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Nothing screams summer fun like a road trip, although hitting the highway doesn’t always turn out to be the lighthearted adventure we expect. Here are some titles to satisfy feelings of wanderlust (or possibly just lust), inspire vacations, and sound the stranger-danger alarm.
100 Sideways Miles. By Andrew Smith. 2014. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (9781442444959). Gr. 9–12.
Given his unusual past, forging a positive identity seems impossible for Finn Easton. Then Finn meets Julia and finds that his oddball idiosyncrasies can be charming. When Julia returns to the Midwest, a road trip, a heroic rescue, mistaken identities, and a long detour offer Finn chances to remake himself. Leavened with humor and high-school high jinks, this unpredictable story of love and friendship is close to perfect.
Both of Me. By Jonathan Friesen. 2014. Blink, $16.99 (9780310731887). Gr. 9–12.
Believing she caused a family tragedy, 18-year-old Clara bolts from her London home to travel the world. On a flight, she meets Elias, who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, swinging from sweet Elias to the Other One, who lives in an imaginary world. Friesen’s storytelling is laser-beam sharp as Clara—determined to help Elias—joins him on a journey that is part Alice in Wonderland, part role-playing game, and all weird, road-trip adventure.
Damaged. By Amy Reed. 2014. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $17.99 (9781442456990). Gr. 10–12.
Kinsey’s post-graduation plans are derailed when her best friend, Camille, dies in a car accident while Kinsey is behind the wheel. Now she thinks she’s going mad, seeing Camille’s ghost in mirrors and in her dreams. When Camille’s boyfriend, Hunter, proposes a cross-country road trip, Kinsey eagerly accepts the chance to get away. A new adult title with emotional heft and a dash of romance.
The Devil You Know. By Trish Doller. 2015. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (9781619634169). Gr. 8–11.
A summer campout takes a detour when 18-year-old Cadie joins two hot strangers—cousins Noah and Matt—who are road tripping. Cadie effortlessly pulls Noah into a heady fling that gets deadly serious. Mounting clues lead Cadie to fear for her life amid growing uncertainty over which of the cousins to trust. With high stakes and little chance of escape, the Hitchcockian conclusion is swift and satisfying.
Encore to an Empty Room. By Kevin Emerson. 2015. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $17.99 (9780062133984). Gr. 8–12.
High-school senior Summer Carlson manages the band Dangerheart, which has become an overnight sensation. Add her intensifying relationship with lead singer Cal to the mix, and Summer is tempted to ditch her college plans for a career in music management. This sequel to Exile (2014) involves cross-country road trips and mysterious communications, as the band searches for missing songs from Cal’s rock-legend father’s last album. A page-turner that will rivet music-minded teens.
Finding Paris. By Joy Preble. 2015. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062321305). Gr. 9–12.
Teenager Paris Hollings is missing, but she has left behind scavenger hunt–style clues to help her younger sister, Leo, find her. While mired in a constant state of SAT prep, Leo follows Paris’ scribbled notes from Vegas to L.A. and back again. Dark secrets reveal themselves along the desert highway in this tale of sisterly devotion.
Let’s Get Lost. By Adi Alsaid. 2014. HarlequinTeen, $17.99 (9780373211241). Gr. 9–12.
In Alsaid’s debut novel, Leila is on a road trip, breezing into four different young people’s lives and departing like a tornado, forcing each to take an honest look at themselves and face their fears—for better or worse. But for all her pithy wisdom, Leila is haunted by her own past. Romantic interludes, witty banter, minor law-breaking, and an empowering message combine for summer-reading perfection.
Mosquitoland. By David Arnold. 2015. Viking, $17.99 (9780451470775). Gr. 8–12.
When 16-year-old Mary Iris Malone’s father and stepmom conspire to keep her away from her mother in Cleveland, “Mim” sets out on an odyssey from Mississippi. Arnold populates his debut novel with memorable characters who keep Mim company and keep the reader invested. Through Mim’s journal entries and quirky worldview, Arnold boldly tackles big issues without ever losing the bigheartedness of the story. This has pizzazz—and lots of it.
Signed, Skye Harper. By Carol Lynch Williams. 2014. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (9781481400329). Gr. 8–11.
Winston’s grandmother is the only family she’s known since her mother left to find fame in Hollywood. But when a postcard arrives from the estranged Skye Harper, asking them to come get her from Las Vegas, Nanny jumps at the chance. In a stolen RV—along with their dog, a rooster, and a stowaway neighbor—they set off on a cross-country road trip to bring Skye Harper home.
Why We Took the Car. By Wolfgang Herrndorf. Tr. by Tim Mohr. 2014. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545481809). Gr. 9–12.
German teenager Mike Klingenberg is unremarkably average, but when Andrej Tschichatschow shows up, things change. “Tschick” is definitely interesting—he always looks like he’s been in a fight and might be part of the Russian Mafia. When Mike and Tschick decide an adventure is in store, they steal a car and head out on a road trip across Germany. Over the top, at times, this novel maintains a humorous sense of adventure.
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