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2023 Summer Reading List: High School

The Mission Society is thrilled to launch our 2023 summer reading list for high school students, and to continue learning alongside them beyond our classrooms. Educator Kate Overgaard has put together a selection of engaging memoirs, fiction, and graphic novels to help encourage all young people to explore new stories and exciting topics throughout the season. Each year, we set out to curate reads that reflect the diverse backgrounds of our students, as well as the variety of experiences and issues that impact their daily lives. The 2023 list is no different, and we’re looking forward to setting off on brand-new journeys of discovery and imagination with our community.


Take a look at the list below to find a new book to enjoy this season. We can’t wait to share our love of literature and exploration all summer long!




Genre: Religious Folklore, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+

Why You Should Read This Book: This book allows readers to explore a magical world of diverse identities and cultures, young love, and adventure.


Charming as a Verb by Ben Phillipe


Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Comedy


Why You Should Read This Book: Set against the background of NYC, Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger is a teenager who strives to attend Columbia University, all while juggling a competitive high school, the pressures of being a devoted son, his dog walking business, and– blackmail!



Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Realistic Fiction


Why You Should Read This Book: Seventeen-year-old Maya Azi deals with the expectations of her parents, first love, and racism in this moving coming-of-age story about growing up Muslim in America.


We Are Not Free by Traci Chee


Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction


Why You Should Read This Book: This novel moves swiftly from one voice to the next in a cast of Japanese-American teens who, along with their families, are ousted from their homes and forced to question their identity as Americans as they stick together through friendship, family, and culture.


Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez


Genre: Young Adult, Sports Fiction


Why You Should Read This Book: Camila aka La Furia is a teen soccer player with a possible future in the sport that she loves, but she has much to overcome in the pursuit of her dreams and finding her way in the world.


We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds


Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Romance, LGBTQIA+


Why You Should Read This Book: Through the first person point of view, readers will be right in step with Avery as she grapples with secrets of the past and decides how far to go in search of the truth.


This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams


Genre: Young Adult, Romance


Why You Should Read This Book: This teen romance will touch the hearts of readers as the narrative shifts from Isa to Alex when fate intervenes on a summer subway ride in New York.


Spin by Lamar Giles


Genre: Young Adult, Mystery


Why You Should Read This Book: Readers will be on the edge of their seats as Kya and an unlikely partner work to solve a murder.


Vinyl Moon by Mahogany L. Browne


Genre: Young Adult, Novel in Verse


Why You Should Read This Book: When Angel is sent to Brooklyn to live with her uncle, she uses the words of Black writers from the past to grow beyond her pain and find strength.


Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina


Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction


Why You Should Read This Book: Readers will be immersed in this coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1977 as a serial killer stalks the city.


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas


Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Paranormal, Romance


Why You Should Read This Book: In this book of magical realism, Yadriel takes readers on a paranormal adventure when he summons a rebellious ghost while simultaneously trying to prove his gender to his family.


Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabarr and Raymond Obstfeld


Genre: Memoir, Sports


Why You Should Read This Book: Readers will discover the journey of famed Kareem Abdul-Jabarr, from his childhood in New York City to his record-breaking career as a basketball star and beyond.



Genre: Nonfiction, History


Why You Should Read This Book: In this short nonfiction book, readers will learn about the Borinqueneers, the only Puerto Rican unit in the United States Army, and the time when their honor came into question during the Korean War.



Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir


Why You Should Read This Book: This powerful and beautifully illustrated memoir speaks to one refugee’s experience as Thi Bui shares her family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam while simultaneously exploring life as a new mother and the meaning of home.


Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, Dawud Anyabwile


Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Sports


Why You Should Read This Book: Depicted in powerful black-and-white images, this is the true story of three Olympic runners and their protest of racial injustice against African Americans at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic games.


Thank you to Kate Overgaard for putting together a thoughtful summer reading list for our students. For more literacy learning resources, be sure to read last year’s article by Angela Shanté on our blog about combatting summer slide. If you have a K-8th grade student in your life, take a look at our summer reading list curated by Scholastic.




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