11 Novels About Life-Changing Summers That Just Might Inspire You To Take Your Own Dog Days By Storm

You all remember that one, epic summer, right? I'm talking about the crazy summer that began with you feeling like anything was possible, and by the time the leaves started to turn orange around their edges, had taken you somewhere you'd never expected. Maybe yours happened back in the days of those sepia-tinted photographs you keep stashed in a shoebox in the back of your closet, or maybe it started only a few weeks ago — but either way, once you've experienced the uncontrollable spirit of adventure that arrives alongside longer days and blonder highlights, it’s impossible to forget.

What is it that makes summer feel like the ideal season for disruption, debauchery, and disorder anyway? Perhaps it's all the free, unstructured time away from school, or the fact that as the weather heats up, so does all that drama in your life. Literature, just like life, is filled with stories about life-changing summers, and characters who underwent major evolutions, circa June through August.

So whether you’ll spend your summer learning the ways of the wilderness as a camp counselor, embarking upon the cross-country road trip you’ve been planning since forever, or finally, FINALLY having that perfect summer romance you’ve always fantasized about, add a little heft to your backpack, glove compartment, or beach tote with a few of these 11 reads about life-changing summers.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

In Tuck Everlasting , the Tuck family drinks from a magical spring, as one is wont to do, and discovers that they are destined (or perhaps cursed) to live forever. In the summer of 1880, when 10-year-old Winnie Foster meets the Tuck family, and falls a little bit in love with the young Jesse Tuck, she discovers their secret and is met with the choice to drink from the spring herself and live forever alongside the Tucks, or to continue the natural progression of her life. No matter which decision she ultimately makes, after meeting the Tucks, Winnie's life will never be the same.

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

From the author who wrote everyone's beloved Baby-sitters Club series, A Corner of the Universe tells the story of 12-year-old Hattie Owen, who lives in the boarding house her family runs in the small town of Millerton. The arrival of summertime brings with it Hattie's never-before-seen Uncle Adam, whose institution for the handicapped has shut down, leaving him with nowhere to live. Although her family is ashamed of Adam, Hattie begins to develop a friendship with her uncle — one that will leave her changed forever.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

There are 10 rules that govern the use of the "traveling pants": they cannot be washed, removed by a gentleman caller, or worn in any manner that would render them unstylish, to name a few. They also must be worn with love. With these guiding principles, four best friends prepare to embark upon their first summer spent apart since they were practically in-utero, in Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . For three months they'll send one pair of jeans back and forth between themselves, allowing the pants to witness each of their unique, life-altering adventures before returning home, and to one another, at the end of the summer.

You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith

When Emma Healy discovers the birth certificate, and subsequent death certificate, of a twin brother she never knew she had, her sense of self suddenly comes into clearer focus. Emma, somewhat begrudgingly, allows her next door neighbor Peter to accompany her on a journey to North Carolina, to visit her brother's grave. You Are Here tells the story of the summer road trip that brings this awkward pair together, in funny and unexpected ways, and forever changes the way Emma understands herself and her family.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Prodigal Summer takes readers into the Appalachian Mountains and surrounding farmland, weaving three different stories together into one gorgeous novel. Deanna Wolfe lives an isolated life as a biologist, high in the mountains; Lusa Maluf Landowski was a scholar before she became a young, unlikely farmer's wife; and Garnett Walker and Nannie Land Rawley are pitted against one another over the use of pesticides on their adjoining farmland. Throughout one summer all of these characters encounter one another, building unlikely relationships that will move their lives forward in ways they never could have expected.

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer

In Proof of Forever , photobooths lead to time travel. After the camera flashes, four once-best-friends: Joy, Luce, Tali and Zoe, are transported back to the summer they spent at Camp Okahatchee when they were 15. The group is reminded of those months when they were inseparable — and the promises they made, and broke, to one another. This novel tells the story of a summer of second chances, when destroyed friendships are given a chance to be built anew.

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle

Vicky Austin is spending the summer away from Manhattan, living on the small, Seven Bay Island where her grandfather is dying of Leukemia. Looking for an escape from the pain of watching her grandfather grow more and more ill, Vicky becomes involved with a young marine biologist, Adam Eddington, who enlists Vicky's help with his research on dolphins. A Ring of Endless Light proves three things: Madeleine L'Engle will always be a rockstar, dolphins are kind of the greatest animals ever, and life-changing summers will never go out of style.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The complex, life-altering events of this novel always seem to happen during the summer — three summers, to be exact, between 1933 and 1935. Jean Louise Finch, aka Scout, is the daughter of a lawyer living in the Deep South during the Great Depression. When Scout's father is assigned to represent an African American man falsely accused of raping a white woman, the racial tensions of this small town reach their boiling point. Through it all, To Kill a Mockingbird is the coming-of-age story of Scout, and the ways in which the violence and mercy she witnesses will change the way she sees the world forever.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Macy is not looking forward to spending her summer boyfriend-less, studying for the SATs, and trying to be the perfect daughter to her mother in the wake of her father's death. But in The Truth About Forever , Sarah Dessen takes Macy's dreaded, predictable summer and turns it upside down. Macy meets Wes, that "bad boy" who never gets any less appealing, takes a catering job at a company filled with hectic, hilarious characters, and helps her sister revive some long-lost memories in her family's beach house. Macy's boring summer turns into one of growth and adventure in the way all great summers do.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

In Summer of My German Soldier , Patty Bergen is a young Jewish girl living in Jenkinsville, Arkansas during World War II, when a prisoner of war internment camp is set up in her hometown. Anton Reiker, one of the prisoners in the camp, speaks English and stands out in Patty's mind, even though he fought alongside the Nazis. That summer, when Anton escapes from the internment camp, he and Patty form an unbelieveable friendship — one that proves to readers love will always be stronger than war.

Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer

Jenna Boller sells shoes like a champ, and as a result, her boss at Gladstone's Shoes, Madeline Gladstone, hires Jenna to drive her on a cross-country goose chase in order to save her business, which is at risk of being taken over and destroyed. Rules of the Road is the hilarious, folly-filled story of two women — one young and insecure, and the other old and armed with advice — on a summertime mission that will change both their lives (and hopefully, rescue their beloved shoe store.)

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