What To Read If You Loved Sarah Dessen Growing Up

by Kerri Jarema

We all had our favorite authors and genres as a teen. I, for one, was a massive Meg Cabot devotee, and I plowed through her entire catalogue during my breaks from school-mandated reading. Chances are pretty high that if you were in a pre-teen or teen in the early 2000's, you also had some Cabot on your reading list, along with Ann Brashares or maybe Louise Rennison. But for many YA readers at the time, no summer TBR would have been complete without at least one Sarah Dessen novel.

Dessen has been penning coming-of-age stories like Once and For All, This Lullaby, and Along for the Ride (all three of which are set to be adapted by Netflix) for over two decades, making her the queen of the summer self-discovery story. And she's still at it, with her most recent release, The Rest of the Story, having just hit shelves on June 4. Dessen's novels are known for their deft explorations of young love, life-changing friendship, and intense family issues, all taking place during one summer in the lives of her protagonists.

If you're looking for the same summer feels of those novels you've read so many times that they're now waterlogged from being dropped in the pool, have sand stuck in their spines and sunscreen splotches on their covers, I've got 13 books below that will make the ideal additions to your summer reading list:

'Second Chance Summer' by Morgan Matson

When Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, her parents decide to spend one last summer all together at their old lake house. As the summer progresses, Taylor reunites with her best friend, reconnects with her first love, and gets to know her family again. But they’re all more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock.

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'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Maurene Goo

When Clara Shin takes a prank too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. As the summer progresses, Clara gets to know Rose, and finds herself invested in her father's business. Now she has to decide whether it's time to leave her old self behind.

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'The Summer I Turned Pretty' by Jenny Han

Everything magical in Belly's life happens between June and August, when she's at the beach house with her mother, her mother's best friend Susannah, and Susannah's sons, Jeremiah and Conrad. The boys have been her brother figures, her crushes, and a lot of things in between. Until the summer when everything changes.

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'The Education of Margot Sanchez' by Lilliam Rivera

After “borrowing” her father's credit card, Margot Sánchez finds herself working at her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, but her invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama keep her from her goal.

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'Famous in a Small Town' by Emma Mills

When the marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s Sophie's job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, to come back to the Midwestern town for a fundraising festival. What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything.

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'Start Here' by Trish Doller

Willa and Taylor were supposed to spend the summer sailing with their best friend, Finley. But Finley died before graduation, leaving them with a sailboat, a list of clues leading them to destinations along the way, and a friendship that’s hanging by a thread. Now, Willa and Taylor have to discover how life works without Finley — and if their own friendship is worth saving.

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'If It Makes You Happy' by Claire Kann

Winnie is spending her summer working at her granny’s diner in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep. Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner — but it'll go away if they can't make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution: win a televised cooking competition. Now, she just has to find a way around her formidable grandmother.

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'Everything Leads to You' by Nina LaCour

Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

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'Field Notes on Love' by Jennifer E. Smith

British-born Hugo is determined to take his train trip across the U.S., even though he's just been dumped. But the nontransferable companion ticket is booked under his ex's name, Margaret Campbell. When Mae finds Hugo's ticket offer online, she jumps on it. When the two meet, the attraction is undeniable. But when life off the train interferes, will they manage to stay on track?

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'What If It's Us' by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it. Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, neither knows exactly what the universe has in store for them.

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'Stay Sweet' by Siobhan Vivian

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery — the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade. Since then, the stand has been managed exclusively by local girls. But when Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, she isn't sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives.

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'I Wanna Be Where You Are' by Kristina Forest

When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply to the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the audition. She hits a speed bump, though, when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride with his dog, Geezer. But when with roadside hijinks and a few broken rules lead to romance, anything can happen.

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'The Rest of the Story' by Sarah Dessen

Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good… until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family. When Emma arrives at North Lake, she starts to piece together her family's past, leading her to rethink everything.

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