Reading books during the season they occur is one of the great joys of my reading life. Who doesn't want to be watching snow falling outside your window while the characters in your book do the same? Or watching the orange and red leaves swirling while your characters going pumpkin picking in cozy cable knit? And YA books set in the summer are a special kind of experience when added to your seasonal TBR. Summer has always been billed as a magical season full of adventure and freedom, and a lot of young adult adheres to that formula. Whether you're reading as a teen with one such special season ahead of you, or as an adult with a desk job hoping to recapture some of that lightness you felt in high school, there are tons of books to tote along on vacation, to the beach or to the park.
The 11 YA books below are all 2017 releases that capture the youthful feelings of summer, but they also explore issues that make them more than just your average fluffy contemporary. If you like your sunshine with a side of family dynamics, questions of tradition, the complications of young love, and learning who you are far away from home, then you're in luck. Add some or all of these to your list of must-reads this season for the best summer reading ever.
1'Girl Out Of Water' by Laura Silverman
Anise Sawyer plans to spend summer with her friends, surfing and throwing bonfires. But when a car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, Anise flies with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth. Complicating matters is Lincoln, a charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home, leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?
2'Alex, Approximately' by Jenn Bennett
Classic movie fan Bailey Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush. Faced with doubts, Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth — her new arch-nemesis. And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own.
3'Geekerella' by Ashley Poston
Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck, Elle’s determined to win… unless her stepsisters get there first. Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons — before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake — until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
4'The Wonder Of Us' by Kim Culbertson
Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship; it's only a year and they've been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches: They haven't talked in weeks. They've both been keeping secrets. Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart?
5'The Names They Gave Us' by Emery Lord (May 16, 2017)
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp — one for troubled kids — Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?
6'In A Perfect World' by Trish Doller (May 23, 2017)
Caroline Kelly is excited to be spending her summer vacation working at the local amusement park with her best friend, exploring Ohio with her boyfriend, and attending soccer camp with the hope she’ll be her team’s captain in the fall. But when Caroline’s mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo, Egypt, Caroline’s plans are upended. Caroline is now expected to spend her summer and her senior year in a foreign country. With this move, Caroline predicts she’ll spend her time navigating crowded streets, eating unfamiliar food, and having terrible bouts of homesickness. But when she finds instead is a culture that surprises her, a city that astounds her, and a charming, unpredictable boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love, and privilege.
7'When Dimple Met Rishi' by Sandhya Menon (May 30, 2017)
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right? Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him — wherein he’ll have to woo her— he’s totally on board. Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
8'It Started With Goodbye' by Christina June (May 9, 2017)
Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.
9'Wesley James Ruined My Life' by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 18, 2017)
Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend — until he ruined her life, that is. So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired. But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.
10'Trusting You and Other Lies' by Nicole Williams (June 20, 2017)
Phoenix can't imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years... do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better? On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum, the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he's impossible to figure out — and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he's promising Phoenix a summer she'll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie?
11'Grace And The Fever' by Zan Romanoff (May 16, 2017)
In middle school, everyone was a Fever Dream fan. Now, a few weeks after her high school graduation, Grace Thomas sometimes feels like the only one who never moved on. She can't imagine what she'd do without the community of online fans that share her obsession. Or what her IRL friends would say if they ever found out about it. Then, one summer night, the unthinkable happens: Grace meets her idol, Jes. What starts out as an elusive glimpse of Fever Dream's world turns into an unlikely romance, and leads her to confront dark, complex truths about herself and the realities of stardom.