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    16 Summery YA Novels For When Seasonal Affective Disorder Is Kicking Your Ass

    Escape into these diverse warm-weather YA novels when the fact that the sun sets at, like, two in the afternoon gets to be a little too real.

    When I wrote my sophomore novel, Rise to the Sun, I’d never felt further away from the subject matter at the center of the book. Knee-deep in a pandemic that didn’t seem to have an ending in sight, I disappeared into a story about music festivals, and maskless meet-cutes, and a summer spent standing next to strangers and screaming lyrics at the stars. As our world shut down, and each of us were expected to disappear into the isolation of our homes, it was the type of escape I needed more than ever. Now, as we face down yet another wave of Covid-19, and the yearly woes of darkness that comes too early and a holiday season that can be just as stressful as it is joyous, I find myself ready to fall into the escapist power of fiction again. 

    These diverse books cover everything from first loves to chaotic bisexual filmmaking to the terrifying adventure that is your freshman year of college, but each of them are the perfectly-summery, warm-weather novels that I’ll be returning to this winter when I need to feel like the sun is kissing my skin (instead of the biting Midwestern cold threatening to freeze my face off).

    1. The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

    Scholastic, Noelle Stevenson

    Release date: June 1, 2021

    What it's about: If you follow me on social media then you know the only thing I wanted to talk about this summer was The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag. This graphic novel is a pitch-perfect summer story about 15-year-old Morgan, who dreams of escaping the tiny island she grew up on and building a life free of her biggest secret: that she dreams of kissing another girl. When an enigmatic selkie named Keltie appears when Morgan least expects it, Morgan is drawn to her ebullience and charisma, and suddenly, the island she’s been yearning to leave is shone in new light. The Girl from the Sea is a delightful coming-of-age story about family, first love, and friendship that you’ll want to return to over and over again.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    2. The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters

    Duet Books, Vanessa North

    Release date: September 8, 2020

    What it's about: I’ve been convinced that Julian Winters is the master of the queer summer romance since his debut, Running With Lions, and The Summer of Everything simply confirmed it. Wes is having a tough summer. He’s pining after his best friend, Nico, his beloved indie bookstore is being threatened by a coffee shop franchise attempting to buy the property, and he can’t figure out what he wants to major in at college in the fall. When everything reaches a boiling point, Wes is finally forced to confront what it means to grow up head on. This book is as perfectly summery as it is swoony.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    3. Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest

    Roaring Brook Press, Steven Forest / Via

    Release date: August 25, 2020

    What it's about: Kristina Forest writes the types of books that’ll just make you want to smile, and Now That I’ve Found You is no exception. Evie Jones is a budding star with a bright future ahead of her... until her best friend betrays her and sends her entire career up in smoke. In a last-ditch effort to save her career, Evie flees to New York to visit her uber-famous grandmother, America’s sweetheart, Evelyn Conaway, in hopes that a public appearance together will get Evie back in the world’s good graces. But when Evelyn disappears, it’s up to Evie to find her, and with the help of the cute and charismatic Milo Williams, she’ll embark on a manhunt (or romantic adventure, depending on how you look at it) around New York City to find her. Now That I’ve Found You is a big city love story that will make you yearn for baskets of fries (read it and you’ll know what I mean) and a summer romance of your own.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    4. Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

    Roaring Brook Press, Author / Via

    Release date: April 21, 2020

    What it's about: If you read Kelly Quindlen’s sophomore novel, She Drives Me Crazy, then you know Quindlen has a unique gift of perfectly pairing hilariously snarky dialogue with heartfelt moments between friends and family. Late to the Party puts those skills on prominent display. Codi Teller is seventeen and has never been kissed. There’s a lot she’s never done, actually. So when her two best friends suggest crashing a party, Codi is hesitant. But when the three arrive, Codi meets Ricky and the two form an unlikely friendship that turns into a summer of adventure (and eventually romance between Codi and a girl named Lydia) that she never could have imagined. Late to the Party is an all-too-relatable story about getting older, finding yourself, and holding on to the people you love that is everything you need to rescue you from dreary winter weather.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    5. Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

    Wednesday Books, Maggie Hall / Via

    Release date: May 11, 2021

    What it's about: Dahlia Adler isn’t just the world’s greatest cheerleader for queer YA, she also happens to be one of young adult fiction’s strongest voices in the romantic coming-of-age space. While you wait for Dahlia’s next soon-to-be-iconic novel, Home Field Advantage, you’ll want to read Cool for the Summer. Lara has wanted to date the alarmingly-hot football star, Chase Harding, since the moment she got to high school. So when the two of them start up a flirtationship, it should be a dream come true. Except Lara can’t stop thinking about Jasmine, the girl she spent the summer with... who also happens to be her newest classmate. Told in alternating timelines between a North Carolinaian summer and a suburban New York school year, Cool for the Summer is exactly what you need to read if stories about self-discovery, self-love, and bi representation are your jam.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    6. Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

    HarperTeen, Olga Pichkova / Via

    Release date: January 7, 2020

    What it's about: If you haven’t read Loveboat, Taipei yet, then you’re going to want to pick up a copy before the star-studded film adaptation (Nico Hiraga! Ross Butler! Ashley Liao!) hits screens. 18-year-old Ever Wong isn’t the girl her parents want her to be. She’s more interested in dancing than becoming a doctor, and certainly more interested in spending her summer with her best friend in Ohio than getting sent off to Taiwan to learn Mandarin for the summer at her parents’ behest. While in Taiwan, Ever is stuck with the types of overachieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including super-smart Rick Woo. But the program her parents have sent her to isn’t all it’s cracked up to be at all. Loveboat is notorious — not for its studies, but for its drama. Ever is finally breaking her parents strict rules, but might end up breaking her own heart in the process. If you love summer stories about messy teens defying expectations and finding themselves, then Loveboat, Taipei is for you.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    7. The Lucky List by Rachael Lippincott

    Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Author / Via

    Release date: June 1, 2021

    What it's about: How is it that Rachael Lippincott manages not only to be hilarious IRL (if her shared TikTok account with her wife and co-writer Alyson is any indication), but also a writer that perfectly captures the complexities and wonders of first love with startling clarity? It’s an embarrassment of riches is what it is! In The Lucky List — Rachael’s first solo novel post-Five Feet Apart success — Emily lost her mom to cancer three years ago, and has been struggling to find her footing ever since. Now, it’s the summer before her senior year, and her life feels like it’s falling apart: Her dad is selling her childhood home and giving away all of her mom’s things, meanwhile her and her boyfriend are on the rocks. But when she finds her mum’s senior year summer bucket list, she and the compelling not-so-new girl, Blake, set off to complete it, stirring up complicated, long-hidden feelings in the process. The Lucky List is a touching summer love story about holding onto the people we love long after they’re gone, and you will shed a tear or two (but trust me, they’re good tears).

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    8. I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre

    Underlined, Erin O'Brien / Via

    Release date: March 2, 2021

    What it's about: Auriane Desombre’s delightful debut, I Think I Love You, is a sapphic rivals-to-lovers story for film geeks and romance nerds alike. Emma and Sophia are filmmakers with very different sensibilities. Emma is a die-hard romantic with a passion for meet-cutes, and Sophia is nauseated by all the fanfare of relationships — especially the kind of starry-eyed passion that Emma seems so fond of. When the two begin to work together for a film festival competition, their ideas for what will win come to a head — until what happens behind the camera begins to imitate the kind of stories Emma loves to see in front of the camera, and the two become the stars of their very own love story. If you enjoy sweet, funny, summery romances then I Think I Love You should be on your TBR pile right this instant.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    9. Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass

    Balzer + Bray, Author / Via

    Release date: May 11, 2021

    What it's about: The Jane Austen classic, Persuasion, is given a fresh-faced twist in Sarah Dass’s stunning debut, Where the Rhythm Takes You — a warm-weather, love story set in a gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago. 17-year-old Reyna’s life hasn’t been the same since her mother died and her best friend and first love Aiden suddenly moved to America. Now, Aiden is back on the island, only he’s not the same boy who left years ago, he’s an international pop star, and a VIP guest at Reyna’s family’s resort. When Aiden is back in her orbit, Reyna is forced to confront all of those complicated feelings about the boy she fell in love with, while also trying to balance expectations and plans for her future — one that may or may not take her away from the island. Where the Rhythm Takes You is exactly the story you need to read if you can’t get enough of second-chance loves stories, and setting that’s so distinct it’s practically a character.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    10. As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper

    Bloomsbury YA, Eileen Meeny Photography / Via

    Release date: February 9, 2021

    What it's about: Phil Stamper is quickly becoming a staple of the small-town queer coming-of-age kidlit space. As a former small-town queer myself, As Far As You’ll Take Me was a rare gem for the Midwestern queer kids aching to find themselves and yearning to be seen. Marty arrives in London with nothing but a dream and a couple dollars in his savings account. He wants to start a new life, free from his conservative hometown where he’s able to be more than the shy, closeteted, queer band kid he’s always been. In London, he’s quickly swept up in an exciting new world: new boyfriend, great friends, exciting travels. But Marty is still living a lie: His parents don’t know that he doesn’t ever plan on coming back home, he's quickly running out of money, and his anxiety is getting worse by the day. Marty left home in order to find one, but will his past always keep him from the future he’s dreamed of? As Far As You’ll Take Me is a satisfying summer coming-of-age story that’ll make you feel all the feels this winter.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    11. The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown

    HarperTeen, Jaye Robin Brown / Via

    Release date: April 20, 2021

    What it's about: In my humble opinion, Jaye Robin Brown is one of the best writers of queer young adult fiction today (seriously, have you read The Meaning of Birds and Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit?). The Key to You and Me is chock-full of Brown’s signature heart and humor, starring two girls named Piper and Kat who ​​embark on a summer of discovery and heart-healing when Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons. As the two spend time together, Piper must come to terms with the breakup that she can’t seem to let go of, and Kat has to face her sexuality thanks to a new crush, and both of them have to try to get Piper to pass her driver’s test. The Key to You and Me is a slow-burn romance with just the right amount of angst to give you back a taste of summer.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    12. Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali

    alaam Reads/Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, Andrea Stenson / Via

    Release date: May 25, 2021

    What it's about: In Misfit in Love, S.K. Ali returns us to the Saints and Misfits universe, and let me tell you, there’s no place I’d rather be. Janna Yusuf is gearing up for her brother Muhammad’s wedding, and she couldn’t be more excited. It’s set to be a family affair, but it’s also going to be an opportunity to rekindle former not-quite-loves. Nuah, the boy who liked her once upon a time, will be home for the weekend, and now that Janna’s grown up a bit, she’s ready to tell Nuah how she feels in return. But the summer love story she has planned is quickly derailed: The wedding plans are quickly becoming contentious, her family dynamics are more complicated than ever, and Nuah isn’t looking at her the way he used to. With new potential loves on the horizon, and college right around the corner, it’s clear that Janna is in for more changes than she bargained for. This summery companion novel perfectly captures the strange middle-ground between childhood and adulthood in a way that’ll have you ready to cheer and rage right alongside the main character.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    13. The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver

    PUSH/Scholastic, Trịnh Hồng Hương / Via

    Release date: June 1, 2021

    What it's about: Mason Deaver ripped my heart out of my chest and then sewed it back together with this devastatingly honest and fiercely healing portrayal of death and what comes after. When Liam Cooper's older brother Ethan is tragically killed, Liam has to navigate life without one of the people they loved the most in the world, along with shifting relationships with their two best friends. The Ghosts We Keep is a different type of summer story, one that will invite you inside of a deep and overwhelming grief, but that also shines a light on finding your way back into life after loss.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    14. Once Upon A Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

    HarperTeen, Nicole Lamkin / Via

    Release date: March 20, 2021

    What it's about: In Once Upon A Quinceañera, Monica Gomez-Hira takes us inside the world of a party princess in Miami — but, like, not the kind of party princess you may be thinking of. Carmen Aguilar is suffering through a summer internship playing a princess for kids birthday parties, and trying to survive working in close proximity to her machismo-filled ex boyfriend, Mauro. But when Carmen’s job takes her to her spoiled cousin’s quinceañera, what was an annoying summer gig, quickly becomes absolutely insufferable. In order to move forward, Carmen is going to have to face her past head-on — especially the parts she’s spent the past few years trying to avoid. This is a hot (literally hot, as in I was sweating just reading about the summer weather in Miami) summer rom-com with laugh-out-loud funny antics and complicated family dynamics, perfect for when those freezing temperatures set in this winter.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    15. Love & Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura

    HarperTeen, Author / Via

    Release date: June 8, 2021

    What it's about: Fake dating is a God-tier romance trope, and it’s always made even better when people of color, specifically queer people of color, get to be at the center of it (I’ll die on this hill). Luckily, Misa Sugiura absolutely nails the fauxmance in Love & Other Natural Disasters. Nozomi Nagai is down for a summer romance, she just wasn’t planning on a fake one. But when she meets Willow — beautiful and a little broken, Willow — Nozomi is more than ready to pose as her girlfriend in an effort to make Willow’s ex jealous. But one lie turns to more than she can balance, and soon, more than just her fake-relationship is at risk. Love & Other Natural Disasters is a sapphic rom-com with POC rep, discussions of coming out, and enough heartfelt moments to fill your stomach with butterflies (even if you’re not actually the one falling in love).

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    16. Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon

    Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins, Author(s) / Via

    Release date: June 22, 2021

    What it's about: So many of my faves came together to make Blackout happen that sometimes I’m convinced I manifested this book by sheer force of will. In this linked novel, we get to read six stories of teenagers falling in love over the course of one night during a blackout in New York City. It’s at turns queer, and hilarious, and heartwarming, but always gloriously and unapologetically Black. If you haven’t picked it up yet, then trust me, you’ll never wish to be in a sweltering heat wave in New York more than you will while reading this one.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.