"Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)

"Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion) Credit: Handout /

A novel to kick-start a summer of reading, the kind to devour in one sitting, is "Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion, $16.99, ages 14 and up). The story is narrated by a young woman spy captured in Nazi-occupied France; her Gestapo torturers will allow her to live as long as her confession has promise, and she strings them along, Scheherazade-style. It's hard to offer a taste without immediately giving away secrets, but consider that "Verity" is a fancy word for "truth" -- the thing interrogators want and people will die to defend -- and you'll know that grand conflicts are in store. This is a book for teenagers -- it gets gruesome -- as well as adults who have discovered the pleasures of teen novels.

Once the summer is under way and the days more leisurely, "Bitterblue" (Dial, $19.99, ages 14 and up) is a great novel to settle in with. It's the third tale set in Kristin Cashore's richly imagined fantasy world, following "Graceling" and "Fire." The three novels' interconnectedness is not linear, so each can be the starting point for a literary love affair. Cashore's characters may inhabit a land where bizarre superhuman powers are common, but it's her down-to-earth interest in how people work that captivates.

Summer is a good time to stand back and find the humor in high-school life. "The Difference Between You and Me" by Madeleine George (Viking, $16.99, ages 12 and up) is a story about falling in love: the heady discovery of another person, the stress of balancing public and private selves, the shock of finding that love doesn't mean agreement on all things. Here, this love happens to take root between two girls.

Aaron Karo's hero in "Lexapros and Cons" (Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.99, ages 12 and up) wants to fall in love but struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder. How to touch the girl of your dreams when you're a germophobe?

Perhaps because independence is so much on the minds of middle-schoolers, children being sent to live with distant relatives is a common theme of novels for this age group. In Sara Pennypacker's "Summer of the Gypsy Moths" (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins, $15.99, ages 8-12), Stella finds her great-aunt Louise's Cape Cod house a comforting haven of order and routine but discovers there's going to be a lot more to growing up than just waiting for her crazy mother to resurface.

When Natalie Babbitt sends her hero to live with an aunt in "The Moon Over High Street" (Michael di Capua/Scholastic, $15.95, ages 9-14), the deeply thoughtful author of "Tuck Everlasting," as always, has a lot on her mind. This novel is about the choices that are offered in life, and how we make them.

Olympics enthusiasts who can't wait for the July 27 opening ceremonies can get a foretaste of the games with the novel "Gold Medal Summer" by Donna Freitas (Scholastic, $16.99, ages 9-12). How many distractions can a committed 14-year-old gymnast handle? Rivals may hiss terrible insults and she won't bat an eyelash, but when her best friend utters the ultimate four-letter word, "quit," she wobbles. And then there is the cute boy who won't take "not now, I'm in training" for an answer.

Some cool series, new and ongoing:

"The Vicious Deep" by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks Fire, $9.99, ages 12 and up) begins a series that could make mermaids cool for boys.

"Dreamless" by Josephine Angelini (HarperTeen, $17.99, ages 13 and up) follows the lovers of "Starcrossed," modern-day scions of Greek-hero clans.

"The Selection" by Kiera Cass (HarperTeen, $17.99, ages 12 and up), opens a series that asks "Will she marry the prince?" with a "Hunger Games" fierceness.

"Insurgent" by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $17.99, ages 12 and up), the gripping follow-up to "Divergent," makes you wonder, among other things, what they will call the series finale?

"The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict" by Trenton Lee Stewart (Megan Tingley/Little, Brown, $17.99, ages 8-12), a prequel that gives a back story to the mysterious patron behind the Mysterious Benedict Society.

"Rebel Fire" by Andrew Lane (Farrar Straus Giroux, $17.99; Macmillan Audio, $29.99; ages 12 and up). The second in the series about Sherlock Holmes as a youth has a particularly exciting audio edition.


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