Looking for the all-time best YA beach books? The Girls’ Life magazine team shares their essential summer reads.
We might be a bit biased, but we believe that no summer vacation (or staycation, really) is complete without a stack of sweet reads. The only question is…which title should you add to your packing list this year? Here, the editors of Girls’ Life magazine each make a case for their favorite beach reads—and you can save 15 percent on their picks.
“Art + coming of age = magic.”
I have a confession to make: I judge books by their covers. I know, I know. It’s not a quality I’m proud of, and in some cases it has led me to pick up some aesthetically pleasing but not-so-satisfying reads. So I like to think I got lucky when the rainbow burst on the cover of I’ll Give You the Sun caught my eye a few summers ago and I ended up falling head over heels for it. The story is told by artistically inclined, estranged teenage twins Noah and Jude. Noah recounts his earlier years of dealing with bullies, endless sketching, and his crush on the boy next door, while Jude picks up the story later on, when she’s landed an artistic mentor and a love interest of her own. The LGBTQ+ aspect struck a chord with me, but it’s the poetic and vivid language the author employs that I was really floored by. Sure, you’ll need to have some tissues on standby, but what’s a sniffle or two compared to the payoff of a fanciful yet realistic novel that reminds us just how beautiful life can be?
—Sydney Adamson, associate editor and content marketing associate
“It *lives* in the digital age.”
Text conversations can oftentimes feel trite—a superficial and quick means to an end. In Emergency Contact, Mary H.K. Choi breaks through the stereotypical teen trope to convey a deep AND sustainable digital relationship that slowly seeps into real life. It can be so difficult to understand what a digital interaction means to someone—you never know the *exact* inflection, meaning, or tone behind a text message. My exception? Any time I message my best friend. When I read his texts, it’s like a mini movie of him plays in my head. I know his exact intentions for each word, punctuation, and emoji. That hyper-connected feeling is how I imagine Penny and Sam as they stare into the blue light of their phones. They sink into a comfortable, vulnerable place that translates to an intimacy in their face-to-face hangouts. When it comes down to it, that type of closeness is something I think we all aspire to have.
—Shelby Newsome, assistant editor
“You’ll shed a few tears on your bikini. My advice? Wear big shades.”
I distinctly remember reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, totally engrossed, tears running uncontrollably down my face….on a plane. Yup, I was that girl. But that’s how completely this book sucked me in. Summer is the time to lose yourself in a love story—and this is one of those epic love stories where the guy is so charming, he can only be played by Ansel Elgort. It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you the main characters Hazel and Augustus both have cancer (they meet at a cancer support group), and while you could pick a lighter beach read, you’d be missing out on so much more than just a book about illness. One of my favorite parts is when Augustus reads to Hazel from her favorite book: “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” Not only will you feel like you know the narrator, Hazel, like your own BFF, but she’ll remind you to live every minute of your summer break—and your life—to the fullest. If you do toss it in your beach tote? Maybe don’t forget to throw your oversize sunnies in there, too, and avoid an ugly-cry moment in front of the lifeguard.
—Lindsey Silken, copy editor
“There is a life before Naruto and after.”
Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja, didn’t start off as a courageous warrior who saves the world. Instead, he began as a village rascal, a troublemaker, who doesn’t click well with his peers. Deep down, Naruto has dreams of becoming the Hokake (aka the leader) of his town. But just as the author Masashi Kishimoto points out, becoming the Hokake isn’t simple. And, as the saying goes, “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” This coming of age story is inspiring and teaches us the importance of perseverance. Even when others think you can’t do it, you can.
—Chun Kim, creative director
“A modern dystopian classic—and irresistibly addicting.”
Katniss had me at “I volunteer as tribute!” and, honestly, who didn’t get chills in that scene? Our heroine is the most aspirational balance of fierce and fragile; she’s a warrior, a gladiator, in the body of a teen girl. (And don’t forget the signature side braid.) The plot premise—in which two children from each of twelve districts must compete in an annual televised death match to appease their authoritarian overlord—is a musing on modern media and reality TV and just the general savagery we all experience in school, between bullying and cliques and constant scrutiny. It’s a new dystopian classic and irresistibly addicting—perfect for staying distracted during a flight, and breezy enough to finish in a single day on the beach.
— Kelsey Haywood Lucas, content and marketing director
“The beginning of an epic duology.”
In Carve the Mark, Veronica Roth drops us into space-set dystopian society on the ice planet Thuvhe, where we meet Cyra. The sister of Ryzek, the Shotet people’s power-hungry dictator, Cyra possess a “currentgift,” a power you receive from the currents in space—but she considers it anything but a gift. Her ability to absorb pain from others and unleash it on whomever she touches leaves her in isolation. But soon she meets Akos, who’s immune to all gifts—and this is where things get *good.* I knew these two were perfect for each other as soon as I found out what his gift was, and the slow burn between them was maddening and addicting. The realistic edge? Underneath the war-torn society exists a few lessons: that being vulnerable is okay, and there’s nothing more important than fighting for what—or who—you love.
—Brooke Winters, national advertising director
“It kept me on the edge of my beach chair!”
Jenny Han’s lighthearted love story is perfect for all hopeless romantics—like me. The drama starts when the love letters the main character, Lara Jean, writes for her crushes fall into the wrong hands, and her realest emotions are out there for the world to see. With her heart completely and totally exposed, it’s what happens after the epic event that makes this book such a page-turner. I know it’s cliché to say, but I really could not put the book down. And after I was finished, I tried to put myself in Lara Jean’s shoes: What would *I* do if all of my crushes found out how I felt about them? And all at once?
—Emily Mullin, senior fashion intern
“Suspense, secrets, and an unbreakable bond.”
Packing up your beachy must-haves? Don’t pass up this mystery, made for the sea and sand but with an icy cold setting. Before I Let Go is a snow-covered read that will chill your sun-kissed skin. Corey is shocked by her bestie’s unexpected death and determined to figure out what happened. This astonishing story of truths and lies is sure to send a shiver up your spine as the pieces fall together with the help of flashbacks and fierce friendship. Fair warning: This read is enthralling, so don’t forget the SPF—and be sure to flip sides for an even bronze.
—Gabby Regalbuto, social media assistant