These days, superheroes seem to dominate the box office every summer (if you’re a fan of ant-men, this is your year!). If it’s making you a little nostalgic for summer movies past—with their mix of Spielbergian action-adventure, sci-fi, and comedy—check out these terrific YA books, all of which evoke classic warm-weather flicks. Just add popcorn and a John Williams score.
If you loved Star Wars, read Tin Star, by Cecil Castellucci
Tula Bane is a Children of Earth colonist with a gift for alien languages. But during a mission to help create a Human oasis among the stars, she’s beaten and left for dead by impervious leader Brother Blue, who considers Tula’s curiosity and intelligence a danger to his agenda. Tula’s adventures among aliens, and her quest for revenge, are an excellent companion to the tales of Luke, Han, and Leia in a galaxy far, far away.
Bonus: Castellucci’s Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure comes out in September.
If you loved Grease, read Nowhere But Here, by Katie McGarry
Nowhere But Here pairs perfectly with Sandy Olsen and Danny Zuko’s opposite-sides-of-the-tracks romance. You’ll get chills (they’re multiplying) and lose control from the power Oz and Emily are supplying. It’s electrifying! He’s an 18-year-old prospect in the Reign of Terror motorcycle club in Snowflake, Kentucky; she’s the estranged, “good girl” daughter of a high-ranking club member. Forced to leave her home in Florida to spend the summer with her wild card dad, Emily requires protection, which Oz reluctantly provides as part of his trial period in the club.
If you loved The Craft, read Season of the Witch, by Mariah Fredericks
Fredericks is a master of contemporary realism (see Girl in the Park, The True Meaning of Cleavage, Head Games, Crunch Time), so Season of the Witch is a bit of a departure for her, in that it plays with the idea of spell casting and its possible efficacy. The added twist of tension is delicious, and only adds to the deeper, compelling issues affecting Toni and her friend’s cousin Cassie (who claims to be a witch) as they attempt to control a crushed-on boy’s behavior. And of course The Craft, starring Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True as outcasts intent on ruining those who’ve wronged them, proves it’s always a good season for witches.
If you loved American Pie, read Galgorithm, by Aaron Karo
Jim (Jason Biggs), Chris (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), and Paul (Eddie Kaye Thomas) make a pact to lose their virginities by prom night in the raunchy-with-heart comedy American Pie. In Galgorithm, Shane Chambliss believes he’s solved the “equation” to win any girl’s affection, and offers to help his classmates work the same formula. However, it turns out he still has a lot to learn about the opposite sex, not to mention friendship.
Bonus Read: Band Geek Love, by Josie Bloss
This one time? At band camp…?
If you loved Jaws, read Teeth, by Hannah Moskowitz
What would Jaws have been like had the movie focused on the Great White instead of Brody and Hooper? One possible answer comes in the form of Moskowitz’s Teeth, a daring YA fable about a fishboy who’s abused and hunted while he attempts to save the other creatures he considers his brethren. The half-fish, half-human “Teeth” discovers hope in the form of Rudy, the book’s narrator, who has come to the island with his family so Rudy’s brother (who has cystic fibrosis) can be healed by eating the magic fish that reside there.
If you loved Splash, read September Girls, by Bennett Madison
Beautiful mermaid(s)? Check. Womanizing older brother? Check. Perplexing encounters with mysterious creatures? Check. While Splash is a romantic comedy (starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah in all their 1980s glory) and Summer Girls is more a coming-of-age fable, they both bring an element of modern, bittersweet empathy to their fairytale reimaginings.
If you loved Blade Runner, read Mila 2.0., by Debra Driza
One word: Replicants. In Blade Runner, Harrison Ford’s Deckard must determine whether a test designed to identify nonhumans is working correctly, and in Mila 2.0., an extremely lifelike young woman learns she was created in a lab as an experiment in artificial intelligence. Both are action-packed sci-fi stories with much to say on identity, free will, and what it means to be human.
If you loved Dawn of the Dead, read Sick, by Tom Leveen
Much like superheroes, zombies are everywhere today, staggering toward you, arms outstretched, eager for brains. Give your brain a treat by reading Leveen’s Sick, which combines the high school cliquery of The Breakfast Club with the gruesomeness of George A. Romero. The adults in Dawn of the Dead seek shelter in a suburban shopping mall, and the teens in Sick become trapped in their school’s theatre department; both tales explode with thrills, scares, and gross-outs.
If you loved Men in Black, read Mothership, by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
Agents J and K would approve of the snarky, dark humor and absurd alien happenings that form the spine of Mothership. Pregnant 16-year-old Elvie has been forced to “matriculate” to the orbiting Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers, but quickly discovers her teachers are aliens with sinister intentions. With help from her sweet, dim-bulb commander boyfriend, she must fight off and escape an onboard invasion.