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The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

Christopher Healy, illus. by Todd Harris (HarperCollins/Walden Pond Press)

Four Princes Charming (from the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel) discover that being a hero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in this funny debut novel for middle-graders. Healy finds fresh humor in classic characters and fairy-tale tropes as the princes uncover a plot against all four of their kingdoms.

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Three Times Lucky

Sheila Turnage (Dial)

An 11-year-old girl named Mo LoBeau is the unforgettable star of this rollicking middle-grade novel that involves murder, kidnapping, bank robbery, a hurricane, and Mo’s search for her birth mother. Mo’s hilarious quips entertain while Turnage’s evocative writing gives the book a Southern charm that radiates off the page.

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The Drowned Cities

Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)

Before you start to complain about the summer heat and humidity, take a trip to the environmentally wrecked Washington, D.C., of the future, as envisioned by Bacigalupi in this action-packed sequel to his Printz-winning Ship Breaker. The story follows two young casualties of war as they are caught between rival gangs dedicated to causes they barely understand or remember.

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Jersey Angel

Beth Ann Bauman (Knopf)

Turn off the Jersey Shore reruns and pick up this YA novel from an author who paints a poignant portrait of life on the shore, much as she did in her previous book, Rosie and Skate. Here, Bauman introduces Angel Cassonetti, who is reveling in the freedom of summer, hanging out with friends, chasing after her ex (as well as her best friend’s boyfriend), and trying to figure out just what the future has in store.

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Code Name Verity

Elizabeth Wein (Disney-Hyperion)

Nothing is what it seems in this spellbinding WWII thriller, which unfolds as the confession of a captured teenage spy, who tells her story to the Nazi captors that have imprisoned and tortured her. Wein lays the groundwork for the story’s late revelations with exceptional skill, all but guaranteeing that readers will want to immediately reread the story with fresh eyes and perspective.

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Team Human

Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Bren (HarperTeen)

Larbalestier and Brennan send up the vampire novel with a thoughtful, provocative, and sharply funny story set in a world in which vampires and human coexist, but generally keep to their own. When Mel’s best friend falls in love with the new vampire at school, Mel must confront her own prejudices and reevaluate what it means to be a good friend.

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