Summer vacation means more than a break from school to the characters in these books for young adults. Thanks to a chance encounter or freak accident, summer marks the beginning of these teenagers’ real education in life and maturity.
Not all summer vacations are about road trips and theme parks. Check out this summer reading list of books about first love, responsibility, and other rites of passage.
Summer reading books for young adults
Sand Dollar Summer by Kimberly K. Jones
Twelve-year-old Lise loves her life. She loves having a beautiful and strong mother who can stand up to anyone. She loves the bond she shares with her brilliant and mute brother Free. And she loves that she’ll be spending her summer with her friends at a cool summer camp.
But Lise’s world crumbles one day when her mother is hit by a car and left scarred and crippled. To recover, mom moves the family into an old shack by the Maine beach where she grew up. Suddenly Lise feels everything she loved has been taken away. Her usually indulgent mother insists the kids adapt to beach life – yet while Free enjoys the ocean, Lise hates the constantly moving waves and cold depths.
Then Lise meets Ben, an old Indian living in a shack even more dilapidated than hers. Through Ben, Lise learns about sand dollars – rare, shell-like objects that survived the ocean’s hazards – and Ben’s belief that the ocean will take his life, a belief that, ironically, has made him lose his fear of the ocean and given him a sense of peace.
When a hurricane comes to Maine, Lise becomes afraid of Ben’s refusal to leave his home. As the danger level rises, Lise searches for Ben in the storm and discovers just how much the sea can take away – and how much it can give.
Kimberly K. Jones’ first young adult novel offers a great story of a girl struggling to reconcile her relationship with her family, life, and environment. Jones’ depiction of the ocean is particularly vivid – rather than a mere setting, the ocean becomes a character in its own right, with whims and rages that echo Lise’s turbulent personality. Overall a great book that young adults going through their own transitions will relate to.
Kelly ‘n’ Me by Myron Levoy
Anthony Milano is a fifteen-year-old guitarist spending his summer as a street performer in Central Park to help his alcoholic mother pay the bills. One hot August day, he meets Kelly Callahan, a beautiful teenage street singer with dreams of becoming a San Francisco street performer. Attracted by their musical talents, the two form a successful New York street performance act – and soon fall in love.
But when Anthony learns the truth about Kelly’s reasons for wanting to move to San Francisco, he realizes the girl he loves has more layers than he thought – including some that threaten their happiness. As Anthony tries to help Kelly work through her problems, both teenagers learn hard truths about love, generosity, and finding a true identity.
Written by Myron Levoy, author of the award-winning Alan and Naomi, Kelly ‘n’ Me tells a bittersweet New York story of first love and second chances. Levoy’s characters are wonderfully complex; while it’s easy to fall in love with Kelly’s generous spirit, it’s also impossible not to be troubled by her secrets. As the story nears its climax, both Anthony and the reader must decide how they feel about Kelly – and it’s not an easy task.
Special note must also be made about the story’s New York setting which, much like the ocean in Sand Dollar Summer, is almost another character. As Anthony and Kelly’s relationship develops, Levoy lets them experience life in New York’s beautiful high rises and parks as well as its depressing inner-city neighbourhoods – reflecting the highs and lows felt by two teenagers in love. An excellent young adult book for summer reading that will resonate with many readers.