5 YA Beach Reads

Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard. Eighteen-year-old Bria Sandoval is in a snit. Her boyfriend Toby broke up with her and she is blue as can be—but not heartbroken enough to miss a chance-of-a-lifetime post-graduation trip to Central America to see the sights and forget about her worries. Plus, Central America means Central American boys: “I’d only hook up with guys I didn’t care about. From now on until forever. So when we parted ways, I could easily forget.” Of course, things don’t turn out like she planned. Instead of booking a tour with a group of hip college-aged kids looking to party and have fun, she inadvertently signs on for one geared toward a more sedentary middle-aged crowd. Bo-ring. But then Bria meets Rowan—a bad boy backpacker and diving instructor with a hankering for adventure—and when she decides to bail on the Snooze Tour to join forces with Rowan and his über cool activist sister to traipse through jungles and lounge on white sandy beaches, Bria realizes life might not be so bad after all. All she has to do is keep trekking forward without looking back, right? Well, maybe. A professed Global Vagabond and travel writer herself (she also backpacked through Central America), Hubbard (Like Mandarin) instills this travelogue with the perfect amount of wanderlust and risky canoodling. But there are lessons to be learned too. What’s more, the gorgeous pencil drawings sprinkled throughout the book prove Hubbard has more talent than just writing for teens. Ages 14+

Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John (Five Flavors of Dumb). Kids as young as 13 have published books and the protagonist in this whimsical romp is no exception. At 16, Luke’s “spiritual chronicle”Hallelujah becomes an instant hit and his publisher sends him on a whirlwind nationwide tour to promote it. The only problem is he’s too young to go on his own. His older brother Matt volunteers for the job and all seems to be going well, but with one exception: Matt’s girlfriend Alex and her younger sister Fran (a.k.a. Luke’s ex-best friend and former Super Crush) are along for the ride. Awk-ward! Sure, Luke sells a lot of books during his travels, but he also learns a thing or two about true friendship and what it means to go out on a limb and put your faith in, well, faith in order to accomplish your goals. While some of the aspects of the book are a bit far-fetched (a publisher sending a 16-year-old on a cross-country tour with his brother? What?), the interpersonal dynamics between siblings and John’s hilarious descriptions of the road-trip snafus the group experiences along the way (wrong turns, car malfunctions) will hold readers’ attentions. A spiritual road trip of an entirely different sort. Ages 12+

Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson. From the author of Kiss Me Kill Me comes a steamy romance cum mystery about a girl on a quest to track down her roots. After spotting what could be her twin in a portrait of a castle in Italy hanging in a museum near her home in London, Violet Routledge heads to Tuscany for summer school. Her real motive is to find out more about the painting. While at Villa Barbiano, Violet meets the three other students—two American girls and one British girl—and the four get up to no good, including yucking it up with gorgeous Italian boys. But the novel isn’t all giggles and hair flipping. Violet’s interactions with Luca—the self-centered and moody heir to the castle on the hill (the same castle featured in the painting)—hint that all is not rosy under the Tuscan sun. Why is he ignoring her one day and stalking her the next? And just what is his connection to the girl in the painting? Somewhat frustratingly, the painting conundrum isn’t resolved (although there is a projected sequel; release date TBA), but readers dreaming of falling in love in (and with) Italy will find plenty of passages to choose from. Ages 12+

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Small Town Sinners). For teens going through a break-up: This book’s for you. When 16-year-old Clementine finds out that her parents’ idea of a vacation is taking her and her sister on a summer-long sailing trip down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, all she can do is groan. She’s been ex-communicated by her ex-best friend (Clem fell for her BFF’s boyfriend) and now she has to spend two months on a boat with her family? Puhlease. But before she knows it, the lulling motion of the waves and the ever-present sound of seagulls sink peacefully in. When she meets hunky 17-year-old James at one of the first tourist stops and finds he’s on a similar trip with his dad, Clem gets to thinking that maybe her summer won’t turn out so badly after all. Told in alternating flashbacks to the previous year and chapters devoted to the present, it’s easy to get a sense of who Clem was and the young woman she might become. Her family is just the right amount of supportive (hooray for functional families!) and it’s clear that Walker worked hard at portraying the Clem-Amanda-Ethan triangle in an unbiased light. My vote? It’s definitely Ethan’s fault. Grin. Ages 12+

To read the rest of this post and a review of Laura Bowers‘s Just Flirt, please visit Letter Blocks: The B&N Parents and Educators Blog.

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