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All I Need to Know I Learned from YA Fiction: Summer Job Tips from Your Favorite Books

By now you’re probably tired of every adult in your life asking you what you’re doing this summer. You’ve gone around to your favorite stores two or three times and are finally coming to the stark realization that all the best mall jobs were snatched up some time in April by kids who have more job experience than you. And there’s no way you’re babysitting again. So it’s time to get serious and take some much-needed advice from the most trustworthy source around: young adult fiction.

If a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Say you’re looking for fast cash the year before college and someone offers you $10,000 to help sail a boat from the Virgin Islands to New York City. What should you do? Just say no. The boat is clearly filled with drugs, and chances are you’ll end up in jail and won’t be lucky enough to turn yourself into a Newbery-Award-winning author later in life. —Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

Jobs that seem like the worst are sometimes the best. Not everyone has their pick of jobs, so sometimes you have to take what you can get, even if it sounds like pure misery—like working in a women’s clothing boutique run by your Barbie-esque new stepmother. But how do you know you don’t like designer jeans, the color pink, and the 9 o’clock dance party unless you at least try them? —Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Jobs that seem like the best are sometimes the worst. If you take a job thinking it’s going to be easy money pretending to slave away at your grandfather’s golf course while really slacking off and riding around on golf carts, chances are you’re going to be in for a surprise when working actually does involve work. Sometimes the best ideas are the biggest disappointments. —The Big Game of Everything by Chris Lynch

Jobs that require a costume are never worth it. The summer is hot—much too hot to be outside all day wearing a thousand layers of petticoats and pretending to be a maiden from the Colonial era. If you’ve lived your life as the pretend blacksmith’s daughter, you should already know this. Wake up! Go work at the mall instead! —Past Perfect by Leila Sales

…Unless you get to dress up like a mermaid. The only jobs that get an exception to the no-costume rule are ones where you get to dress up like your childhood fantasy—you know, He-Man, Cinderella, or a mermaid. Extra points if the mermaid costume helps you uncover a deep, dark family secret. —Mermaid Park by Beth Mayall

Keep in mind that hard labor can lead to hard abs. Hours of backbreaking work in the hot sun digging holes, hauling dirt and rocks, and sweating like crazy probably isn’t your first choice (unless you’re sentenced to mandatory community service), but it can turn your nerd arms into manly muscles in time for senior year, basically guaranteeing instant popularity and a date with a hot girl. —Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Never turn down free labor from a hot guy. If you’re stuck with an unbelievable terrible job like, say, single-handedly running your parents’ dairy farm, accept any and all free help you can get—particularly if it comes in the form of a handsome and misunderstood quarterback who’s willing to help you train for football season when there’s downtime. —Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Working with your best friend may sound like the best idea ever, but it’s really not. You spend all year talking about how amazing it’s going to be to work together—she’s in the band and you’re her roadie—but one person is always going to disappoint the other and then you’re stuck for months in the same little tour bus with a whole lot of anger. In young adult novels, getting a gig together never works out. —The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Working for your best friend is even worse. Your friendship may survive working together, but it will never survive if one person is the boss—particularly if your best friend is a once-sweet, now backstabbing B-list celebrity trying to claw her way to the top while on location in the South of France. —Girl Stays in the Picture by Melissa de la Cruz

Remember that some jobs will allow you to escape far away from home. Some jobs offer something better than money: escape. If things are a bit rocky at home and you really need a few months away from the grating reality of what your life will look life after your father divorces your wonderful stepmother, consider working on volunteer project out of state for the summer. —How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

— Annie Schutte, currently reading Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

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