The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, has won admirers and courted controversy for its frank depiction of the inner workings of the mind of a teenage boy living a hardscrabble life on a Native American reservation and trying to fit in at an all-white school. (Unsurprisingly, he thinks about sex. A lot.) If you are looking for another book that explores similar experiences but charts its own course, Eric Gansworth’s If I Ever Get Out of Here tells the story of a young Native American boy who befriends a white kid but struggles with the undeniable socioeconomic divide that separates them.
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, is a stone-cold classic of hyper-concentrated teenage angst that still endures despite its 1950s setting. (Stay, gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.) Though few books could hope to compare, Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road, an Australian-set YA novel about a turf war between the townies and students from a nearby military academy, is a similarly affecting story of confused, youthful rebellion.
If you enjoyed the Southern-fried atmosphere, memorable characters, and historical resonance of The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, you’ll want to read Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. After her mother is killed by an ice cream truck, 12-year-old CeeCee is sent to live in Savannah with her crazy old aunt (the best kind!). The town is filled with colorful eccentrics, but Georgia in 1967 has a darker side as well—though Hoffman never allows the racial tension to overpower what is, essentially, a feel-good ode to a bygone era.
Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell, the basis for the recent motion picture of the same name, is the harrowing tale of a routine mission in Afghanistan in 2005 that went horribly awry for a team of U.S. Navy SEALs. For another riveting example of the risks taken by these elite soldiers, there’s Mark Owen’s No Easy Day, a detailed account of the mission that targeted Osama bin Laden.
With The Matchmaker, best-selling author Elin Hilderbrand offers the perfect romantic escape for summer, the story of a woman with an almost supernatural ability to spark romances between others—who never got over her own lost love from the distant past. It’s a good match for fans of The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks’ unabashed tearjerker about a romance that refuses to die, no matter what life throws at it, or how many years have passed.
What are you reading?