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Books to Read While Avoiding Required Summer Reading

August 6, 2018 - 8:41am -- Dodie
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Dan vs Nature book cover
Gorgeous book cover
Hellhole book cover
100 Sideways Miles book cover
Winners Curse book cover
Tap Out book cover
Audrey book cover
Ask the Passengers book cover
Warcross book cover
One Came Home cover
All the Truth book cover
Mystery Science Theater

You’ve already got that required reading list knocked out, right? Who wouldn’t want to start right into Tortilla Flats or Lord of Flies, keeping in mind the dreaded inevitable essays to follow? Give yourself a break and dig into something fun, relatable, quirky, or thrilling, just something wonderful to escape into for a little while or a whole afternoon!

I laughed out loud reading Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick. Becky is just a normal 18 year old living in a trailer park in the Midwest, but has been told by her mother that something spectacular awaits her in the future. After her mother's death, the mysterious yet ubiquitous designer Tom Kelly flies Becky to New York, proposing to create three dresses for her guaranteed to make her the most beautiful woman on the planet. With, at best, average looks, Becky's understandably skeptical, but Kelly delivers, and Rebecca is born. Rebecca goes on to star in a movie, and catch the eye of the prince of England, but worries about who it is they love - Becky or Rebecca? Rudnick takes aim at both the fashion and film industry in this snarkily entertaining read.

Have you caught up with Don Calame’s book from last year, Dan Versus Nature? Dan goes on a camping trip with his mom's future husband to bond, and things don't exactly go as planned! Super funny and more than a bit raunchy, the adventures of Dan and his germophobe friend Charlie include meeting a bear, a hot girl, and suffering from a weird itching feeling. It is hard not to feel bad for this bumbling crew.

Hellhole by Gina Damico follows the trials and tribulations of teenager Max Kilgore. Not only is his mother ill, he has inadvertently unleashed a devil, named Burg, who has locked himself up in Max's basement, playing video games and eating Cheetos all day. With the help of Lore, a fellow student and goth chick, Max needs to work out a deal with Burg that will get him out of his house, and cure his mother. This is a wonderfully dark comedy. If you enjoy this book, you may want to read Damico's earlier Croak trilogy - when Lex starts acting out in high school, her parents send her to her uncle's farm, where she discovers the source of her anger - she is a grim reaper. Soon Lex is learning her craft in a Harry Potter-esque setting, and is paired up with Driggs, with whom she has a fiery love-hate relationship. The two stumble across bodies with no known cause of death, sparking an investigation into one of the greatest, dirtiest secrets of the Grim organization.

I've enjoyed all of Andrew Smith's books, but leading up the new school year I’m going with 100 Sideways Miles. A wickedly witty and offbeat novel involving (among many other things) best friends, first love, classroom behavior outrageous enough to bring about a teacher's aneurysm and a stunningly described shadow-puppet show. Finn has a lot of weird stuff in his life, but fortunately his larger-than-life best friend, Cade Hernandez, keeps him in the real world and participating in wildly funny misdeeds. And then there is Finn's sweet crush on the lovely Julia ...

For a sizzling bad boy/good girl - bad girl/good boy story, pick up Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse (#1 in The Winner's Trilogy). As a general's daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can't help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other. There are lots of twists and turns and changes of allegiance, and I hope you get so hooked you'll want to read the next two titles in the series, The Winner's Crime and The Winner's Kiss.

Tap Out by Eric Devine is a bit of a sharp slap of reality. Tony's life is bleak and violent, as his drug-addict mother's boyfriend regularly beats her up and gleefully includes Tony if he objects. At school, the boyfriend's nephew further compounds the bullying. Until the principal, Mr. O, decides to help, Tony's buddy Rob and the Vo-Tec auto-mechanics class are the only things that lighten his load. Now, not only does Rob want Tony to join the gym where they can be coached in Mixed Martial Arts, but the principal is threatening to take away Vo-Tec if Tony doesn't go.

Ready for romance? Robin Benway follows 16-year-old Audrey in Audrey, Wait! as she suffers the pangs of her breakup with Evan, her talented musician boyfriend. Evan writes a song about her that becomes a smash hit, resulting in instant, unwelcome fame for Audrey. Audrey struggles to continue her normal life with her family, school and quirky BFF Victoria while the paparazzi hound her, reporters slant their coverage of her and adoring fans mob her. There are some good observations here about our society's obsession with famous people, but mostly this is a light read about a high school junior in an unusual situation. Though it seems that everyone speaks with similar snappy patter, including her new, initially dorky boyfriend, James, the profusion of teen wit quells the mayhem of Audrey's life and holds the story together.

In Ask the Passengers, a truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything-and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love. Astrid doesn't feel like she fits in anywhere. Two friends keep her sane: her closeted BFF, Kristina, and Dee, a star hockey player she met while working for a local catering company. Sparks fly between Astrid and Dee, causing Astrid to feel even more distanced and confused. Meanwhile, Kristina and her boyfriend/beard Justin use Astrid as cover for their own same-sex sweethearts, adding more fuel to the fire. King has created an intense, fast-paced, complex and compelling novel about sexuality, politics and societal norms that will force readers outside their comfort zones.

Marie Lu's latest title Warcross is fabulous. Emika Chen, 18, has been on her own for six years, living in poverty with a juvenile record, supporting herself by bounty hunting. She survives on ramen, with $13 and a debt of $3,450 to her name, and few joys: memories of her dead father, her crush on the world-famous 21-year-old inventor Hideo Tanaka, and her passion for Hideo's game, Warcross. Universally adored, Warcross is an immersive battle game with CGI-ready virtual combats. When Emi exploits a Warcross bug in a last-ditch attempt to make some cash, she glitches into the game. Suddenly, she's a media darling, and Hideo Tanaka himself summons her to Japan for a top-secret job. Whisked away on a private jet, Emi is flabbergasted by the perks of her new position—one of which is membership on one of the world's top pro teams. Emi grows fond of her multi-ethnic team, but could one of them be a saboteur?

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry is both a dark mystery and a romance. Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who's owned her heart as long as she can remember--even if he doesn't know it--her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. I've heard this referred to as a "keyhole" novel - where you at first can only see a little bit of the story, and little by little, more is revealed.

Amy Timberlake's One Came Home is a historical novel with a very modern feel. Disconsolate over the end of a promising courtship, Agatha Burkhardt runs off without so much as a goodbye to her younger sister, Georgie. When the sheriff attempts to locate and retrieve Agatha, he brings home not the vibrant sister that Georgie adores, but an unidentifiable body wearing Agatha's ball gown. Georgie sneaks away in the dead of night, determined to retrace Agatha's steps in order to solve the mystery of her disappearance and, she hopes, to bring her home . To Georgie's surprise, she's joined on the journey by her sister's former flame. And what a journey it is, fraught with mountain lions, counterfeiters and marriage proposals. The icing on the cake, though, is Georgie's narration, which is fresh, laugh-out-loud funny and an absolute delight to read.

Okay, how about some fun? Not a book! Mystery Science Theater 3000, XXXVIII is now available! This epic collection includes Invasion USA, Colossus and the Headhunters, High School Big Shot (this sounds promising!) and Track of the Moon Beast. Burn away those thoughts of class schedules, AP and SAT exams, and what they are wearing - you are the hippest ever.

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