The Demon Sword Asperides by Sarah Jean HorwitzMeet: Asperides, a demonic sword who's retired from tricking humans into giving away their souls; and Nack, a not-so-bold knight who lacks a quest and, more importantly, a sword.
What happens: After Nack and Asperides meet unexpectedly, their journey intertwines with many dangerous people and one powerful prophecy.
Why you might like it: Snarky humor and shifting points-of-view make this fantasy adventure stand out. (Ages 8-13.)
Ghost Book by Remy LaiWhat it's about: July Chen feels invisible to humans, but ghosts can see her, and she can see them. When she meets William, a wandering spirit hovering in a coma between life and death, the two are plunged into a journey to the Underworld, where they uncover secrets about their own pasts.
Art alert: Whimsical artwork and otherworldly vibes make this graphic novel a great pick for fans of the animated classic Spirited Away. (Ages 8-12.)
Haru, Zombie Dog Hero by Ellen OhWhat it's about: Haru the dog and his boy Luke are best friends. But they're separated after Haru is unjustly accused of violence and sent away to a creepy research lab where he sniffs out big-time danger. Can he escape to warn Luke?
Is it for you? Mentions of fantastical frights (zombie animals!) and real-life horrors (racism and animal abuse) might make this a tough read, but friendship is at the heart of this tender thriller. (Ages 8-12.)
Clouds Over California by Karyn ParsonsWhat it's about: It's the 1970s in Santa Monica, California. Eleven-year-old Stevie's best friend is ditching her, her parents are fighting about her mom going to college, her teen cousin is full of revolutionary ideas, and Stevie just wants to figure out how to keep everyone together.
Read it for: a slice-of-life story that offers a first-person look at history as well as a timeless take on middle-school angst. (Ages 9-13.)
Barely Floating by Lilliam RiveraMaking a splash: Despite her parents' disapproval, Nat Santiago secretly joins the L.A. Mermaids. A synchronized swimming team might not be the typical sport for a fat, outspoken, speed-swimmer like Nat, but she's always loved a challenge.
You might also like: Lisa Fipps' Starfish or Johnnie Christmas' Swim Team, two further stories of complicated, relatable tween girls who find empowerment in the pool. (Ages 9-13.)
The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy MassWhat it's about: The little free library appears overnight, guarded by a fluffy orange cat. Curious, almost-sixth-grader Evan borrows two books and discovers intriguing clues about the fire that destroyed his town's library years ago -- and about his own family history.
Why you might like it: Told by Evan, Mortimer the cat, and ghost librarian Al, this puzzle mystery unfolds at a satisfying pace, offering enough hints that you might be able to solve it before the characters do. (Ages 8-12.)
Riley's Ghost by John David AndersonLocked in: After escaping the science supply closet where some classmates trapped her with a bunch of half-dissected frogs, sensitive outsider Riley discovers that she's now locked inside the school with no way to communicate to the outside and only an angry ghost for company.
Is it for you? If you're freaked out by the supernatural or by very real bullying, this book might not work for you. But if you want a spine-chilling mystery with depth, don't miss Riley's Ghost. (Ages 10-14.)
Consider the Octopus by Nora Raleigh Baskin and Gae PolisnerWelcome aboard... the Oceania II, a research ship testing a tool for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. J.B. is there as the son of a scientist, and Sidney is there through mistaken identity, but these newfound friends are going to make the most of their summer at sea.
Read it for: offbeat adventure paired with real-life environmental science. (Ages 9-13.)
The Sea in Winter by Christine DayStarring: Makah/Piscataway middle schooler Maisie, who's traded ballet for physical therapy and depression ever since a knee injury put her dance dreams on hold.
What happens: On a trip with her blended family, Maisie is surprised to find strength in the family's recent history, and in her Makah ancestors.
Who it's for: anyone who's had to wade through a painful experience, and anyone who wonders what that's like. (Ages 8-13.)
Unseen Magic by Emily Lloyd-JonesWhat it's about: Eleven-year-old Fin loves her enchanted adopted hometown of Aldermere, California. She especially loves the magical tea that relieves her anxiety. But when she tries to brew the tea herself, she accidentally creates a monstrous evil twin. Now, Fin must face her worst fears to save Aldermere...from herself.
Series alert: If you're fascinated by the magical world-building and complex characters in this fantasy series opener, be sure to check out book 2, Unspoken Magic. (Ages 8-13.)
A Soft Place to Land by Janae MarksWhat it's about: With her family short on money and her parents fighting, piano-player Joy is stressed about moving from a house to a tiny apartment. Still, she makes friends with new neighbor Nora, and discovers the Hideout, a secret space in the building where kids can just be themselves. But which kid is leaving those anonymous messages?
For fans of: realistic mysteries or the Zoe Washington series, also by author Janae Marks. (Ages 8-12.)
Weird Kid by Greg Van EekhoutMeet: Jake, a blob of alien goo just barely managing to hold the shape of a 12-year-old human guy.
What happens: Jake starts middle school hoping to seem like a boring human. Yet he can't ignore the bizarre sinkholes, the uncontrollable shapeshifting, or the strange humming sounds that surround him. With help from new friend Agnes, Jake begins an action-packed investigation that leads to a new understanding of "weird." (Ages 7-12.)
Contact your librarian for more great books!
Somerset County Library System of New Jersey1 Vogt Drive
P.O. Box 6700
Bridgewater, New Jersey 08807