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Young Adult Tales: New novels this summer for all tastes

By Star Tribune
Published: July 15, 2023, 6:00am
3 Photos
"Actually Super," by Adi Alsaid (Penguin Random House/TNS)
"Actually Super," by Adi Alsaid (Penguin Random House/TNS) Photo Gallery

There’s no shortage of young adult books on the shelves this summer. Here are some suggestions:

  • Saints of the Household

By Ari Tison

Art, identity and the ripple effects of family violence form the heart of a debut novel by Minneapolis writer Tison. Brothers Jay and Max live a tightly controlled life in tiny Deer Creek, Minn., trying to protect their mom from their dad’s physical abuse. But when a confrontation with their school’s star soccer player spins out of control, the brothers’ futures and college dreams are at risk. In alternating chapters that capture Max’s visual interest through experimental poetry forms and Jay’s exploration of Bribri Indigenous storytelling patterns, Tison weaves a compelling, morally complex debut. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • She Is a Haunting

By Trang Thanh Tran

A haunted house in the southern Vietnamese highlands has a voice in this debut thriller. Jade Nguyen is about to start college in Philadelphia, where she’ll finally be able to carve out her own identity and meet the girl (or boy) of her dreams. But first she must survive summer with her estranged dad in the French colonial mansion he’s renovating for tourists in Da Lat. As Jade is haunted by increasingly disturbing dreams, she and friend-maybe-more Florence try to turn the tables on a hungry ghost and reckon with the legacy of Vietnam’s brutalized past. Sharp, sexy and well-paced. (Bloomsbury, 352 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Star Splitter

By Matthew J. Kirby

What makes us human? Our consciousness? Our bodies? What happens if the two diverge? In 2199, Jessica Mathers steps into a teleportation machine, then wakes up in a crashed lander with the ship’s crew buried nearby and her scientist parents nowhere in sight. As she stumbles toward safety, the limits of her understanding of science are tested by encounters with three survivors — one haunted, one sane and one monstrous — and the unexpectedly diverse life on a supposedly barren planet. In this space thriller, Kirby probes the human need to, as Robert Frost wrote, “satisfy a lifelong curiosity/About our place among the infinities.” (Dutton, 320 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Warrior Girl Unearthed

By Angeline Boulley

The clan from “Firekeeper’s Daughter” is back in Boulley’s sophomore novel, set in northern Michigan’s Sugar Island Ojibwe community — and they’re grappling with more missing young women and a black market for the tribe’s cultural items. Perry Firekeeper-Birch wants to go fishing, but she’s stuck interning at the tribal museum. When she breaks the rules to liberate ancestral remains, she’s drawn into harrowing encounters with those who profit from tribal heritage. The story sometimes bogs down in Native graves repatriation law, but Boulley’s fans will cheer the deepening web of Sugar Island stories. (Henry Holt, 400 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Chasing Pacquiao

By Rod Pulido

Bobby Agbayani spends his free time dreaming about his comic book geek boyfriend Brandon. He just doesn’t want his whole Los Angeles neighborhood to know. Before he can come out on his own terms, rumors fly and one of his school’s most notorious bullies targets him. To survive the beatdowns, Bobby takes a job at Jab Gym, hoping for pointers from an aging trainer with his own regrets. A homophobic social media post by Bobby’s boxing hero, Manny Pacquiao, also adds to his struggles. The meditation on masculinity is woven with geek culture and the bonds of three best friends. (Viking, 272 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Big Tree

By Brian Selznick

“No matter how unstoppable the danger seems, no matter how unavoidable, there’s always something you can do,”writes the “Wonderstruck” author. On an Earth ruled by dinosaurs, two sycamore seeds are cut loose from their mother tree during a devastating fire, with a big extinction event looming. They journey toward a new home — on the wind, an insect’s back, a leaf — and encounter a mycelium network of Ambassadors, tiny scientists under the sea, and an ancient intelligence known as the Old One. The Caldecott winner’s diaphanous, black-and-white panels give the story of Earth’s web of life a deep emotional resonance. (Scholastic, 528 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • When the Vibe Is Right

By Sarah Dass

Trinidad’s annual Carnival celebration meets Shakespeare in this enemies-to-lovers romance. Tess is an aspiring costume designer who lives and breathes her family’s fading Carnival masquerade band, Grandeur. But when rivals from a more popular band try to sabotage Grandeur’s Carnival season, Tess finds herself working with the one classmate she most wants to avoid, charming social media influencer Brandon. Dass creates a compelling slow burn full of romantic misdirection amid the island’s lush landscapes, Indo-Caribbean flavors (from fry bake and shark to pholourie and breadfruit fritters) and steelpan and soca beats. Should come with its own soundtrack. (Balzer + Bray, 336 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Funeral Songs for Dying Girls

By Cherie Dimaline

The author of the dystopian “Marrow Thieves” is back with one of the snarkiest, funniest ghost stories ever set in a cemetery. Since her mother’s death, Winifred Blight has lived with her father in the neglected Toronto graveyard where he works. After a humiliating romantic fumble with her best friend, she summons a ghost, Phil, who died as a teenager. Ghost sightings draw a pushy tour operator who might be the cemetery’s financial savior, if Phil agrees to appear on cue. Full of throwaway lines — “She was perfection in a pair of XXL jeans” — and sharp insights, this is Métis writer Dimaline clicking on all cylinders. (Tundra Books, 280 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Actually Super

By Adi Alsaid

A teen grappling with despair takes a gap year to search for hope in this latest novel by Mexican-born Alsaid. Isabel Wolfe has always had to hold unwanted thoughts at bay. But the pandemic has lit a fuse of hurt and anger in those around her. A quest to find “Supers,” people who have unexplained powers that they use to do good, takes her from Tokyo to the Philippines to South America, where she discovers moments of connection even as she plumbs the human capacity to misuse power. Alsaid’s well-constructed story is full of tiny truth bombs. (Penguin Random House, 288 pages. Out Aug. 22.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Gossamer Summer

By H.M. Bouwman

A fairy tale takes on a terrifying life of its own in this adventure by Minnesota writer H.M. Bouwman. Sisters Maisie, JoJo, Bee and Amy’s lives are upended after the death of their Grandma Nan. Their new life in the country is isolated, and JoJo no longer has the heart to tell stories. Then they meet neighbor boy Theo and discover a portal to a magical fen with menacing “bone birds.” JoJo must grapple with her grief, write a new ending to save the fairy world and make it home in one piece in this thoughtful story of navigating loss. (Atheneum, 192 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • School Trip

By Jerry Craft

In this sequel to Newbery winner Craft’s “New Kid,” aspiring artist Jordan Banks is back, this time contemplating whether to attend his dream arts school. But first, he and classmates from Riverdale Academy Day School have one more adventure together — a class trip to Paris. As the diverse group of eighth graders is set loose in the City of Lights, they navigate school dynamics as well as the delight and strangeness of encountering a foreign culture. “You never see kids like us traveling in books and movies. I wonder why that is?” Jordan’s friend Drew muses. A heartwarming conversation opener. (Quill Tree Books, 256 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

  • Transmogrify!: 14 Fantastical Tales of Trans Magic

Edited by G. Haron Davis

In a year when trans youth and their families are under attack, we could all use the empathy and playfulness this anthology unleashes. It opens with Saundra Mitchell’s tale of misunderstood magic and an unexpected romance that flickers to life at the drive-in. A debut short story by Minneapolis writer Dove Salvatierra leans toward the collection’s suspenseful side as the sole survivor of a failing farm family finds himself in a wary dance with a magical coyote that expands his view of the possibilities of love and gender. The collection is full of hope, pixie dust and heart. (HarperTeen, 416 pages.)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune