Endless summer reading

If you’ve (beach-)combed through our 2024 Summer Reading Recommendations list and you’re still looking for more, maybe one of these five page-turning books for readers in middle and/or high school belongs in your beach bag.

Four Eids and a Funeral
by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and Adiba Jaigirdar
High School    Feiwel    336 pp.
6/24    9781250890139    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781250890146    $11.99

Said Hossain and Tiwa Olatunji used to be best friends in their artsy village of New Crosshaven, Vermont. But after Said went to boarding school in Virginia, the two became “mortal enemies,” each believing it was the other who abandoned the friendship. During one summer vacation, when Said returns home, he and Tiwa are entrusted with the care of the cat who belonged to a beloved, recently deceased librarian, and the two start speaking again, but only for the sake of joint feline custody. After a fire at the community Islamic Center, the town’s mayor informs everyone that it will be razed to build housing. Tiwa and Said collaborate on ways to save the center, which involves a mural that Said plans to paint and also intends to use as a portfolio submission for art school. Narration alternates between the two protagonists, with interspersed third-person flashbacks, telling a story of friendship, loss, and misunderstanding through a series of Eid celebrations and one funeral. Even while touching on some thorny topics — racism within the Muslim community, microaggressions — the novel creates a dynamic sense of second-generation immigrant Muslim teenage life. Though the plot can feel overcrowded, the captivating characters and their unique voices make for an entertaining and lively read. JULIE HAKIM AZZAM

There Is a Door in This Darkness
by Kristin Cashore
High School    Dutton    376 pp.
6/24    9780803739994    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781101614181    $10.99

Wilhelmina’s beloved aunt Frankie died in 2018. Now it’s 2020, and Wilhelmina’s family and two closest friends still seem cut off from her in her grief; the isolating precautions of the pandemic and the chaotic state of the nation only make things worse. But on October 30, 2020, something changes, and Wilhelmina begins to see sights that can only be magical: an “owl lady,” a cryptic golden message, a glow surrounding certain people. Against her will, Wilhelmina must confront the impossible — but what if accepting the impossible also means accepting her aunt’s death? Set during a tense nine-day period surrounding the previous U.S. presidential election and flashing back to summer visits with Wilhelmina’s aunts (a loving, eccentric “throuple”), Cashore’s novel is rich with a quality of observation and multifarious detail that suits adolescent angst, loss, and the limited stimulation of pandemic “bubbles.” Tarot cards; smiles (teasing, ironic, or secretive); bathrobes; doughnuts (lots of good ones); hair; clothing; thoracic outlet syndrome (the afterword offers some startling news about that); birds; two warm, supportive constellations of trios (the aunts; Wilhelmina and her friends); and much more make their way into Wilhelmina’s thoughts and feelings as she finally emerges “into her own.” Although set in the recent past, this is a work of historical and magical realism with unsettling contemporary resonances. DEIRDRE F. BAKER

by Carl Hiaasen
Middle School, High School    Knopf    336 pp.
9/23    9780593376287    $18.99
Library ed.  9780593376294    $21.99
e-book ed.  9780593376300    $10.99

Proud of his family’s heritage — which includes a great-great-great-great-great grandfather who salvaged shipwrecks — fifteen-year-old biracial Valdez Jones VIII has adopted the nickname Wrecker. A waterman in his own right, he has his own boat and fishes near his home in Key West. It’s because of his knowledge of the area that he ends up an unwitting and unwilling accomplice to a dangerous smuggling operation. “Silver Mustache,” as Wrecker dubs him, and his organization traffic in fake CDC vaccination cards, much in demand at the time by “ballplayers, movie stars, airline pilots, [and] Silicon Valley millionaires” who are out to avoid vaccination requirements. Hiaasen’s writing is lively and full of sensory details: e.g., “The night’s gummy and hot, a honey-colored slice of moon peeking through the wispy clouds.” The satisfyingly complex plot includes grave robbers, the perils of the pandemic, a mammoth cruise ship threatening ecological disaster for the Key West coastline, the violent legacy of the KKK, a budding romance, Wrecker’s high-spirited and loving family, and, best of all, locals who stand up for the place they adore. A beautifully told mystery with plenty of action and heart. DEAN SCHNEIDER

Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine
by Nicole Melleby
Middle School    Algonquin    256 pp.
4/24    9781643753133    $16.99
e-book ed.  9781523527458    $9.99

Winnie Nash has been out as gay since age four when she kissed another girl at preschool. It’s never been an issue. At twelve, she’s much more worried about her mom, who is pregnant again after several miscarriages. Winnie’s parents are sending her to stay with a grandmother she barely knows for the whole summer, and they warn her not to share their family’s private business, including her mom’s severe clinical depression and the fact that Winnie is gay. They tell her just to have an enjoyable summer at the Jersey Shore — but how can she do that when anytime she smiles, she feels like she’s stealing a smile from her mom? All she wants is to escape to New York City to attend the Pride parade, where she won’t have to hide. In the moody and contrarian Winnie, Melleby has crafted a believable, compelling portrait of a middle schooler struggling to process big, difficult emotions. Though Winnie’s family situation makes this novel at times a somber read, joy shines through in unexpected places, as when Winnie delights in playing canasta at the senior center, or in the vivid descriptions of beaches. Winnie’s relationship with her grandma is a highlight — complicated, sometimes tumultuous, but deeply rewarding once she discovers that we really do need to talk about the hard things. BODIE SHANIS

Every Time You Hear That Song
by Jenna Voris
High School    Viking    320 pp.
4/24    Paper ed.  9780593623398    $12.99
e-book ed.  9780593623381    $8.99

In 1963, fifteen-year-old Decklee left her town of Mayberry, Arkansas, with a dream of becoming a country music legend and never looked back. In 2024, just after the news of her death, seventeen-year-old Mayberry resident and aspiring journalist Darren finds inspiration in her story: “If Decklee could leave, if she could turn herself into a star, what was stopping me?” After the funeral, Darren sees her opportunity: Decklee has arranged a posthumous treasure hunt for a time capsule consisting of music, mementos — and three million dollars. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of the singer, Darren and her friend (or maybe more) Kendall follow the clues to Memphis; Nashville; and Tupelo, Mississippi, in search of the prize. Meanwhile, in alternating flashbacks, Decklee narrates her rise to fame: how she fought for a career full of praise, awards, and adoration — and (heartbreakingly) how she gave up the love of her life to get it. The juxtaposition of the two stories invites readers to consider what’s changed for women, especially queer women (Decklee is a lesbian; Darren is bisexual), in the past sixty years. It ends on a hopeful note, as Darren recognizes Decklee’s mistakes and learns to love the place they’ve both left behind. With its smoothly written prose, sympathetic characters, and chemistry-laden double romance, this is a story that lingers after it’s finished, like a favorite song. RACHEL L. KERNS

From the June 2024 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Horn Book
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