For many, summer will always be associated with vacation–and vacation reading habits. And just as we each have an ideal vacation, so too do we have personal definitions of vacation reading. As a generally omnivorous reader, I’ll fill my suitcase and e-reader with anything from favorite mystery series to thrilling high fantasy novels.
However, even I must admit that there is something about love stories that makes them particularly well suited for vacation reading. It might be inherent optimism in love stories–even those lacking a tidy, happy ending. They revolve around the belief that human connection is meaningful, fragile, and precious; what could be a more encouraging? Happily, the last few months have produced several rich and varied titles perfect for readers seeking a good love story to dive into this summer.
Everything Leads To You – Nina LaCour
When her older brother offers her his apartment for the summer, ambitious young set designer Emi can hardly believe her luck; it’s the perfect place for Emi & her best friend Charlotte to spend their final pre-college summer together. But Toby hands over the keys with one condition: they must do something epic in their temporary home. Then Emi discovers a mysterious letter at an estate sale and the resulting scavenger hunt leads her to Ava. Ava is different from anyone Emi has ever met and their immediate connection is undeniable and electric. But life-long romantic Emi hasn’t had the best luck in love and Ava has a painful history of her own. Can Emi & Ava find the way to their own Hollywood happy ending? Will Emi’s fulfill her brother’s challenge by falling in love–or tumbling into heartbreak? (LaCour was named a 2010 Morris Award Finalist for her debut novel, Hold Still.)
The Geography of Us – Jennifer E. Smith
In this next story of unusual meetings and communication mishaps, solitary bookworm & native New Yorker Lucy and grief-stricken, recent city transplant Owen find their lives unexpectedly colliding when a city-wide blackout strands them in the elevator of their apartment building. Following their rescue, Lucy & Owen explore the powerless city’s strange wonderland together. But when the power returns, their very separate realities come rushing back, tugging them apart. Lucy’s globe-trotting parents move her to Edinburgh just as Owen and his father decide to hit the road, searching for a new life in the wake of his mother’s death. But Lucy & Owen can’t shake their connection and through postcards, emails, text messages, & attempted reunions, the two teens navigate life, love, and the true meaning of home.
Meeting in elevators seems to be the newest romantic trend this summer. While they’ve lived their entire lives in the same area of Brooklyn, Devorah and Jaxon existed in separate worlds until a hurricane hit the city, knocking out the electricity and stranding the pair in a hospital elevator. Devorah has worked hard to be the ideal obedient Hasidic Jewish daughter, following rules to the letter even as she worries about the kind of future her traditional family expects of her. Jaxon is book-smart nerd who has no luck with girls and tries to live up to his West Indian immigrant parents’ high expectations. Despite their incredible differences, Devorah and Jaxon feel inexorably drawn to each other and embark on a secret romance that will force them both to decide exactly how much they’re willing to risk to be together.
One Man Guy – Michael Barakiva
While most of his classmates are celebrating their impending freedom for the summer, Alek Khederian sits across from his parents in a restaurant, listening with horror as they announce that he will be spending the next few months in summer school, working to boost his unsatisfactorily average grades. Alek assumes that summer school will simply be an extension of his fairly horrible freshman year; he never expected that it would lead him to Ethan. Older, confident, Rufus Wainwright-loving, skateboarder Ethan seems like Alek’s precise opposite and at first, Alek can’t imagine why someone as cool as Ethan wants to hang out with him. As their friendship deepens into a tentative romance, Alek must re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about himself–and decide the kind of person he wants to become.
Guy in Real Life – Steve Brezenoff
This next tale of two people from different worlds finding unexpected connection begins at 2:30 am on a dark and damp street in St. Paul, Minnesota. Lesh loves metal music, prefers to dress in all black, and has just discovered the world of online MMO gaming; Svetlana spends her spare time embroidering her clothing, listening Bjork & Berlioz, and acting as dungeon master for her friends’ regular RPG sessions. After Lesh drunkenly knocks into Svetlana’s bike the weekend before school starts, the two of them should simply part ways, brushing off their chance meeting as the accident it seems to be. But somehow, they can’t. Instead, Lesh and Svetlana find their lives suddenly intersecting again and again as the two teens each learn about the roles we play and the rare people who can see through them all to our most private selves.
Say What You Will – Cammie McGovern
Although they’ve gone to school together for years, Amy and Matthew have never really met. Amy has cerebral palsy; she uses a walker to walk, a computerized voice box to speak, and cannot always control her body’s movements. Her elegant essays and academic achievements have won her admiration but not friendship among her peers. Meanwhile, the rituals, inescapable thought cycles, and paralyzing fear of Matthew’s obsessive compulsive disorder increasingly dominate his life, alienating him. When Amy convinces her protective mother to hire peer aides to help her during her senior year and Matthew signs on, the two teens develop a tender friendship that challenges their ideas of love, their perceptions of themselves, and the kind of life each wants to live as they move beyond high school.
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz