mixed in with a murder mystery? That is all I need. As perfect as it sounds. And dudes, it’s the first in a SERIES so there will be more!!!

From the publisher:
When a scandalous murder shocks London high society, seventeen-year-old aspiring lawyer Lizzie Bennet seizes the opportunity to prove herself, despite the interference of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious firm Pemberley Associates.

Convinced the authorities have imprisoned the wrong person, Lizzie vows to solve the murder on her own. But as the case--and her feelings for Darcy--become more complicated, Lizzie discovers that her dream job could make her happy, but it might also get her killed.

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire by Joy McCullough

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire - Joy McCullough

Raise your fist in the air as you read this story of one family’s struggle to deal with the trauma of their eldest daughter’s rape. Younger sister, Em, is a journalist and wants to help Nor through her writing. But what if her words end up creating more trauma? Yes, this is a difficult read. And yes, you need this book in your life.

From the publisher:
A novel in prose and verse that follows the experiences of a teen who finds courage in the story of a fifteenth-century avenger when her sister's rapist is set free without prison time.

Audiobook excerpt: