"Nightbird" by Alice Hoffman (Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, $17)

For Twig Fowler, "being unusual is not unusual," but that doesn't mean it's easy. Twig and her orchard-owning, pie-making mom are isolated because of a truly unusual family secret. Bound to a witch's curse, the Fowlers find the secret to be as constant a presence as the delicious scent of fresh-baked pies made with the orchard's heirloom pink apples. The story becomes spellbinding as the arrival of new neighbors stirs the possibility of friendship and a dangerous revelation.

"The Penderwicks in Spring" by Jeanne Birdsall (Alfred A. Knopf, $17)

Destined to be another classic, this utterly engaging new volume in Jeanne Birdsall's beloved series focuses on the younger members of the Penderwick clan. While toddler Lydia twirls around in crowns and tutus and Ben pursues his passion for digging up rocks, Batty mourns the death of her adored Hound, celebrates the return of a hero neighbor, longs for more time with her music-loving mentore, Jeffrey, launches a dog-walking business, learns a disturbing secret and discovers something very special about herself. "The Penderwicks," the first in the series, won a National Book Award in 2005.

"Off the Page" by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer (Delacorte Press, $20)

For a book that takes readers to worlds within worlds, "Off the Page" is tops. This companion volume to the mother-and-daughter authors' "Between the Lines" keeps the cleverness coming as the ultimate fantasy of book-loving teen Delilah comes true: Her hero — a fairy tale prince, no less — moves out of his book and into Delilah's world. The ensuing events are by turns surprising, laugh-out-loud funny and poignant as Delilah and her hero learn that real love can require sacrifices.

"Shadow of the Wolf" by Tim Hall (Scholastic/ David Fickling Books, $19)

Starting by recounting the wild childhood adventures of Robin and Marian, this edgy version of the Robin Hood legend takes off like an arrow from a crossbow and just keeps whizzing forward. Robin and Marian are in constant jeopardy as the evil sheriff captures and imprisons Marian. This chase story plaits courage and devotion into a love knot, as Robin evades, battles, slays and is blinded by the sheriff's henchmen in his quest to save his soul mate.

"Anything Could Happen" by Will Walton (Scholastic/Push, $18)

When a gay teen finds himself falling for his straight best friend, is the object of a girl's serious crush and is also dealing with bullying by the son of his father's business partner, the intersection between friendship and attraction becomes a hazardous crossing. But 15-year-old Tretch demonstrates that honesty, trust — and some awesome dance moves — can carry him beyond angst to becoming his true self and a boon to others.

"The Truth About My Success" by Dyan Sheldon (Candlewick Press, $17)

Despite the first-person singular title, this story is a tale of two teens from two extremely different sides of the Hollywood tracks. Here, a spoiled movie star and her humble look-alike learn a great deal when they exchange real-life and on-screen roles. It takes more than 80 pages to really get into what makes teens tick, but then the plot moves along toward a truly satisfying conclusion.

"All We Have Is Now" by Lisa Schroeder (Scholastic/Point, $18, on sale July 28)

With an asteroid careening toward Earth, two homeless teens weigh taking control of their own deaths in advance of the fatal collision or using their last 48 hours to grant the wishes of others. Choosing the latter leads them to find joy in giving, admit their secret desires and dare to stare down their own emotional vulnerabilities. By turns scary and heartwarming, this page-turner spotlights how a frightening situation keenly enhances an appreciation for living.

Rosemary Herbert is a longtime literary critic, former librarian for children and youths and the author of "Front Page Teaser: A Liz Higgins Mystery."