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Six Young Adult Fiction Novels for an Endless Summer

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In summer, when I was a teenager, I’d temporarily have mastery of time. I’d sleep in bed till late morning, and start my day whenever I wanted. Evenings would stretch on longer than they have any right to do. Weekdays and weekends melted into one another and became indistinguishable. Tight school timetables, slow-ticking classroom clocks and exam countdowns were cast aside for several glorious months. Time was free and it was mine. Whenever I returned to school in September, I had the strange conviction that summer had ended too fast, but also that an infinity might have passed since last term. I grew and changed more during the summer than any other season. I came back to school as a slightly different person to the girl I’d been before; a taller, more freckled and more outdoorsy version of myself.

I find myself reaching for fiction to recapture those never-ending teenage summers that could change a person. Here, I share some of the best young adult novels for an endless summer. Pick up one of these yourself, or pass them to a teenager you know. These books are best read outside on a warm evening, but sadly those evenings are becoming scarcer these times. So if you really must, you can read these on a cool day; there’s enough warmth in their pages anyway.

To Kill A Mockingbird

This is a YA classic for very good reason. The setting is Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930s. Jean Louise 'Scout' Finch grows up in the course of several summers from an imaginative tomboy to a principled young lady. First there’s the summer that Scout spends exploring and playing games with her brother Jem and her delightful ‘pocket magician’ friend Dill. Then there’s the fateful final summer of the novel, where Scout’s father, Atticus, takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape. Scout learns how to empathise with other people, to play her part as a woman in the community, and to be unafraid to stand up for what’s right.

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Swallows and Amazons

This sweet tale summons the excitement and joy of a summer full of adventures. The Walker children spend their time in the Lake District sailing. The children have the freedom to sail and explore the lake and island by themselves. Drama comes only in the form of a contest with other children (the Blackett family) and a quest to repair relations with the Blackett’s grumpy uncle, dubbed ‘Captain Flint’. There’s a great sense of fun and fearlessness throughout; you won’t want to come back to real life when you put this down.

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Summer of My German Soldier

This 1973-published novel is a lesser-known work but it's got all the ingredients to capture teenage attention and hearts: a historical context (the Second World War), secret adventures, and illicit friendship. Twelve-year-old Patricia Bergin has a troubled childhood in Arkansas until she finds Anton, an escaped German prisoner of war. She forms a friendship with Anton, who she helps to protect. Anton in turn inspires her to see her own worth and to seek a better life in future. It’s an exciting and engaging tale that I couldn’t stop reading.

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An Abundance Of Katherines

Two teens - nerdy genius Colin and his hilarious friend Hassan - decide to bundle off on a road trip in the summer after they finish high school. A spontaneous detour results in a summer spent with the charming residents of a small town that’s on the brink of change. Like almost all of John Green’s novels, it’s a vividly-told tale about a group of people who bond in random and sometimes very funny circumstances. You might find yourself considering a spur-of-the-moment road trip.

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Rainy Day Women

This one would appeal to readers on the older end of the YA age bracket, as it contains more mature themes. It follows a frequently bizarre summer in 1971, when heroine Jo Starkey is 15. Boredom, frustration and teenage angst pervade Jo’s summer spent at home. But there’s excitement too, in the form of a foppishly handsome folk singer and a troublesome poltergeist. I read this in my late teens and wasn’t sure whether I liked it; there is so much weirdness. It stuck with me, though, and I couldn’t stop talking about it to everyone I knew. Pick this one up if you like something a bit unusual.

The Secret Life of Bees

“The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit.”

This book shares similarities with To Kill a Mockingbird – both lay their scene in the stickily hot summer of the American deep south, and show the experience of a young teen encountering drama and racial tension. There’s a lovely narrative to The Secret Life of Bees. Lily comes from a tough background, and encounters kindness and welcome from the Boatwright sisters who take her in. They teach her about keeping bees. Lily’s summer has a transformative effect on her life, as she learns strength, courage and acceptance. 

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Usually found sipping lattes and reading newspapers in hipster cafés. Viral video expert (yes, really). Has a slightly unhealthy obsession with TV period dramas.

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