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Originally published Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Hot teen titles for summer readers

Teens will find plenty of heat in this summer's hot titles, which cover everything from tech paranoia to ancient demons to Mr.T-citing crime solvers.

Special to The Seattle Times

Teens will find plenty of heat in this summer's hot titles, which cover everything from tech paranoia to ancient demons to Mr. T-citing crime solvers (hey, he's vintage). Here are some vacation-worthy choices for different types of readers:

Chick-lit fans, save the top spot in your beach reading pile for Michele Jaffe's hilarious "Kitty Kitty" (HarperCollins, 320 pp., $16.99, ages 13 and up). Despite the title, it has little to do with cats or, for that matter, its ostensible plot, a murder mystery set in Venice. It's all about attitude, and high-school senior Jasmine has plenty of that as she channels Mr. T (WWMrTD?), assigns everyone labels (CAUTION: HOT SURFACE for a cute boy) and fends off her ridiculous cousins (who prefer to be called by their faerie names, "Sapphyre with a Y and Tiger's*Eye but the star is silent"). This stand-alone sequel to 2007's "Bad Kitty" is over-the-top fun, so don't bother wondering how Jas' friends manage to turn an arm floatie (to prevent drowning in Venice's canals, natch) into both a fashion statement and a weapon. Just keep a beach towel handy for when Jaffe's absurd non sequiturs send Diet Coke spurting out your nose.

A warning for computer geeks: Beach sand isn't so great for laptops. Instead, carry Cory Doctorow's near-future dystopia, "Little Brother" (Tor, 384 pp., $17.95, ages 13 and up), for tech-guerilla teens who use Xboxes and rock music to fight the government's draconian surveillance measures after a terrorist attack on San Francisco. Doctorow squeezes romance, history, civics and Internet security lessons into this page-turner. Even if you don't agree with his political slant, by the end it's hard not to feel a bit paranoid.

For those who prefer their adventures more on the fantasy side, "Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit" (Arthur A. Levine, 248 pp., $17.99, ages 12 and up) introduces English readers to Nahoko Uehashi's popular Japanese series. Translated by Cathy Hirano and illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, the book begins with bodyguard Balsa's dramatic plunge into a river to save young Prince Chagum's life, with the plot racing along as the two are chased by assassins and a mythical creature that wants to devour Chagum. With conflict between native and conquering cultures, royal intrigue, a spiritual world and a woman warrior fighting lots of battles, "Moribito" should appeal to manga fans up for a novel.

Readers who love first-person narrators and gut-punch plot twists should grab Mary E. Pearson's "The Adoration of Jenna Fox" (Henry Holt, 272 pp., $16.95, ages 14 and up). Seventeen-year-old Jenna knows she "used to be someone," but she's not sure who that was, or who she is now. Like all teens, Jenna searches for her own identity, falls in love and rebels against her parents. But why can't she eat real food? How did she memorize entire novels? As Jenna — and the reader — slowly learn what really happened to her after a horrific car accident, Pearson lays out ethical questions about what defines humanity, memory and soul in a future world where doctors can save just about anyone. But should they?

"House of Dance" (HarperTeen, 272 pp., $16.99, ages 13 and up) by Beth Kephart should be sad — Rosie spends her summer helping her dying grandfather clear out his house — but it's really not. Teens who appreciate poetic phrases and the beauty in quiet moments will understand Rosie's attempts to make meaning in her life through music, color and dance. As Rosie says, "I was thinking about how I was not having what you'd call a typical teenage summer, but then again, I thought, how many summers actually are? How many summers aren't in some secret way lonely?"

Don't have enough cash to travel far from Seattle this summer? Reading local author Deb Caletti's "The Fortunes of Indigo Skye" (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 304 pp., $15.99, age 14 and up) is a little like being a tourist in your own town, seeing the city in a new way. Plus, you get to imagine how you would spend $2.5 million — what one customer tips high-school senior Indigo Skye after she offers him some unsolicited advice to stop smoking and change careers. Grounded by a steady boyfriend and her divorced parents, Indigo strives to "be myself, richer." She soon discovers money's lure can seduce anyone into forgetting that "the absence of wanting equals happiness."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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