July is full of cool books to help you beat the heat, with something for everyone. Find them below, grouped (loosely) by genre, so you can find what you’re looking for to get you through the dog days of summer.
In contemporary relationship novels, Jennifer Echols always tops my list. She hits all the right notes: flawed but relatable characters, romance interwoven with important steps from kid-world to adulthood and a fantastic voice. Following on the heels of May’s romantic comedy ENDLESS SUMMER, Jennifer goes more for the gut with her new release FORGET YOU (July 20, from MTV Books).
RCM: So, first a blurb: What’s the story about?
Jennifer Echols: Zoey’s family life is falling apart. Her dad has taken up with a 24-year-old, her mom has attempted suicide, and her arch-enemy Doug has discovered this secret about her mom. Zoey’s terrified Doug will spill her mom’s secret just to spite her. But as long as her relationship with her boyfriend is rock-solid, Zoey thinks she can handle anything. Then she’s in a car accident that wipes out her memory of the entire night. And she can tell from the way Doug’s acting that something big happened between them. She sets out to discover what occurred that night between her and the wrong boy—who might just turn out to be Mr. Right.
RCM: It sounds like you’ve taken the old “amnesia” trope from the Romance novel and given it a fresh YA spin. What inspired you to write Zoey’s story?
Jennifer Echols: I already had an idea for a book in which a girl and a boy were in a car wreck and the cocky, athletic boy spent the entire novel on crutches, but something was missing. A book review site was making fun of an old Sweet Valley High novel with an amnesia plot, and I thought—THAT’S IT! I love the amnesia plot. A lot of writers avoid old tropes because they want to be original. I think old tropes have been around so long because they speak to people and help them live out their fantasies, so I like to find new ways to incorporate them into my novels.
RCM: I’ve made no secret that I love your books, and I admire your ability to switch from light romantic comedy to more weighty stories while still keeping your distinct voice. What’s different about writing comedy vs. drama, and what stays the same?
Jennifer Echols: Naturally I write lighter. The difference happens in the set-up for the book. The dramas have more serious problems. Then, as I’m writing the book, the darker tone needs to match those problems. Sometimes I find myself slipping into a lighter tone, and then I try to listen to more Nine Inch Nails.
RCM: What can we look forward to from you? Curious readers what to know!
Jennifer Echols: My next romantic drama will be published by MTV Books in July 2011. I’m finishing it now and I think my readers will really enjoy it!
I think that’s a safe bet. FORGET YOU comes out on July 20, but Jennifer’s backlist is available online and in ebook.
In THE FOOL’S GIRL by Celia Rees (July 20 from Bloomsbury), Violetta’s kingdom is in shambles, and she comes to London and meets a young playwright named William Shakespeare. She tells him about her quest, along with her comic companion, Feste, as they pursue the evil Malvolio, who has stolen an ancient holy relic from their kingdom. Political intrigue, romance, adventure in this original tale inspired by Twelfth Night.
Then there is THE EDUCATION OF BET by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (July 12 from Houghton Mifflin). Bet, a nineteenth century girl wants an education. The son of the household where she’s grown up wants to join the military. So they switch places. Bet poses as Will at his new boarding school, where things get complicated. Pretending to be a boy is more complicated than Bet bargained for, not least because she’s having feelings for her roommate, James. I’m totally downloading this book, since I love the girl disguised as boy cliché as much as Jennifer loves amnesia.
PARANORMAL AND FANTASY FICTION
The big paranormal this month is THE POISON DIARIES, by Maryrose Wood, with the Duchess of Northumberland. Inspired by Her Grace’s passion for horticulture, Wood weaves a historical paranormal romance around plants and herbs, and their poisonous and curative properties. Jessamine around her father’s apothecary practice, learning about herbs, but always forbidden to go near the most dangerous plants–what she calls “The Poison Garden.” Then a mysterious boy comes to live with the family, with a special bond with the flora, and a compelling attraction for Jessamine.
The book takes a dark turn in the end, which is definitely the lead in to the sequel. Readers are split on this, but if you love Twilight and want a different take on the ‘special boy pulls girl into a magical world’ thing, give this a try. Click over to the site for Alnwick Garden, too, which contains the famous poison garden that inspired this book, the first in a trilogy. (July 7 from HarperCollins)
Also in paranormal romance, there is LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater, the sequel to her popular werewolf romantic drama, SHIVER (July 20 from Scholastic). In SHIVER, Grace and Sam found each other; now they must fight to stay together. Grace must keep her relationship a secret from her parents and Sam must grapple with his werewolf past.
Watch for LEGACIES: SHADOW GRAIL by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill (July 6 from Tor Teen). It’s a magical boarding school book, but as Jennifer mentioned in her interview, tropes exist because they work, and in the hands of a talented storyteller, it never gets old. Lackey has been writing YA since before there was such a label (Heralds of Valdemar series) and both of these authors penned urban fantasy before Anita Blake tied on her first pair of Nikes.
If you must buy a vampire book this month, skip the pasty Emo brooders and pick up FAT VAMPIRE: A NEVER COMING OF AGE STORY by Adam Rex (July 27 from Balzer + Bray). Of course there’s some silliness here, but there’s a thoughtful story underneath he macabre spoof. Or if you like a funny vampire minus the satire aspects, plus delicious romance, a grab a copy of LOVE SUCKS! by Melissa Francis (July 27 from Harper Teen). Getting a date for the Prom apparently doesn’t get any easier when you’re undead.
Supernatural fans, you really need to be reading the STRANGE ANGELS series, by Lili St. Crow. The latest, JEALOUSY comes out this month. Ignore the cover, because yes, there’s romance, but the prom photo on the jacket doesn’t do justice to this series about an edgy young heroine who chases, and his chased by, scary things that bump in the night. (July 29 from Razorbill.)
Stay cool, and as always, happy reading!
Because it’s so hard for me to narrow down the HUGE list of YA books every month, I’ll be grouping my picks by genre. Loosely, because there’s so much crossover and mashing up in YA!
Rosemary Clement-Moore writes Young Adult books because she loves to read them.
Visit her webpage or blog to find out more about her award winning Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series, and her gothic romance, THE SPLENDOR FALLS.