There is no more exciting time of year for a teenager than the summer time, and the same thing can be said for teen fiction. Here is a look at YA literature’s long legacy of summer time stories.
Teen summer reads are no trend! In fact, the first book ever written and published specifically for teenagers was all about the summer time. Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly is considered to be the first young adult novel. Published in 1942, the book tells the story of 17 year old Angie Marrow, who falls in love with a young sailor named Jack Duluth as they spend their summer after high school in the little town of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Despite depictions of teenage life being, at times, comically unrecognizable to modern readers, the book sets the tone for what young adult fiction would look like for years to come. Car rides, house parties, sunsets, mysterious love interests, secret kisses and an ample supply of drama, everyone is searching for the perfect YA summer!
In a sense, all of young adult fiction is written in the shadow of that first YA summer. Below are some of the ways in which YA characters love spending their summers, along with some recommendations of of our favorite summer time stories.
There is nothing like a good road trip. If you gave me the choice between a week at an all inclusive resort or a week with my best friends crossing the country in a mini van, I’m taking the Honda Odyssey every time. Road trip stories let authors take their characters to places they have never been before. It allows them to cram a lifetime of experiences into a few hundred pages. The destination doesn’t matter as much as the stops along the way, the characters you meet and the lessons you learn. As John Green puts it in his roadtripping novel An Abundance of Katherines, “It’s a road trip! It’s about adventure! . . . It’s not like we have somewhere to go.”
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg.
It was at a summer camp in 2008 that I agreed to read Twilight in an attempt to impress a girl, and my life was forever changed. Camp stories allow authors to introduce their protagonists to new challenges, friends and experiences that they would never have at home. Away from the usual social pressures of school and family, it can be an ideal setting for self-discovery and identity formation. Oh and introducing a large amount of teenagers to each other in the wild under minimal adult supervision is also a potent recipe for summer romance. But does it ever last? As YA scholar Derritt Mason explains “summer camp might offer some relief from regular life and potentially help us imagine non-normative options for life and love, but… after all, at the end of summer, you always have to go back home”.
Honor Girl, a graphic memoir by Maggie Thrash
Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer
The Lumber Jane series by Noelle Stevenson and co.
To finish that story about the girl at summer camp, I really did read the entire Twilight series, and she really did never talk to me again. But its okay, I found another crush at camp the following summer, and the summer after that. In parallel with my teenage experience, YA literature is highly prone to summer romances. The real question in any YA summer courtship is “will it last?”. In the original YA summer romance novel, Angie and Jack have to decide if they will stay together in the little town of Fond du Lac forever, or if they will break up and go away to school. Love is either bonded or broken by the pressure that September brings.
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
The Summer of Jordi Pérez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
If one love story is not is not enough, check out Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, a collection of short stories from a whole team of YA authors.