Summertime Stories: 8 YA Rom-Coms, Thrillers, and Other Beach Reads

From summer love to camp high jinks to a possible haunting at a beach house, these novels set over the summer have it all. 


From summer love to camp high jinks to a possible haunting at a beach house, these novels set over the summer have it all.

George, Erica. The Edge of Summer. 320p. Little, Brown/Poppy. Jun. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316496766.
Gr 9 Up–Coriander “Cor” Cabot (white) and her best friend Ella (race not stated) have always been fascinated with whales and had planned to attend a marine biologist internship together before college. However, Ella’s tragic death in the sea the summer before has left Cor to complete their shared bucket list on her own. Cor spends her summer internship on Cape Cod with the hope of saving the humpback whales as a promise to Ella. However, her priorities are put into question when she meets handsome local lifeguard, Mannix (white), who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. Over the course of the summer, Cor must come to terms with her grief and regret and decide if she’s willing to embrace the opportunity for first love along with other possibilities. George’s personal passion for whales and other marine life is evident in this coming-of-age story that sheds light on how these creatures suffer at the hands of humans. The author brings awareness to a younger audience by intertwining it with the realistic transitional period between high school and college that young adults typically experience. Also, through the creation of some diverse and compassionate characters, she produces a heartfelt story that demonstrates the power kindness and acceptance can have on a person. VERDICT This is a great beachy YA romance that is perfect for fans of Sarah ­Dessen and Jenny Han.–Lacey Webster

Kaylor, Serena. Long Story Short. 336p. Wednesday Bks. Jul. 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250818416.
Gr 9 Up–While Beatrice is technically a genius, the 16-year-old’s blatant inability to connect with others makes her parents hesitate about sending her to Oxford. However, they’ll agree to her college choice if Beatrice survives a trial run at a four-week summer camp. The catch is, it’s theater camp, at which Beatrice must participate in the acting section while completing a list of ­parent-made goals. Oblivious to social norms, Beatrice’s introduction to camp leads to a new enemy in the form of the camp founders’ son, Nik. With her future on the line, this one shot to embrace teenage life forces Beatrice to explore the world beyond her textbooks. Kaylor’s debut novel gives socially struggling individuals and theater lovers a space to feel seen. Beatrice’s relationships with her fellow campers paints the trial and errors of connecting with people through conversation and consent. The monthlong camp creates a perfect setting for stepping out of one’s comfort zone to become an active participant in life. Beatrice’s anxiety is handled quite realistically, and with care, comforting those with similar issues. ­Delightfully, the first meeting between ­Beatrice and Nik leads to an enemies-to-lovers trope which doesn’t disappoint. While the tidy ending might be a bit of a reach for some, a “happily ever after” seems plausible when you throw a bunch of overly emotional, entirely lovable theater nerds together. Beatrice is cued white, Nik is biracial (South Asian and white). VERDICT For the introverted and theater fans alike, this is a must-read summer camp romp.–Emily Walker

Leno, Katrina. Sometime in Summer. 416p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2022. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9780316194518.
Gr 7-10–Fourteen-year-old Anna Lucia Bell is a firm believer in luck, and it seems that lately all she is experiencing is the bad kind. Her parents are getting divorced, her mom is selling the family bookstore, and she got into a fight with her best friend. When her mom whisks her away to a cottage on the east coast for the summer, Anna is skeptical. Once they arrive, however, an extended ­meteor shower brings about the ­possibility of wishes and new beginnings. Between reading and going to the beach, Anna ­discovers a pair of new friends who give her more ­insight into what she has been going through than she could ever have imagined. Leno immerses readers in an intoxicating small town with old-fashioned charm. There is just about an equal amount of time spent discussing what Anna’s parents are facing as there is to her experiences. The time travel aspect presented in this novel is intriguing but is unfortunately underdeveloped and is not properly explained. VERDICT This coming-of-age tale of love and family with a touch of magical realism will appeal to readers who are around Anna’s age.–Aliza Mangefrida

McNeil, Gretchen. Dig Two Graves. 352p. Disney-Hyperion. May 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781368072847.
Gr 9 Up–Neve Lanier has always been an outcast in school, but when her best friend, Yasmin, betrays her, she goes from outcast to public enemy number one, facing severe harassment from her classmates during the final months of her junior year. Neve, bisexual and closeted, doesn’t expect to be making new friends anytime soon, especially not at GLAM summer camp, but she’s surprised to enjoy the camp and the girls she befriends there, especially the alluring Diane. As the two grow closer, Neve shares her pain at Yasmin’s betrayal with Diane, who in return reveals that her stepbrother has been sexually assaulting her. On the last night of camp, the girls bond over the idea of killing each other’s tormentors, Neve assuming it’s a joke. But then Yasmin ends up dead, and Neve suddenly finds herself living out the plot to Strangers on a Train. This thriller quickly picks up the pace following Neve’s return from camp, giving the novel an exciting, edge-of-your-seat feel. Character development, however, suffers in exchange for plot. Neve begins the novel with bad taste in friends and a better-than-everyone attitude; she ends the novel basically the same, but with one decent friend. VERDICT An easy sell to thriller readers craving a great twist, pair this with You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook for a fun comparison of the “murder in exchange for murder” plot.–Mariah Smitala

Mele, Dana. Summer’s Edge. 336p. S. & S. May 2022. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534493117.
Gr 9 Up–Chelsea, Ryan, Chase, and Mila arrive at Kennedy’s family lake house one year after the date of Emily’s death. On that day, the house burned to the ground with Emily trapped in the attic, but Kennedy’s family has just finished rebuilding an exact replica on the very spot where the old one stood. Most of the group has summered at the lake house for the past 10 years, so there are lots of old and new grudges, relationship drama, and friend fights that need to be navigated. When a set of tarot cards that clearly represent each of the teens start creepily appearing around the house, and a game of Truth or Dare gets really scary, the group starts to wonder if Emily is haunting them, and why. Narrated in turn by Chelsea, Kennedy, and Emily, as each voice takes over, new clues are slowly revealed. The atmosphere is where this novel shines, as there is clearly something wrong that readers can’t quite make out. Unfortunately, characterization isn’t as strong as other aspects of the writing, so keeping up with who is talking and when gets confusing as the story twists and turns. Some of this is probably purposeful, and it all makes sense just a few pages from the end, but it might take a patient reader to get there. All characters are presumed white; Kennedy and Chelsea are in a relationship. VERDICTT Thrillers are always in demand, and this one should mostly satisfy that die-hard crowd.–Mandy Laferriere

Rains, Annie. The Matchbreaker Summer. 288p. Random/Underlined. Apr. 2022. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780593481554.
Gr 7 Up–Sixteen-year-old Paisley Manning (white) has been attending her parents’ Camp Starling since she was little, but since her father passed away four years ago, her mom has mainly run it alone. Days before her first day as a camp counselor, her mom breaks the news that this will be their last year at camp because she has decided to sell it. Paisley is devastated when she’s also informed that her mom’s boyfriend’s mother is sick, so they will all be moving to Wyoming soon to care for her. Feeling gloomy on her first day at camp, Paisley runs into Hayden Bennett (white), a cute boy who has a reputation at school for getting into trouble. Paisley has always been a rule-follower, but she and Hayden make a plan to break up her mother’s relationship in the hope of avoiding the move. This is a sweet coming-of-age story about a girl who unexpectedly finds romance while also facing major life changes. In addition, it explores the dynamics of mother/daughter relationships and high school friendships. ­VERDICT This teen rom-com by contemporary romance author Rains is perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins and younger YA readers.–Lacey Webster

Romero, R.M. The Ghosts of Rose Hill. 384p. Peachtree. May 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781682633380.
Gr 9 Up–Ilana Lopez is biracial Jewish ­Latina, born and raised in Miami by immigrant parents. Ilana’s passion is music and playing her violin. This is crushing to her parents, who do not want her to struggle as they did. Attempting to snap her out of it, they take away her violin for the summer and send her to stay with her dad’s sister, Aunt Žofie, in Prague. Aunt Žofie lives at Rose Cottage on Rose Hill. Arriving in Prague, Ilana discovers a neglected cemetery on her aunt’s property. She begins to spend time clearing and maintaining the matzevots (tombstones), and is met with the ghost of Benjamin, a teen who died a century ago. They form a bond, and with Benjamin, Ilana discovers the magic and the history of Prague, of all those forgotten. While facing the horrors and monsters of the past of her people in Europe, and in feeling sadness, Ilana confronts her own demons and struggles. Romero’s novel is beautifully written in heartbreaking verse. The blending themes of Jewish heritage, fairy tales, romance, monsters, and ghosts results in a rewarding read. Romero’s writing seeps into the deepest part of the reader, providing much to think about in regards to love and death, passion and heartbreak. Broken down into four movements (a nod to classical music composition, no doubt), the novel’s vibrant prose produces vivid imagery. VERDICT A modern folktale, a love letter to the diaspora, and a unique novel-in-verse, this work is recommended for all teen collections.–Gretchen Schulz

Rubin, Julia Lynn. Primal Animals. 304p. Wednesday Bks. May 2022. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250757296.
Gr 9 Up–Sixteen-year-old Arlee Gold arrives for her first summer at Camp Rockaway, a college preparatory program deep in the wilderness that sets elite young people on the path to the Ivy Leagues. Though she struggles with anxiety, intense panic, and a deep phobia of bugs, she is brave and determined to find her place and succeed there as a legacy camper in the shadow of her successful mother, a feared camp legend. Despite the stigma set upon her by her mother’s mysterious reputation, Arlee finds family with her bunkmates. Their cabin is a sanctuary for an inclusive, supportive, and loving cast of characters including Ginger, a trans musician; Winnie, Arlee’s sapphic love interest; and Jane, who is Black. Other campers’ identities are not discussed. At long last, Arlee’s found a place she can belong. However, her harmonious camp experience begins the slow descent into horror when she’s invited to join the camp’s secret sorority, whose aim to “protect the girls” may not be as heroic as it seems. This dark and disturbing psychological horror will keep readers turning pages to learn every answer they can about what’s really going on at that camp, but it’s definitely not for the squeamish. VERDICT A disturbing psychological horror for readers who like to savor a gripping yet slow-burning, sinister story, and who don’t shy away from the gruesome.–Kayla Fontaine

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