These books offer great escapes from routine

We are back in the groove. School, homework, reading assignments, soccer practice, gymnastics, piano lessons, go to bed early, get up early-we’ve only been in school one month and it feels like summer was a million years ago. And I’m the mom; I’m not even the one going to school.

Give yourself a break; find some time to mellow out and pick up one of these great books. HIT THE ROAD, by Caroline B. Cooney, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $17.99; ages 11-14.

I can’t stop thinking about this book. On the surface, it’s a simple story of a teenager and her grandmother on a terrific adventure together.

Brittney, who has had her driver’s license for only 11 days, gets roped into driving her 86-year-old grandmother and two of her grandmother’s friends to their 65th class reunion. As if driving on the highway with old-lady-back-seat-drivers isn’t adventurous enough, the escapades are just beginning. Brittney is on the cross-country drive of her life and so are her three companions. First they pick up Florence, then they kidnap Aurelia from her nursing home, then they fight Aurelia’s evil son. And all the while, Brittney keeps getting calls on her cell phone from Coop, the boy she has had a crush on for ages. Why does he decide to call now? And what would her parents say if they knew where she was and who she was with?

This story is not really about driving three old ladies to their class reunion; the story is about being old and saying goodbye. The story is about being a teenager and figuring out your grandmother wasn’t always an old lady and that she has feelings, hopes and dreams-just like you do. This story is about me and what I can learn from my 90-year-old Grandma GiGi; it is about you and what you can learn from your grandmother. PEACHES, by Jodi Lynn Anderson, HarperCollins, $16.99; ages 13-15.

Murphy, Leeda and Birdie are three totally different 16-year-olds. They have different backgrounds and different kinds of families. Then summer comes and they find themselves all working on the same Georgia peach farm.

Birdie is shy but determined to help her dad save the peach farm. Leeda is Birdie’s gorgeous, wealthy cousin who volunteers to spend the summer at the farm on a whim. And Murphy is the rebel who has to work on the farm to serve out her community service. At first, the girls avoid each other, but after a few adventures they learn to share their differences and they discover their similarities.

In the end, the girls learn that friendship can help them through anything. WHAT IF … EVERYONE KNEW YOUR NAME, by Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $8.95; age 12-15.

Fifteen-year-old Hayley and her family are moving and Hayley will be making a fresh start at a new school. Who will her friends be? What classes will she take? Will she hook up with that cute boy next door? The choices are all yours.

You determine what happens to Hayley from the moment she walks out her front door on the first day of school. You get to decide. At the end of every chapter you have choices. Should Hayley take the bus? Walk? Get a ride from her dad? Turn the page to your choice and your choice becomes hers.

This book is so much fun. First, I read the book following the pages of my choices. Then I read the book following the pages of different choices. My favorite part was when the end of the chapter tells you that you didn’t make a very good choice and you should go back to the beginning and start over.

MAXIMUM RIDE: SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER, by James Patterson, Little, Brown and Co., $16.99; ages 12 and up.

Fourteen-year-old Max and her friends-turned-family-Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy and Angel-are back, and this adventure is bigger and better than the first book, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment.

The Erasers are now smarter, stronger and faster; Max and her flock must learn to adapt to all the new tricks the Erasers throw at them. Fang is injured so badly they have to take him to a hospital. Of course, the doctors figure out he is no ordinary kid and sure enough, the FBI shows up. Agent Anne talks the kids into going to her house and she even enrolls them in school. The flock finds itself happy, comfortable and learning how nice it is to be normal. But things aren’t always as they seem; soon trouble, betrayal and danger are back.

Max finds love, Iggy finds his parents and Angel’s pet dog learns to speak-really. This book is a page-turning thriller and the ending is left wide open for more.

Sandi Pedersen is the mom of four and the Web mistress for Chicago Parent.

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