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2020 Summer Reading from The Horn Book: High School


Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Here are our top ten books for different age ranges — including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — all published 2019–2020 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.


Picture Books | Easy Readers and Primary Grades | Intermediate | High School


High School

Suggested grade level for all entries: 9 and up


Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali (Salaam/Simon)

In this welcome halal love story told through alternating perspectives, Zayneb, a Muslim American high school senior, visits family in Doha, Qatar, where Adam, a Muslim Canadian college freshman, is returning, with unfortunate news for his father and sister. Their connection: each has been keeping a journal based on an ancient book they’d both discovered. Ali has created an unforgettable couple in a deftly drawn setting. 342 pages.

Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks Fire)

Tala and Alexei are refugees from the magical kingdom of Avalon, living in the troublingly conservative Royal States of America. Their peaceful if less-than-thrilling existence in Arizona is shattered when a firebird shows up and calls the friends to a mission to save their homeland. Chupeco’s writing is humorous and wildly creative — with myriad references to folklore, fairy tales, and pop culture; and it presents a nuanced representation of different races, genders, and sexualities. 371 pages.

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman (Knopf)

In this anthology of fourteen short stories by Jewish authors, youth trips, camp, and other group activities are fertile ground for stories of social dynamics. Variations in religious background and practice provide plenty of fodder for fish-out-of-water tales, and the stories — mainly contemporary realism though there’s some variety in genre — matter-of-factly reflect details of Jewish life rarely seen in mainstream YA. 311 pages.

Again Again by E. Lockhart (Delacorte)

The summer before senior year, Adelaide Buchwald “would fall in and out of love more than once, in different ways in different possible worlds.” In every universe, she is big sister to Toby, a relapsed addict. If Adelaide can heal that relationship, the pieces of her complicated love life just might fall into place. An offbeat, philosophical, multiverse love story. 293 pages.

SLAY by Brittney Morris (Simon Pulse)

Seventeen-year-old narrator Kiera is (secretly) the creator of the hugely popular multiplayer gaming community SLAY, which is rooted in Black culture. When a troll disrupts SLAY — and an act of real-life violence follows — Kiera must investigate the events without losing herself or compromising her creation. Morris has truly captured the holistic experiences of many Black gamers. 323 pages.

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye (Greenwillow)

Current Young People’s Poet Laureate Nye finds inspiration in those things we throw away — as well as in the act of throwing things away and that of picking them up again. It’s a surprisingly flexible metaphor for this collection of over eighty free-verse, free-range poems, from the lyrical to the humorous, ecological to political, brief to meandering. Told in Nye’s relaxed, conversational style, the collection is eminently browsable. 159 pages.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel)

This riveting historical epic examines the enduring effects of the Spanish Civil War through the perspectives of four young people living under the shadow of Franco’s fascist dictatorship in 1957 Madrid. Via lively characters and short, swiftly paced chapters permeated with elements of mystery and suspense, Sepetys explores the social, economic, and political issues that plagued postwar Spain. 498 pages.

This Place: 150 Years Retold by various authors; illus. by various artists (HighWater)

This comics anthology celebrates Indigenous peoples and stories of Canada. Resistance, resilience, and tales of heroic leaders and movements are portrayed in ten chapters, presented in chronological order, and each employing the same introductory framework to pull the tales together. A variety of illustrative and narrative styles spotlights Indigenous experiences and perspectives. Ambitious in scope and strong in execution. 265 pages.

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein (Little, Brown)

In this companion to Code Name Verity and its prequel The Pearl Thief, and featuring characters from both, Wein spins a thriller around Germany’s famous World War II code-maker/code-breaker, the Enigma machine. Told in three alternating voices, this cleverly plotted drama escalates thrillingly. It’s a rich work of historical fiction set in a tiny Scottish village, wearing its period accuracy lightly and offering an unusual perspective on the war. 426 pages.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (Putnam)

To prevent his first-generation Korean immigrant parents from finding out about his white girlfriend, high school senior Frank Li fake-dates Joy Song, a girl from his parents’ circle of friends. An unexpected change in the Lis’ lives forces Frank to grapple with what it means to really know a person. Yoon writes in a funny, self-deprecating, accessible voice. 414 pages.

From the May 2020 issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Summer Reading. For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.

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