Beach reads for teens

Older kids will discover magic, romance, and culture clash with these summertime reads.

By Danielle Marshall

The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by Michael Scott
Delacorte Books for Young Readers (2007), $8.99
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Twins Josh and Sophie Newman are spending the summer with their aunt and working in San Francisco while their parents are away on an archaeological dig. One day when Josh is working at his bookstore job, a black limousine pulls up and several men in overcoats step out. They kidnap the wife of the bookstore owner, an ancient metal-bound book is stolen, and Sophie and Josh must run for their lives with the bookstore owner.

A great pick for Harry Potter fans, The Alchemyst does not disappoint readers longing for another series to be excited about. The story is filled with enough battles and magic to satisfy even the most cynical teen fantasy fans. Look for the next book in the series, The Magician.

How I Live Now

How I Live Now

How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff
Wendy Lamb Books (2006), $7.99
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Daisy is a troubled New York City teenager with a distant father and a wicked stepmother she calls "Davina the Diabolical." When she is sent to London to stay with an aunt and cousins she's never met, hostile enemies invade England. Her aunt goes abroad on a peace mission, while Daisy and her three cousins, with whom she forges a remarkable relationship, must survive on their own. This poignant story is told in an honest, first-person narrative and filled with humor, love, and the carnage of war. Timely subject matter for today's teens.

Magic or Madness

Magic or Madness

Magic or Madness, by Justine Larbalestier
Sleuth RazorBill (2006), $8
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Australian author Justine Larbalestier has woven magic in this, the first book in a trilogy. Reason Cansino has lived her life on the run, frequently moving with her mother to avoid the evil witchcraft of her grandmother, Esmeralda. When Reason is sent to live with her grandmother, due to her mother's mental illness, she begins to think about the things she's been told. Is her grandmother really practicing magic? Why have nearly all her relatives died so young? When she runs away, halfway around the world to New York City, Reason finds solace with a new friend, Jay-Tee. This compelling fantasy story is about forging your own identity. Magic or Madness can stand alone, but teen readers will be anxious to finish the whole trilogy this summer.

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
Square Fish (2008), $8.99
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Told in graphic novel form, American Born Chinese juggles themes of self-image, cultural identity, peer pressure, and self-acceptance. In a series of three connected tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, a socially isolated teenager who has recently moved from San Francisco's Chinatown to an exclusive white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock; and the Monkey King from Chinese mythology. Their stories unite into a wonderful novel that is funny and truly poignant. Gene Luen Yang's amazing illustrations perfectly complement the narrative. Winner of the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award, American Born Chinese will resonant with all types of readers.

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

Looking For Alaska, by John Green
Speak (2006), $8.99
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

John Green is simply the wittiest, coolest author of young adult novels writing today. A former commentator on NPR's All Things Considered, Green's two books and his website have received accolades from almost every source imaginable. I can’t envision a summer without one of his amazing books in my beach bag, even if it’s to reread it for the fourth time. Looking For Alaska was his first published book. It won the Michael L. Printz Award and the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year for its honest portrayal of 16-year-old Miles Halter, who is trying to reinvent himself and fit in at his new boarding school. He finds new worlds to explore: friendship, romance, self-awareness and mischief. I can’t think of better way to praise this book than just to say, “I laughed, I cried, I reread, I loaned it to friends.”

Just Listen

Just Listen

Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen
Puffin Books (2008), $8.99
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Sarah Dessen is known for her ability to write with incredible accuracy and empathy about common teen concerns. Just Listen is no exception — she continues her winning streak with this story of a teenage model who seems to have everything, but the surface belies the true pain underneath. A compelling look at the two most significant influences in the lives of teen girls — friends and family — Just Listen is the ideal read this summer for a teen who has struggled socially at school.

Danielle Marshall is a former longtime bookseller, most notably for Powell's Books in Portland, Ore. She continues her love of all things book related by working as the marketing manager for Beyond Words Publishing, best known as the publisher of The Secret.