Monday, April 6, 2015

spotlight on: summer contemporaries


the spotlight series is a monthly feature here at Stardust and Words, where we feature a different part of the bookish lifestyle each month! Last month's post, which was a guide to fantasy reads, can be found here
This month, being as it is the last month of school, is making me antsy for summer and everything that it brings. (especially the extra time that I can devote to reading lol) As I have said in a few other posts, in the spring and summer, I tend to be in the mood for cute contemporaries, and am always on the lookout for good ones. So this month, I thought it would be fun to spotlight some contemporaries for summer!

These books are (with the exception of 1) exclusively set in summer or have to do with summer. This is not a comprehensive look at all my favorite contemporaries, just the ones for the hot months. Keep in mind that these are in no particular order, and that there can be multiple books included from a single author. (e.g. Morgan Matson writes amazing book, all her books happen to be set in summer, ergo, many a Morgan Matson on this list.)

1. Second Chance Summer – Morgan Matson

As the title suggests, this is a book that takes place over the course of one extraordinary summer. Taylor and her family take a summer-long vacation at the lakehouse where they used to spend all their summers, forcing Taylor to face some old friends and some old more-than-friends. Though the story definitely has elements of lightheartedness, young love, and friendship, it is by no means just a mindless, happy story. The characters face are hard truths, sickness, forgiveness and admitting wrongs. I love Morgan Matson's writing, and though this is not my number one favorite of hers, I still would give it a five star favorites rating.

2. Amy & Rogers Epic Detour – Morgan Matson

Like I said, I love Morgan Matson, and this is definitely my favorite novel of hers. I love Amy & Rogers with all of my heart. Like Second Chance Summer, there are elements of tragedy and hardship underneath the exterior of a fluffy summer romance. After Amy's Dad died in a car crash, her mother decides to pack up and move across the country, leaving Amy in charge of getting the car from California to Connecticut. But Amy hasn't driven since her father's accident. Enter Roger. Old family friend who needs to get to Pennsylvania and can drive. The two form a shaky bond, but as the miles pass, their relationship deepens and grows. I love road trip stories, and the details that Matson puts into this cross country collection of characters and experiences is amazing.

3. Since You've Been Gone – Morgan Matson

This is Morgan Matson's third and final novel, I promise. Since You've Been Gone is a story of best friends, and specifically, what happens when that best friend that you've come to depend on suddenly disappears, leaving only a list of bizarre instructions in her wake. When Emily's best friend Sloane does just that, Emily enlists the help of friends new and old to help her complete the list and find Sloane. This is the lightest of Matson's three novels, and probably the most fun and quickest. I loved the way the romance developed and the ways that Emily changed throughout the novel.

4. To All the Boys I've Loved Before – Jenny Han

Strictly speaking, the this book does not take place in summer. So, right here, on book four of this list, I've broken my rules for this post. But! This book is so cute and amazing and squee-worthy and I think of it in my head as a summer read, so I couldn't not include it on this list. This is the story of Lara Jean, who, over the course of her life, has never told her respective crushes that she likes them, only poured her heart out in love letters and stored them in her room. But when someone sends the letters, her world is turned upside down as one of her closest friends receives word or her secret crush and she enlists the help of a fake-boyfriend to throw her friend off. I love love love this story, it is so much fun and a definite must read for your summer.

5. My Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick

Definitely a quintessential summer read for me. Samantha and Jase are next door neighbors who, over the course of one summer, simultaneously get to know each other and fall in love. Though it isn't instalove, exactly, they do develop a relationship pretty early in the book, which is something that makes this different from a lot of other YA books that I've read. The story is about their relationship, how they overcome obstacles to stay together, rather than about the buildup to an eventual revelation of feelings that we see so often. It is cute and fluffy, to be sure, but it also felt relatable and real, especially because both families played a huge role in the entire story.

6. What I Thought Was True – Huntley Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick's other novel is a classic story, girl-from-wrong-side-of-tracks-meets-boy-from-right-side type affair. But it is also a lot darker than her other novel, dealing with more serious issues than My Life Next Door did. The romance also takes a lot longer to develop, but that doesn't make it any less sweet. Gwen and Cassidy are naturally at odds. Gwen cleans houses and Cassidy is a trust fund baby. But they also have a history, something that makes Gwen hate Cassidy for something even more than just the obvious disparity between their lifestyles. However, when Cassidy becomes the lawn boy for some of the houses Gwen cleans, the two, perhaps, have a chance to reconcile and maybe even fall in love.

7. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

Pretty much every girl from the ages 10-35 found out about this book in 2005, when the movie based upon it came out. But just in case you missed it: four best friends, who have always spent their summers together, separate for the first time, going across the globe on respective trips. They find a pair of pants that, against all rules of science and humanity, fits all of them, and decide to send them back and forth over the summer. Amazing story, and the book is decidedly darker than the movie, with the girls having to grow up and deal with hard truths over the course of their summers. I love the emphasis on the fact that differences can make friendships stronger, as well as can distance, but in the end, it is you who makes your own decisions, and you who has to deal with their consequences.

8. Falling in Love with English Boys – Melissa Jensen

When Catherine's mom drags her across the pond so she can do research in London for the summer, she is less than thrilled. She has nothing to do except read the journal of Katherine Percival, written in 1815 and remarkably relatable to her own life. When Catherine meets William, who just so happens to be the descendant of the other Katherine, and also super cute, things start to get very interesting. This is told in alternating POVS, which is a definite change. One is Catherine's and one is Katherine's journal, and I definitely liked Catherine's portion of the story better, but by no means are the diary chapters bad or boring. This would be a quick and fun summer read for most.

9. This is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E. Smith

This is the book that we all wish would happen to us in real life. Graham is an uber-famous movie star, and he accidentally sends an email to Ellie, a small town girl living in Maine. This happy accident starts an email chain between the two of them, and it continues happily until Graham actually comes to Ellie's hometown to shoot a movie. Which, of course, is when everything gets complicated. I absolutely flew through this book, as it isn't very long and I couldn't wait to see what happened next. There are some "secrets" being hidden by characters, but I thought they were pretty transparent and wasn't surprised by any of the reveals. Still, this is cute, which is exactly what a summer book should be.

10. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

Honestly, the less you know about We Were Liars going in, the better. I started this book knowing next to nothing about the premise, and that made it such a richer reading experience, because this book is kind of short, and being surprised by everything that was happening made it feel longer. This book definitely has a huge twist at the end, and it is much darker than any of the other contemporaries on this list. It does take place in summer though, it is just a different kind of summer than the rest of these. It is so good and so worth the surprise and mystery though.

11. The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen

There are a couple Sarah Dessen books that I could've put on this list, but to be honest, after I read five or six of them they all started to run together. The Truth about Forever is the one that I do really remember liking, and the only one that I have ever felt like rereading. This is the story of Macy, who has a dead father and a controlling boyfriend and a life that is falling apart. She takes solace, for the summer, in the chaotic world of Wish catering, surrounded by a colorful cast of characters and Wes, who is artistic and honest and strong. In the ensuing days of summer, Macy finds herself growing and changing, and doing things she never thought she would ever do. This is definitely my preferred Sarah Dessen novel, and it is quite perfect for reading whilst laying on a beach or by a lake somewhere.

12. 13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson

Honestly, it has been quite a while since I read this book, so all I remember about it is that a girl has an aunt who sends her envelopes with instructions in them, and said girl runs around, meeting different people, going to different places, following these instructions. And that it takes place over the summer. I've included it here because I do, in fact, remember enjoying the book as I read it, even if I don't remember many of the plot details, and also because it is very popular with many others on goodreads and in the blogging sphere.

13. On the Fence – Kasie West

Charlie has grown up around all men, and so she excels at sports, but not so much at communication. With her single dad, three brothers, and quasi-brother of a next door neighbor, she is happiest when playing some sort of sport. But when she gets a job at a boutique and starts to spend time around girls for really the first time in her adolescent life, she finds that there might be more to her than just one side. I loved that this book didn't put down girly girls for the sake of the tomboyish ones, or vice versa. I thought the romance was cute and the book as a whole was good, but Charlie accepting herself and realizing that she can be more than just one thing was the real victory of this story.

14. Prada and Prejudice – Mandy Hubbard

I adore Regency England, and I loved this take on Jane Austen's classic story. When Callie is on a school trip and takes a bad fall, she somehow wakes up in Jane Austen's England, and spends the majority of the rest of the book clumsily trying to survive that world. However, there are cute boys and good friends wherever you go, and that works in Callie's favor as she alternately crushes on and hates the arrogant Alex, a duke. This book! This book is so so cute! But it is also about accepting yourself and loving what you can bring to the table, instead of trying to change yourself to fit into other people's standards. Adorable with a good message- a beautiful thing.

15. Better off Friends  – Elizabeth Eulberg

Macallan and Levi have been best friends since they were kids. Everyone knows that they are a package deal, and they've always been there for each other. However, the fact that they're so close makes it hard for others, especially those with romantic interests in one of the two, to get close without feeling threatened. And then there's the problem of Macallan and Levi's own feelings for each other, which are confusing at best. This is the classic "can boys and girls be just friends" question, and I loved the whole ride. Macallan and Levi are so likable, and even when they can't seem to get it right between them, you still root for it to smooth itself out for the whole book, which takes place over many years and many summers, so I'm counting it in this list.

I hope you can read/swoon over some of these suggestions! What are some of your favorite summer-related books?



  1. This is an awesome series! You always give amazing contemporary recommendations, and so I will definitely be adding a few of these to my TBR for the summer time. Great post!

    1. :) I'm so happy I could give you a few new book suggestions!


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