From The Guide: Summer of Change

Summertime can be life-altering for young adults — preparing for work or college, travel, camp, summer jobs, etc. YA authors like Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer E. Smith have a way of capturing those quintessential coming-of-age experiences. Teens seeking read-alikes or the perfect beach or camping books might like these recent YA novels recommended in the Horn Book Guide. Also check out the High School section of our annual Summer Reading list and the Magazine’s 2013 article, “What Makes a Good YA Love Story?”

—Cynthia K. Ritter
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Culbertson, Kim  The Wonder of Us
332 pp.     Scholastic/Point     2017     ISBN 978-0-545-73151-5

Alternating accounts convey odd-couple best friends Abby’s and Riya’s contrasting perspectives on an epic European trip, planned as a way to reconnect after Riya moved to Berlin and Abby remained in California. The breezy travel narratives slowly reveal a layered, complex relationship struggling to survive secrets and individual change; nuanced characterizations make the evolving friendship feel both relatable and believable.

Ellen, Tom and Ivison, Lucy  A Totally Awkward Love Story
307 pp.     Delacorte     2016     ISBN 978-0-553-53732-1
ebook ISBN 978-0-553-53733-8

Told in alternating narratives, soon-to-be college freshmen Hannah and Sam recount their bumbling love story, beginning in the bathroom at a party and defined by comical mishaps and missed connections. Both characters are relatable and charming in unique ways; the now-adult coauthors, whose own teenage relationship is the basis for this lightly raunchy rom-com, offer humorous insights into (non)traditional romance.

Goo, Maurene  The Way You Make Me Feel
323 pp.     Farrar     2018     ISBN 978-0-374-30408-9

After a school prank goes too far, sixteen-year-old Clara Shin must spend the summer in L.A. working in her father’s Korean-Brazilian food truck rather than visiting her Instagram-famous mom in Tulum, Mexico. The job, however, forces Clara to drop her defenses and open herself to new relationships — including with her dad, for whom she has renewed appreciation. Humor enlivens this enjoyable account of summer self-discovery.

Kann, Claire  Let’s Talk About Love
281 pp.     Feiwel/Swoon     2018     ISBN 978-1-250-13612-1
ebook ISBN 978-1-250-13882-8

Biromantic, asexual, African American college student Alice finds herself magnetically attracted to handsome coworker Takumi at her summer library job. Besides questioning the nature of that attraction, she reexamines other aspects of her identity and future plans (her ambitious parents add pressure to the latter). A cast of supportive friends and accessible, often humorous prose recommend this refreshingly diverse intersectional romance.

Karim, Sheba  That Thing We Call a Heart
279 pp.     HarperTeen     2017     ISBN 978-0-06-244570-4

Shabnam, a secularized Pakistani American girl excited to go off to college, lost her friendship with Farah when Farah started wearing the hijab. The two reconnect over the summer, but Shabnam’s romance with non-Muslim boy Jamie concerns Farah. Shabnam’s father’s love for Urdu poetry and Sufism adds further interest to this affecting coming-of-age story that realistically portrays the diversity of the U.S. Muslim community.

Katcher, Brian  Deacon Locke Went to Prom
389 pp.     HarperCollins/Tegen     2017     ISBN 978-0-06-242252-1

Tall and awkward Deacon takes his grandmother to prom, but he doesn’t expect a video of them dancing to go viral. Deacon gets a reality-TV offer just when his grandmother may be losing her faculties, and minor fame also complicates his blossoming romantic relationship. Deacon’s internal commentary on the story’s situations and conversations displays an endearing genuineness and healthy perseverance.

Menon, Sandhya  When Dimple Met Rishi
380 pp.     Simon Pulse     2017     ISBN 978-1-4814-7868-7
ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-7870-0

Rishi is excited to meet Dimple, a girl his parents have chosen for him to marry; fiercely independent Dimple knows nothing of the arrangement. After a bad first impression, the two, with differing attitudes toward their Indian American culture, fall in love at their summer web development program in San Francisco. Alternating narration provides deep character insight in this delightful, observant rom-com.

Vivian, Siobhan  Stay Sweet
359 pp.     Simon     2018     ISBN 978-1-4814-5232-8
ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-5234-2

Seventeen-year-old Amelia is “Head Girl” of a famous female-owned and -operated ice-cream stand. When the stand’s elderly founder dies and leaves her college-aged grandnephew in charge, Amelia takes on new business responsibilities. This atmospheric summer romance is all about female leaders and entrepreneurship; an emphasis on the business’ WWII–era origins provides a historical thread.

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards. Reviews are from recent or forthcoming issues of The Horn Book Guide. For more information about subscribing to the Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online, please visit
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