With a long hot summer on the horizon and plenty of time on their hands, this is the perfect time to encourage your teenagers and young adults to read. We’ve compiled this list of YA summer reads and there’s a healthy mix of thrillers, prescient CLI-FI, atmospheric coming of age stories, empathy novels, adventures, teen romances, and fantasy for 12-16 years olds – and maybe parents as well. Authors include Holly Race, Meg Rosoff, Sarah Holding, Alice Oseman, Harry Cook, Patrick Ness, and Jennie Englund.
Our recommended young adult novels for summer holiday reading
Chasing Lucky by Jean Bennett
Teen Josie Saint-Martin would much rather be pursuing her dream of being a photographer than working in the family bookshop. She yearns to travel to the West Coast of America, but after a disastrous party, she forms an unlikely and compelling relationship with a former childhood friend. With relatable characters and an undemanding style, this is ideal summer reading.
Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha
This thought-provoking debut set in Brazil follows three teens who experience different fates after taking HIV tests. Overcoming social stigma, the three lives intertwine to support each other in this startling and emotive LGBT story for older teens.
Midnight’s Twins by Holly Race
When 15-year-old Fern discovers a mirror world where dreams determine our reality, she soon finds out controlling the thoughts of others through dreams can be a matter of life and death. An interesting and imaginative fantasy that will leave the reader wanting more. A perfect YA summer reading recommendation.
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
A dark take on the fairy tale where teen débutantes are never heard from again if they are not chosen at the ball. 16-year-old Sophia plans to change that and together with a distant relative of Cinderella, she hatches a plan to bring down the ruling classes. A rollercoaster dystopian love story set in an imagined world.
The Short Knife by Elen Caldecott
With the Romans gone and the Saxons threatening to take their farm, Mai’s family has to flee and avoid being captured by warring local factions. An enthralling story set in 454AD with strong female characters and lots of historical atmosphere. An easier read for younger teens.
The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff
A beautifully written novel about summer love and everything that can go wrong. Told by a mysterious narrator, the reader follows a family’s summer holiday twist and turn from a breezy summer idyll to a close and toxic psychological climax. Cleverly told, this is the perfect book for older teens to read on a beach, in a park, or in the garden on a long sunny day.
Chameleon by Sarah Holding
A gripping story of the survival of the human race, driven by catastrophic climate change and genetic engineering. A groundbreaking genre – CLI-FI – that’s ideal holiday reading for teens interested in science and protecting the future of the planet.
Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
When Lola Nox is sent to live with her grandmother after a violent incident at home, nothing prepares her for the unsettling atmosphere at Harrow Lake, a town brimming with dark secrets. The creepy and claustrophobic suspense goads the reader to turn each page. An unforgettable summer YA read.
Taylor Before and After by Jennie Englund
A cleverly told novel that drip feeds the compelling life of Taylor Harper to the reader through diary entries – switching between events before a pivotal moment in her life, and what happens in the dramatic aftermath. A clever examination of the teen ego, mental health, dreams, and setbacks – recommended for secondary school children aged 12+.
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
An epic love story where the reader is transported into the lives of Edward and Bella, told, this time, from Edward’s perspective. A must-read entry in the Twilight Saga series.
The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery
A spell-binding story that spans generations, telling the story of Ichiro who experiences the Hiroshima atomic bomb as a child and his granddaughter Mizuki who will do anything to help him in his old age, including trying to repair a 70-year-old broken promise. An innovative and moving story told through a mixture of prose, poetry, and haiku sequences.
Loveless by Alice Oseman
As Georgia starts Durham University – never having had even a crush in her teenage years – she pursues a romantic view of the world by joining the Shakespeare society and looking for love. What follows is unexpected, complicated, at times comical, and compelling for the reader. Highly recommended for older teens.
The Colours That Blind by Rutendo Tavengerwei
A powerful and unforgettable story about albino 13-year-old Tumirai and his grandmother’s memories of the Zimbabwe war of independence. Tumirai’s experiences of exclusion and bullying are put into a dramatic perspective when his grandmother retells the prejudice and hate she experienced throughout her life. A challenging and thought-provoking read for Year 9 upwards.
Burn by Patrick Ness
A unique and surprising novel for teens aged 14+ that weaves dragons, fantasy, dystopia, and a dangerous cult. Can Sarah survive what life throws at her and save the world with the help of her friends? A gripping read.
Fall Out by CG Moore
An unflinchingly direct and brutal portrayal of teenage Cal’s coming out to his family and subsequent journey through life. Provocative and with sharp dialogue, this coming of age story is nevertheless moving and life-affirming.
Anna by Laura Guthrie
When 13-year-old Anna’s father dies, she is suddenly uprooted from London to live with her mother in Scotland. She finds she has to conjure every ounce of her resilience and rely on every strategy she knows to cope with her Aspergers in new surroundings. A poignant and thought-provoking story for readers aged 12+.
Again Again by E. Lockhart
If your teenage child has ever wondered if their summer love life might have turned out better if they could change just one thing – then this is the summer read for them. Adelaide investigates every possibility and falls in and out of love a thousand times in this unique novel that blends prose and poetry, parallel universes, and a page-turning style.
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
A distinctive and original middle-grade story for children aged 11+ that revolves around four diverse characters: Valencia, who is deaf, psychic Kaori, Gen who is a follower, and Chet who fixates on basketball. A joke gone wrong forces them together in an unlikely friendship that realises a spectacular comeuppance for the school bully. An accessible and easier read for Year 7 pupils.
Wink by Rob Harrell
This charming and uplifting story about strength and humour in the face of adversity deserves a place in every secondary school library. When 12-year-old Ross is diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, he just wants to be normal again. He doesn’t want people treating him differently, looking at him or bullying him. With an accessible style and illustrations ‘Wink’ is a breath of fresh air for children aged 11+.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
When Camino leaves for the airport to meet her father arriving for the summer, everything is fine and full of hope. When she reaches the airport everything changes in an instant when she learns of his death. Suddenly she finds herself hurtling through a world of secrets, upheaval, and a sister she doesn’t know. Cleverly told from two perspectives, this is a great holiday read for KS4.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
An eye-catching and ultra-real tale of racism, unfairness, and misogyny; blended with magic and splashes of fantasy – all set in a teen world of bullying, crushes, secrets, and hope. An interesting YA summer read for older teens.
Fin & Rye & Fireflies by Harry Cook
Fin’s world disintegrates when his boyfriend Jesse not only rejects him but outs him, leading to a devastating upheaval. And it gets worse from there when Fin’s family decides he needs to be ‘re-educated’. A dark LGBT romance thriller with an uplifting ending – this YA summer read is suitable for teens aged 14+.
To buy all the books on this YA summer reading list for teens page, see our bulk order page.
Do you need more exciting book choices? – Have a look at our magazine for kids and teens
and our new releases for summer 2020 page
Please respect copyright and don’t copy or reproduce our book reviews. Sharing on social media or linking to our site’s pages is fine. Thanks.