2024 Summer Reading: High School


Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Each of our lists — for all age ranges and including fiction, nonfiction, folklore, and poetry — includes thirteen selections (a baker's dozen!), all published 2023–2024 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.


Picture Books | Beginning Readers and Primary Grades | Intermediate | Middle School


High School

Suggested grade level for all entries: 9 and up


Icarus by K. Ancrum (HarperTeen)

In this loose retelling of the Greek myth, seventeen-year-old art thief Icarus replaces Mr. Black’s art with forgeries by the teen’s father as revenge for Mr. Black’s role in Icarus’s mother’s death. Icarus strikes up a romance with Mr. Black’s son, who is essentially under house arrest, and they plot their escape. In brief vignettes that hover somewhere between flash fiction and prose poems, secrets are revealed, suspense builds, and the romantic tension ratchets up — all enhanced by this refreshingly succinct novel’s vivid prose. 400 pp.

Plain Jane and the Mermaid by Vera Brosgol (First Second)

This funny, fast-paced feminist graphic-novel adventure is set in an alternate Victorian era. To secure the dowry she desperately needs, Jane cleverly proposes marriage to a fisherman with his own problems, but when he is kidnapped by a man-eating mermaid, Jane must embark on an epic undersea journey to rescue him. A magical story with stellar world-building, cinematic cartooning, quirky and indelible characters, smart surprises and plot twists, and laugh-out-loud dialogue. 368 pp.

Infinity Alchemist by Kacen Callender (Tor Teen)

In this elaborate, intersectionally diverse fantasy adventure for upper-YA readers, the paths of Ash Woods (who is transgender), Ramsay Thorne (who is genderfluid), and Callum Kendrick (who is cis and who broke Ramsay’s heart in boarding school) converge at the Lancaster College of Alchemic Science. The tale goes to some unexpected places, including alternate universes and especially complicated romantic entanglements. Readers will thrill to the high-stakes predicaments and magical secrets and will appreciate the characters’ efforts to remain true to themselves. 400 pp.

Looking for Smoke by K. A. Cobell (Heartdrum/HarperCollins)

This page-turning novel set on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana opens with a powwow — after which a teen is found strangled. The next day, the body of another girl, who had been missing for months, is found, and the discovery leads to an investigation that makes everyone who was at the powwow’s giveaway ceremony a suspect. Emotion and suspense build as characters fight to prove their innocence, secrets are revealed, and longtime friendships are questioned. A propulsive thriller that sensitively centers the tragedy of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People. 416 pp.

The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coelho; illus. by Kate Milner (Candlewick)

Coelho interweaves two narratives: first-person, present-tense verse tells the story of contemporary teen Theo, who is searching for his father; for coursework, Theo retells the classical myth of Theseus in his own series of poems. Coelho’s verse is expressive and arresting, and Milner’s pen-and-ink illustrations combine the statuesque, hieroglyphic, and super-heroic in a parallel expression of the mythic nature of teen quests. 320 pp.

So Let Them Burn [Divine Traitors] by Kamilah Cole (Little, Brown)

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy novel is set five years after Faron, the Childe Empyrean, was blessed to wield the gods’ power in her island’s war. When her sister, Elara, discovers she’s a “dragon Rider,” they’re pulled deeper into machinations between the political powers and the gods. Cole’s writing is vivid and rich; the depth and care placed in the world and character-building, including sapphic and demisexual romances, make the novel feel believably lived-in. 400 pp.

The Enigma Girls: How Ten Teenagers Broke Ciphers, Kept Secrets, and Helped Win World War II by Candace Fleming (Focus/Scholastic)

This compelling nonfiction account focuses on ten young women involved in the code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during World War II: deciphering secret messages including enemy plans, ship locations, ground positions, and bombing targets. The teens’ personal experiences — from coping with housing shortages, to falling in love, to discovering their future life’s work — are seamlessly interspersed with segments on larger historical events. 384 pp.

The Girl, the Ring, & the Baseball Bat by Camille Gomera-Tavarez (Levine Querido)

Alternating narrators Rosie, Caro, and Zeke each battle their anxieties through a series of misadventures that uncover hidden truths about themselves and their family histories. Rosie and Caro’s aunt’s spiritual practices explain the power of several magical objects that enter their lives: a pink jacket, two rings, and a baseball bat. Gomera-Tavarez offers a fast-paced plot with relatable characters who represent distinctive Afro-Latine experiences; the novel also touches on emerging queer identity and gender-based pressures. 408 pp.

Catfish Rolling by Clara Kumagai (Amulet/Abrams)

Years ago, an earthquake — known in Japanese folklore as a catfish rolling beneath the islands — fractured the land into zones where time slips faster or more slowly. While conducting illegal tours of the zones, Sora learns to assess the passage of time by observing her world. Told in clear yet pensive prose, with occasional visual motifs, the story unfolds in pieces that flit forward and back in a disorienting and ambitious yet compelling narrative. 432 pp.

Sheine Lende: A Prequel to Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger; illus. by Rovina Cai (Levine/Levine Querido)

In a slightly off-kilter version of 1970s Texas, Shane and her mother work to track lost people. But when one search results in her mother vanishing as well, Shane’s ability to call animals from Below, as well as folk wisdom from her Lipan Apache ancestry, guide her on the rescue journey. This standalone prequel to the much-lauded Elatsoe (rev. 9/20) is an inventive, well-constructed fantasy adventure. 400 pp.

Danger and Other Unknown Risks by Ryan North and Erica Henderson; illus. by Erica Henderson (Penguin Workshop)

The premise of this page-turning graphic novel is that on the eve of the twenty-first century, the world plummeted into an electronic meltdown. Years later, “Chosen One” Marguerite and her talking dog sidekick pursue rare magical totems. The rapidly paced plot unfolds as Marguerite embarks on a quest punctuated by periodic flashbacks, with some narrative sequences unfolding through wordless panels. Occasional scenes in striking limited palettes create a cinematic spectacle for readers looking for a mix of science fiction and fantasy wrapped in mystery. 208 pp.

American Wings: Chicago’s Pioneering Black Aviators and the Race for Equality in the Sky by Sherri L. Smith and Elizabeth Wein (Putnam)

This nonfiction book introduces readers to the Black men and women who fought to desegregate aviation. Along with the experiences of individual pilots Cornelius Coffey, Johnny Robinson, Janet Harmon Bragg, and Willa Brown, it gives thorough explanation of the historical context surrounding them. An absorbingly written history of the early days of aviation, with photos throughout. 384 pp.

Canto Contigo by Jonny Garza Villa (Wednesday/St. Martin’s)

Rafie expects to be lead vocalist in his new school’s mariachi group, Todos Colores, but he is made to sing backup for Rey, a cute boy he hooked up with at a party last year. Rafie’s ambition forces him to suppress his lingering feelings for Rey, but both find their mutual attraction difficult to ignore. Rafie’s frustrating road to growth, the relatable humor, and the mariachi musical backdrop make for a memorable queer romance. 352 pp.

From the April 2024 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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