We’re a month into summer and I’m assuming you’ve already blown through the TBR pile next to your bed … no? Well, just in case you have no idea which book to take with you on vacation, or out to your backyard, here are some fantastic YA debuts from authors who deserve more than a summer-reading romance.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Laurel’s dealing with a lot of stuff. Her parents divorced and she lost her beloved sister in a tragic accident. Then her mother decided to move to California, without Laurel and her dad. So changing to a new school for freshman year seemed like a good idea. Then an assignment in English class to write a letter to a dead person gives Laurel an outlet to work through some heavy emotions and even purge some secrets eating her up inside. Told through the letters themselves — written from Laurel to everyone from Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain to Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger and River Phoenix — LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is beautiful, tragic and moving … and impossible to put down. Dellaira knows just how to break your heart as she shows you how intense the connection between siblings can be.
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
In the future, where water is as precious as gold, the pond outside Lynn’s cabin makes her country homestead extremely valuable. Which means it’s not only cholera that’s a threat. After coyotes kill her iron-tough, shoot-first-ask-questions-later mother, Lynn is left to protect her pond at any cost. But when strangers creep closer, the only way to do that might mean learning to trust her neighbors, including the new arrivals by the creek. These city folk don’t know what they’re doing, so they need her as much as she just might need them – especially the intriguing Eli. Equal parts frontier survival story and dystopian adventure, NOT A DROP TO DRINK is thrilling and bittersweet, paving the way for its sequel: IN A HANDFUL OF DUST.
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Set in 1930s Germany, PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is the story of Gretchen (Gretel) and her charismatic godfather, “uncle Dolf.” It’s no spoiler to tell you that uncle Dolf is actually Adolph Hitler, a man on his rise to power in the National Socialist Party. He is a hero in Gretchen’s eyes, after taking in Gretchen, her brother and mother after Gretchen’s father was killed during the attempted Munich coup. Her father sacrificed his life for this man, surely he must be the one to bring Germany back to its former glory! But after an intriguing young Jewish reporter tells Gretchen everything she believes about Hitler is false, she starts to see a different side to her beloved “uncle.” Investigating the real story of her father’s death leads her to question her loyalties and tests her heart. And it just might put her life in danger, as well. In the vein of CODE NAME VERITY, this immersive and terrifying historical thriller offers a unique perspective on a dark slice of history while capturing the naiveté and fear that allowed such evil to rise.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
by April Genevieve Tucholke
In this gothic horror story, Violet and her brother live in their artsy parents’ run-down seaside estate in Maine while Mom and Dad gallivant across Europe. As money runs thin, Violet rents out the guesthouse to the intriguing and gorgeous River, who is new to town. She’s drawn to him in a frightening and powerful way, and their relationship seems connected somehow to a series of strange events in the coastal town. Violet’s family has a past, and those secrets bubble to the surface intertwined with the mystery of River. Could he be the supernatural figure the children claim to have seen in the graveyard? And if so, does she care? As Violet puts it, “you stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand.”