12 middle-grade and YA books to read this summer

Need a summer read for the teens and tweens in your life? These YA and middle-grade books will do just the trick.

Need a summer read for the teens and tweens in your life? These YA and middle-grade books will do just the trick. 

My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong

My Summer of Love and Misfortune is a YA novel by Lindsay Wong. (CBC, Simon & Schuster)

Described as a cross between Crazy Rich Asians and Love & Gelato, Wong's novel tells the story of a Chinese American teenager named Iris Wang.

After not getting into college and finding out her boyfriend cheated, Iris is sent to visit family in Beijing for the summer and is swept up in the world of the city's wealthiest residents.

My Summer of Love and Misfortune is for ages 14 and up.

Lindsay Wong is a Vancouver-based author. Wong's debut memoir The Woo-Woo is a darkly comic story of her dysfunctional family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons. The Woo-Woo was a finalist for the 2018 Hilary West Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction and was defended by Joe Zee on Canada Reads 2019.

Author Katherena Vermette brought along her baby girl Ruby when she dropped by our studio in Toronto to take The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire.

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

Hunted by the Sky is a book by Tanaz Bhathena. (Nettie Photography, Penguin Teen)

Hunted by the Sky is a YA adventure novel set in medieval India. Gul, a young girl, has a birthmark on her arm that makes her a mark. So she's on the run. Her parents were murdered because Gul is marked. A group of female rebel warriors take Gul in and train her to become one of them. And she has one thing on her mind: revenge. 

Hunted by the Sky is for ages 12 and up.

Tanaz Bhathena is a YA novelist based in Mississauga. She is also the author of The Beauty of the Moment and A Girl Like That.

Annaka by Andre Fenton

Annaka is a YA novel by Andre Fenton. (Nimbus Publishing)

Annaka is a YA novel about a girl named Annaka. When she moved to Halifax from Yarmouth, she hoped to leave her past behind, including her name. But when she returns to Yarmouth after her grandfather died, she is confronted with happy family memories. And it turns out her childhood imaginary friend wasn't so imaginary. He can help her remember the past and piece together her grandmother's memory. But things get tricky when Annaka isn't content to leave the past in the past.

Annaka is for ages 12 and up.

Andre Fenton is a spoken word poet and filmmaker from Halifax. He is also the author of the poetry collection Ode to Teen Angst.

Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King

Sara and the Search for Normal is a book by Wesley King. (Simon & Schuster)

In Sara and the Search for Normala young girl named Sara joins a therapy group. She hopes she can learn to quiet her mind and figure out how to be normal. Instead, she learns that there are other kids out there just like her. And that it's more important to be yourself than it is to be what is considered "normal."

Sara and the Search for Normal is for readers ages 8-12.

Wesley King is a children's book author from Nova Scotia. His previous books include OCDaniel and A World Below. He also co-wrote the The Wizenard Series with Kobe Bryant.

We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

We Contain Multitudes is a YA novel by Sarah Henstra. (, Penguin Teen)

In the YA novel We Contain Multitudesa letter-writing assignment brings together high schoolers Kurl — an ex-football player known for fighting and for being held back a year — and Jo — a gay, nerdy teenager who loves poetry. As their fledgling, unexpected friendship grows, Jo and Kurl face homophobia and bullying from their peers and families. 

We Contain Multitudes is for ages 14 and up.

Sarah Henstra is a Toronto-based writer and academic. She won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction for the adult novel The Red Word.

Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal

Fight Like a Girl is a YA novel by Sheena Kamal. (Malcolm Tweedy, Penguin Teen)

In thriller writer Sheena Kamal's debut YA novel Fight Like a Girl, Trisha grew up with an abusive father who would come and go as he pleased. In an effort to break the chain of violence in her family, Trisha chooses to channel her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing.

Fight Like a Girl is for ages 14 and up.

Kamal is a Vancouver-based writer of crime novels including The Lost Ones which won the 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and It All Falls DownShe Fights Like a Girl is her debut YA novel.

The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

The Candle and the Flame is a debut YA novel by B.C.-based author Nafiza Azad. (Submitted by Scholastic Canada, Scholastic Press)

The Candle and the Flame is based on Arabic legends and Islamic mythology. The fantasy novel is about a girl named Fatima who lives in a city along the Silk Road that is caught in the middle of a magical war between tribes. 

The Candle and the Flame is for ages 12 and up.

Nafiza Azad was born in Fiji. The writer of children's literature identifies as Indo-Fijian Muslim Canadian and is now based in B.C. 

The Gryphon's Lair by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is an Ontario writer of fantasy novels. (Puffin Canada, Kathryn Hollinrake)

In this follow-up to the award-winning middle-grade book A Royal Guide to Monster SlayingThe Gryphon's Lair continues the fantasy adventures of Rowan, who is now the Royal Monster Hunter, and her twin brother, Rhydd, who is destined to be king of the land. But after an incident with a meddling gryphon, the pair embark on a new quest to hunt dangerous monsters within the realm. 

The Gryphon's Lair is for ages 10-14.

Ontario-based Kelley Armstrong is the author of several young adult books. Her standalone novels include Aftermath and Missing, but she is best known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series as well as her Cainsville and Otherworld series.

The Case of the Missing Auntie by Michael Hutchinson

The Case of the Missing Auntie is a middle-grade book by Michael Hutchinson. (Second Story Press, @Mike_Hutchins0n/

In The Case of the Missing Auntie, the latest instalment of The Mighty Muskrats Mystery series, the four cousins from the Windy Lake First Nation head to the city to visit the Exhibition Fair. There, they learn about their grandfather's little sister, who was scooped up by the government and adopted out to strangers without her parents' permission many years ago. They launch a search for their auntie and, along the way, they learn about the treatment of First Nations people in Canada.

The Case of the Missing Auntie is for ages 9-12.

Michael Hutchinson is a novelist and member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation. He currently lives in Ottawa and works at the Assembly of First Nations. He is the author of The Case of Windy Lake.

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

Music For Tigers is a middle-grade book by Michelle Kadarusman. (Micah Ricardo Riedl, Pajama Press)

Music for Tigers, is a middle-grade novel and coming-of-age story about a young violinist who finds out that her mother's family secretly has a sanctuary for extinct Tasmanian tigers — the island's most beloved and lost, creature — in the remote Australian rainforest.

Music for Tigers is for ages 10 and up.

Michelle Kadarusman is a Canadian-Australian-Indonesian author of novels for children and teens. She is the author of The Theory of Hummingbirds and Girl of the Southern Sea, which was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.

War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories by Tim Wynne-Jones

War at the Snow White Motel is a middle-grade book by Tim Wynne-Jones. (, Groundwood Books)

War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories is a collection by Tim Wynne-Jones featuring six new and three previously published stories. In the titular tale, War at the Snow White Motel, Rex is on vacation with his family in Vermont when a careless act pulls him into war with an older teenager at their motel. The story unfurls as a much bigger, more costly conflict — the Vietnam War — looms.

War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories is for ages 9-12.

Wynne-Jones has written over 35 books — including The Starlight ClaimThe Ruinous Sweep and The Maestro —and is a two-time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award. He has also received the Edgar Award, the Vicky Metcalf Award and was made an Officer to the Order of Canada in 2012.

Northwest Resistance by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, colour by Donovan Yaciuk

Northwest Resistance is a comic written by Katherena Vermette. (Highwater Press, Lisa Delorme Meiler)

The next chapter in Katherena Vermette's graphic novel series follows time-travelling teen Echo Desjardins as she witnesses the return of Louis Riel. The first two books in the A Girl Called Echo series were Pemmican Wars and Red River Resistance.

Northwest Resistance is for ages 11-15.

Vermette is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet and bestselling novelist based in Winnipeg. Her books include North End Love SongsThe Break and river woman. Artists Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk were contributors to the first two books in the graphic novel series.

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