By Rhiannon Reintjens, Junior Editor of Non-Fiction, jaBlog!
Artwork by Katie King
It’s hard to get into summer mode with it being the middle of winter here in Australia and, as I write this, it’s 14 degrees Celsius and raining. But just like you, I still have days where I’m looking for something to do. Or should I say something to read. Below are ten books that I think are perfect to read, no matter where you are and what the weather.
WARNING: Some of these books may not be suitable for younger readers.
1. Cross My Heart by Carmen Reid
This is one of my favourite YA novels. Set in Belgium during WWII, it tells the story of Nicole, a fifteen-year-old girl who joins the Belgian Resistance. This emotional and gripping story has everything: love, adventure, courage, sacrifice and hope. Nicole’s story is based on real people and real events and it’s a truly heart-wrenching story. It opened my eyes to a side of the war I didn’t really know about. A word of warning: Some of the scenes may be confronting for younger readers as they depict life in concentration camps.
2. Mary Poppins by P.L Travers
Mary Poppins has always been one of my favourite Disney movies, and I love the movie Saving Mr Banks. So when the publishers began reprinting the books, I bought the first copy I could get my hands on. The book is just as charming as the movie, and the crazy adventures of the children and their nanny will have you laughing out loud. The perfect accompaniment? A spoonful of sugar, of course!
3. Hannah’s Winter by Kieran Meehan
This is a modern story with an element of fantasy. 12-year-old Hannah would rather stay in Australia than go to Japan with her mother, but she soon finds herself on a journey to solve an ancient riddle and save a ghost. This is an enchanting story, combining ancient and modern Japanese culture. Just make sure you have some doughnuts nearby because the ones they talk about in the story will leave you craving some!
4. Heather Wells Mystery Series by Meg Cabot
This series is one that Meg Cabot wrote for adults, but the protagonist acts so young at times that you could easily call this young adult fiction. Heather Wells is a former teen pop sensation who, after being dropped by her record label, gets a job in the New York College “Death Dorm.” There are 5 books in the series, the first called Size 12 is Not Fat. Combining the usual chick lit style with crime and mystery, this is one series that you won’t want to stop reading.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This was one of the few books that I had to read for school that I actually enjoyed. It’s set during the Great Depression and centers on Scout Finch, her older brother Jem, their father, Atticus, and a local trial. This book has caused a lot of controversy over the years due its themes, but there’s a reason why it’s stood the test of time. That being said, it’s a book you’ll either love or hate. But it’s a classic that you should at least try to read.
6. Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Teenagers with cancer seem to be the theme of novels this summer, what with the success of The Fault in Our Stars. Before I Die follows Tessa as she tries to live her last few months to the full. With the help of her friends, she writes a bucket list of things she feels she needs to do to have truly lived. This is a real page turner; I read it in two days. However, I wouldn’t recommend this to younger readers. Many of the things Tessa does are classed as adult.
7. Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson
This is a book that I would recommend to our younger readers as Jacqueline Wilson writes for the 9-14 age groups. Vicky Angel is a book about coping with grief. Vicky dies in an accident but she doesn’t let a thing like being dead stop her from having fun. She’s exactly the same, following her best friend Jade around, telling her what to do and getting her into all sorts of trouble. Eventually, Jade realizes that she needs to live her own life. Whether Vicky is actually there (as a ghost) or a figment of Jade’s imagination is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
8. The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
These are an oldie but a goodie. I started reading Nancy Drew when I was about 9, and I’m still reading them at 20. There’s something for everyone in these books. There’s world travel, mystery, ghosts, a whole range of entertaining characters, and even flying saucers! With 175 books in the original series and many spin-offs for all different ages, there is plenty of Nancy to get you through the summer.
9. A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian
This is another favourite from school. A Little Love Song is also set during World War II. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story that centers on Rose and her summer adventures. Rose and her sister are sent to Salmouth while their mother has to work. Here, they meet some very colourful characters, including a mad woman and a local store owner. There’s even a quaint bookshop! This is a book about love and finding yourself.
10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I’ve been on a children’s classic binge lately, and Little Women is one of my favourites. It follows the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March and their journey into womanhood. Each girl has characteristics that we can all relate to. Jo is the main character, and she is my favourite. She’s a writer and would often write plays for her and her sisters to perform, and later she tries to start a literary career. Packed with emotion, Little Women is a timeless classic that everyone can enjoy.