I read a lot of amazing books this summer and, inspired by a suggestion in a survey I sent to my email list a while ago, I’d like to share those with you.
But before I get into this list, please be aware that not all of these are appropriate for younger readers, and it is important to use discretion. Also, since I can’t pick a favorite, these are simply in alphabetical order, except for a few exceptions that are grouped together.
With those disclaimers out of the way, here are my top ten favorite reads of summer 2020 and my spoiler-free thoughts!
Dust & The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson
Kara Swanson happens to be one of my writing instructors at the Young Writers Workshop, so as you can understand, I was SUPER excited for her when Dust was published this July. Immediately after Dust, I felt the need to read her indie-published novella, The Girl Who Could See, and I was enchanted by her writing voice once again. Now Kara is officially one of my favorite authors!
Dust is a modern retelling of Peter Pan, showcasing the dark side of Neverland. I’m not a retelling person, nor am I in the habit of reading over a hundred pages of anything in a day, but it took me less than three days to finish Dust. Then I forced several family members to read it, including my mom, who also enjoyed it.
It is definitely one of my favorites now. Either in my top ten or five. It was sooooo good. I audibly squealed or exclaimed the characters’ names many times throughout my reading. (Especially with any scene involving Hook!)
Be warned: it leaves you on a cliffhanger, and the sequel, Shadow, isn’t coming out until next summer. It also has a kiss and deals with some heavy topics and dark details, so use discretion. My 12-year-old sister is allowed to read it, but I would advise that an older family member read it first.
The Girl Who Could See is like Dust in a lot of ways (or vice-versa, since The Girl Who Could See was written first) but it is much shorter and has a world and story of its own. I can’t really decide which I like better!
The Girl Who Could See is about a girl named Fern who is supposedly mentally ill, and has a supposedly imaginary friend. It deals with some even more difficult topics than Dust (and also has a kiss), so discretion is advised—but the plot is thrilling, full of twists and suspense, and surprisingly well-developed for how short it is. The characters are super lovable, and the ending left me very happy. I read it in half a day. =)
Here is my non-fiction book for this list: The Elements of Style. I’m also reading Steal Like an Artist, and I would recommend that as well, except that I haven’t finished it yet.
At first I wasn’t sure about The Elements of Style, especially since I think I’m already pretty good with grammar, and the title sounded kind of dull. But it turned out to have some other tools besides grammar which were helpful. And the writing voice wasn’t quite as dry as I thought it would be either! (After I wrote this, I learned it was one of my dad’s favorite books, so that’s saying a lot.) (Just kidding, Dad!)
Fawkes is a historical fantasy novel about a boy who is turning to stone and a plot to kill the king. If you enjoy sword fights and medieval history, you’ll adore Fawkes. Or, if you’re like me, and just like really good stories, you’ll like Fawkes. Plus the fantasy part of it with color power and a stone plague is pretty epic.
Fawkes is the sort of book you really just need to read for yourself. But I will say this: all the secrets and twists and complex, divided characters make my writer heart very happy. My only critique would be that the plot felt a bit slow at times, but it was very very much worth the read. I am looking forward to reading Romanov (another historical fantasy by the same author) in the future!
The book is a tad violent and it deals with racism, but I personally thought the age rating of 14+ on Plugged In was a bit high. As always, use discretion.
The Green Ember & Ember Falls by S.D. Smith
The Green Ember series follows brother and sister rabbit, Picket and Heather, as they fight evil wolves and birds. If you liked Redwall, you’ll love The Green Ember series.
This summer, I have been screen-sharing the Green Ember audiobooks on the TV so my siblings and I can listen to it while we fold laundry. I have been enjoying geeking out over the description and the ending of the first book made me so proud of Picket!
We’re still listening to the third book, which is why I’m only including the first two here, but we’re enjoying it so far. The series is a little bit violent, but family-friendly in my opinion. The first book’s plot is a little slow, but the ending makes it well worth it.
Our family’s system for Harry Potter is that we can read each book as we become Harry Potter’s age—e.g., Book 1 at age 11, Book 2 at age 12, and so forth. Since I turned 16 this summer, I got the privilege of reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
This book is darker than the ones before it, but the storytelling is remarkable and the characters are well-developed. I’m still very sad from the ending. :’( But I shall resist the temptation to give anything away!
The Hunger Games is about a game show that a corrupt government runs where 24 youths must fight to the death each year. I flew through the trilogy. So many plot twists and such well-constructed suspense! I was really pulled into the story, and near the end of book 3, it made me cry (very few books do).
The Hunger Games obviously has a lot of deaths and raises many moral questions to think through. These books are definitely some of the most mature things I’ve read (the most mature in this list), so make sure you look up a review of the content before you read them, and use much discernment. There is more than just gore that you will want to be aware of, and also a lot of romance.
However, the books seem to handle the moral questions they raise pretty well, and if you are mature enough for them, you will enjoy the fast-paced plot. I have not read the prequel or watched the movies yet, but I’m looking forward to them. =)
What Do You Think?
What were your favorite reads this summer? Do you have any recommendations for me? Have you read any of the books on my list? Are you planning to?