Books·Reading List

12 middle-grade and YA books to escape into this summer

Looking for a summer read geared for younger readers? Check out these middle-grade and YA books by Canadian and International authors.

Looking for a summer read geared for younger readers? Check out these middle-grade and YA books by Canadian and International authors.

Eight Days by Teresa Toten

Eight Days is a middle-grade novel by Teresa Toten. (Scholastic Canada, Matthew Wiley)

In the 10 years that Sam Stanic has lived with her grandfather, she's learned that it's better to be useful than to cry about it. That way, people keep you around. But she is forced to face her deepest fears when unexpected news flips her world upside down. Over the course of an eight-day road trip from Toronto to Chicago, and back, Sami pieces together who she is and where she belongs.

Eight Days is a novel about forgiveness, strength in community and finding your voice when you need it the most.

Eight Days is for ages 9 to 13.

Teresa Toten is a writer based in Toronto. Toten won the Governor General's Literary Award in Canada for The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, which also won the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award, and was chosen by the International Board on Books for Young People as one of its Outstanding Books for Young People With Disabilities in 2015.

Rabbit Chase by Elizabeth LaPensée, illustrated by KC Oster, translated by Aarin Dokum

Rabbit Chase by Elizabeth LaPensée, left, illustrated by KC Oster, right, translated by Aarin Dokum, not pictured. (Annick Press)

Rabbit Chase is a middle-grade book that incorporates Anishinaabe culture with an Alice in Wonderland-type story. Aimée is an non-binary Anishinaabe student who travels on a school trip to meet with water spirits known as Paayehnsag. Aimée soon finds themself in an adventure featuring an alternate dimension, a Trickster and a Queen with robot guards who are trying to claim the land. 

Rabbit Chase is for ages 8 to 12.

Elizabeth LaPensée is an Anishinaabe, Métis and Irish writer and illustrator whose work appears in Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection series, Deer Woman: An Anthology and more.

KC Oster is an Ojibwe-Anishinaabe comic artist and illustrator. They live in the Rainy River District of Northwestern Ontario.

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei is a book by Christina Matula. (Inkyard Press)

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei follows seventh-grader Holly-Mei Jones, who couldn't be more excited to move to Hong Kong for her mother's job. She gets to go to a school that's right on the beach and her family's apartment is beautiful. But she soon realizes that things aren't as perfect as she had hoped. There are new rules to follow, expectations to meet and the most popular girl in school quickly becomes her frenemy. Can Holly-Mei still make the best of the situation and get through seventh-grade?

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei is for ages 8 to 12.

Christina Matula is an author raised in Ottawa. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Hong Kong and now lives in Finland with her husband, two children and puppy.

Wish Upon a Satellite by Sophie Labelle

Wish Upon a Satellite is a book by Sophie Labelle (Second Story Press, Julie Artacho)

The adventure of non-binary teen Ciel and their friends continue in this latest YA book. Ciel is growing up and into their own — but the world is filled with challenges, including climate change, social media and complex relationships. When Ciel becomes romantically entangled with their best friend, they must cope with new questions about loyalty and identity.

Wish Upon a Satellite is for ages 13 and up.

Sophie Labelle is a trans cartoonist, public speaker and writer from Montreal. She is the creator of the webcomic Assigned Male and has illustrated several comic books.

A Disaster in Three Acts by Kelsey Rodkey

A Disaster in Three Acts is a novel by Kelsey Rodkey. (HarperCollins Canada)

In A Disaster in Three Acts, readers meet Saine Sinclair. Saine knows what makes a story worth telling, and she has plans to make it her future career. She wants to get into the documentary filmmaking program of her dreams. There's just one problem: Holden. He's her ex-childhood best friend, her new best friend's ex and her last shot at getting into that program. Saine knows how her story is supposed to go, but every moment with Holden seems intent on changing the ending. 

A Disaster in Three Acts is for ages 13 and up.

Kelsey Rodkey is the author of the novel Last Chance Books. She lives in Philadelphia with her partner and their cat. A Disaster in Three Acts is her second book.

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman

He Must Like You is a book by Danielle Younge-Ullman. (Viking Books for Young Readers, David Leyes)

Libby is not having a good senior year of high school. Her brother used his college money to bartend on a Greek island, her dad's kicking her out after high school so he can Airbnb her room and she has to pay for college herself. Tack on a bad drunken hookup with her coworker Kyle and Libby is pushed to the edge. She ends up dumping a whole pitcher of sangria on the head of the most handsy customer at the restaurant she's a waitress at. Unfortunately, the guy is a local here and her mom's boss. Libby has to do damage control at her job, find an apartment and deal with her anger at guys who keep ruining her life. 

He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, revenge and how we can all be better people.

He Must Like You is for ages 14 and up.

Danielle Younge-Ullman is a Toronto-based author of three other books, Lola Carlyle's 12-Step Romance, Falling Under and Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined, which won the OLA Pine Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Young People's Literature as well as the Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Award. 

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is a book by Xiran Jay Zhao. (Margaret K. McElderry Books, Xiran Jay Zhao)

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor follows a boy named Zachary Ying as he embarks on a mission after discovering he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China. His journey takes him across China to heist magical artifacts, defeat figures from history and seal the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before it's too late.

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is for ages 8 to 12.

Xiran Jay Zhao is a Vancouver-based author and social media creator. They are a first-generation Chinese immigrant who is passionate about Chinese history, cosplay and anime. Their debut novel Iron Widow, a YA fantasy featuring aliens, giant robots and a quest to battle evil, was a New York Times bestseller. 

Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Swim Team is a middle-grade graphic novel written and illustrated by Johnnie Christmas. (HarperCollins, Amanda Palmer)

Swim Team follows middle schooler Bree as she navigates swim class. 

Bree is excited for her first day at her new middle school until she's stuck with the only elective class that fits her schedule, Swim 101. Swimming makes Bree sick to her stomach, but she's forced to dive headfirst into her fear. With the help of Etta, her elderly neighbour and former swim team captain, Bree becomes good at swimming. Her swimming obsessed community is counting on her to guide her school's failing swim to a state championship, but first, they have to defy all odds and beat their rival, Holyoke Prep. 

Swim Team is for ages 8 to 12.

Johnnie Christmas lives in Vancouver and is a #1 New York TImes bestselling graphic novelist. He's the author of the sci-fi series Tartarus and Crema, the book Firebug and is working on three middle-grade graphic novels. He's best known for creating the Angel Catbird series with Margaret Atwood and adapting the lost Alien 3 screenplay into a graphic novel of the same name. 

Valhamster by Angela Misri

Valhamster is a book by Angela Misri. (DCB)

The latest book in the Tails from the Apocalypse series is Valhamster. Emmy the hamster is a terrific zombie fighter and embarks on a journey to defeat the undead creatures once and for all. But when Emmy is betrayed, she sets out on a solo mission and learns the meaning of courage and friendship along the way.

Valhamster is for ages 9 to 12.

Angela Misri is a Toronto-based journalist and author of detective fiction and children's books. Her detective series, called The Portia Adams Adventures, is set in the 1930s, and her middle-grade series is called Tales from the Apocalypse. 

The Civil War of Amos Abernathy by Michael Leali

The Civil War of Amos Abernathy is a novel by Michael Leali. (HarperCollins Canada)

Amos Abernathy has been a historical reenactor nearly his entire life. He is a huge history buff. But when a cute new volunteer arrives at his Living History Park, he wonders if LGBTQ+ people — people like them — existed in nineteenth-century Illinois. He finds a Civil War soldier who might have been a trans man if he was still alive today. Amos starts writing letters in his journal and makes a plan to share the soldier's story with his divided town. It might be an uphill battle, but Amos is ready to fight.

The Civil War of Amos Abernathy is a love letter to history, first crushes and the LGBTQ+ community

The Civil War of Amos Abernathy is for ages 8 to 12.

Michael Leali is a writer, educator and former historical reenactor who lives in the suburbs of Chicago. He holds a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. The Civil War of Amos Abernathy is his debut novel.

Funny Gyal by Angeline Jackson with Susan McClelland

Funny Gyal is a book by Angeline Jackson, left, with Susan McClelland. (, Dundurn Press)

Funny Gyal is a YA nonfiction book about the real-life story of Angeline Jackson, who stood up to Jamaica's oppression of queer youth to demand recognition and justice. Jackson grew up knowing that she was attracted to other girls and explored her sexuality in her teens. But growing up in a conservative and religious household meant that she was often at odds with her community. Jackson gives a frank and honest account of her life and how she navigated her sexuality and spirituality along the way. Funny Gyal aims to inspire others to let them know that they are not alone.

Funny Gyal is for ages 12 and up.

Angeline Jackson is an LGBTQ+ human rights activist, an HIV/AIDS educator and the former executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica. In 2015, President Barack Obama recognized Jackson as one of Jamaica's remarkable young leaders at the Town Hall for Youth in Kingston, Jamaica. She also participated on a U.S. Senate briefing panel and attended the first White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights.

Susan McClelland is a YA nonfiction writer who spends her time between Toronto and Dumfries-Galloway in Scotland. Her first book, Bite of the Mango, is the true story of a young Sierra Leonean victim of war and has been published in more than 20 countries. She is a former staff writer at Maclean's and has written for the Sunday Times, Marie Claire, Glamour, Ms Magazine, the Guardian, the Walrus and Chatelaine.

The Serpent's Fury: Royal Guide to Monster Slaying, Book 3 by Kelley Armstrong

The Serpent's Fury is a book in the Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series. (Puffin Canada)

In the third book in The Serpent's Fury series, Rowan, along with her brother and her friends, fight more fearsome monsters than ever before. 

Rowan is Tamarel's Royal Monster Hunter and her twin brother Rhydd, will be its king. They realize the dropbears they fought are just one of many rare monsters who have been driven out of their natural habitat. After being swarmed by another group of monsters, Rowan is convinced something is behind the phenomenon. But nothing can prepare her for the truth. Will Rowan's "monster magnet" skills work against the scariest monsters imaginable?

The Serpent's Fury: Royal Guide to Monster Slaying is for ages 10 to 14.

Kelley Armstrong is the New York Times bestselling author of the Darkest Powers, Darkness Rising and Age of Legends trilogies for teens. She is also the author of numerous thriller and fantasy series for adults, three YA thrillers and the Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series. 

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