When packing for summer vacation, you know the must haves: Obviously, you need a flattering bikini (the kind that strategically displays assets and conceals flaws). You’ll probably want a few light, versatile, brightly colored caftans that work equally well for day or night. And, of course, no beach vacay is complete without quality reading material — ideally of the “OMG, I cannot put this book down” variety.
I’m both a luxury travel writer and a young adult author, which means that I’m frequently up in the air and always have a book (or three!) packed in my suitcase. While, most of the year, I’m down with something cerebral, in the summer, I just want to be entertained.
The majority of the books I’m currently reaching for are young-adult reads — what’s more summery than feeling 16 again? — but fret not: these recommendations are perfect for all ages.
1. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
You don’t usually see the words “Muslim hijabi” and “juicy read” in the same sentence, but Saints and Misfits is getting all the buzz, and for good reason. Not only is it a total page-turner — 15-year old Janna Yusuf crushes on a cute non-Muslim, while simultaneously struggling with an assault by an outwardly seemingly perfect boy from the Mosque — but it’s also thoughtful, beautifully written, and touches on religious issues without feeling preachy. I’m currently reading it, loving it, and can’t recommend it more highly.
2. The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
Already in the works as a movie produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, The Sandcastle Empire is one of those addictive books that you’ll stay awake late at night to finish. Set in a dystopian future where climate change has led to a revolution, a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the world. The main character, Eden, fights her way to the only neutral ground in the world, a mysterious Lost-like island with secrets of its own…
3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
OK, The Hate U Give might not scream “lighthearted read,” but it’s unputdownable. I brought it on a recent trip from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles, and within two hours, I’d devoured it. It’s been billed as a Black Lives Matter novel, but it’s much more than a one-note “issues” book: It’s a nuanced, complex portrayal of 16-year-old Starr Carter, the sole witness to her friend’s shooting by a police officer. Starr must decide whether to testify while trying to navigate her carefully-constructed reality at a tony, mostly-white private school. It’s been on the New York Times bestseller list since it published, and will soon be a Fox 2000 movie starring Amandla Stenberg. Buy this book, read it, and lend it to a friend.
4. I Believe In a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo
In I Believe In a Thing Called Love, high school senior Desi Lee might be a high achieving control freak, but she’s never had a boyfriend. She decides to approach love with the same precision she approaches her studies, using her father’s favorite Korean dramas as a guide. Armed with “K Drama Rules for True Love," she realizes that not everything in life can be controlled — especially love. The second I heard about this book, I ordered it, and it’s now in my bag... waiting for the next trip.
5. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Fitness Junkie, the next book from the bestselling authors of The Knockoff drops in early July, and I already have it on pre-order, scheduled to arrive the moment it publishes. Fitness Junkie pokes fun at the silliness of the health and fitness community, where Free the Nipple yoga, juice cleanses, and invite-only workout groups are the norm. If you’ve ever rolled your eyes while reading through the Goop newsletter, this book is for you.
6. It Happens In the Hamptons by Holly Peterson
In It Happens In the Hamptons, you've got all the ingredients for a great read: summer in the Hamptons. A fish-out-of-water main character. Rich people having affairs. Gorgeous clothing and fast cars. It’s like an episode of The Real Housewives of Southampton: What’s not to love?
7. One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Billed as Pretty Little Liars meetsThe Breakfast Club, the thriller One of Us is Lying takes place in detention as four students (the beauty, the brain, the criminal, and the jock) try to figure out who murdered one of their own (the outcast, who runs a gossip app). It’s steadily been building buzz — I feel like everybody I know is currently loving it — and just hit the New York Times bestseller list.
8. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
Rich People Problems is the third book in the addictive Crazy Rich Asians series, and I’m eagerly waiting for the moment I can devour it. Like the previous two books, it focuses on the wealthy Shang-Young clan, who reconvenes in Singapore to fight over the matriarch’s vast fortune on her deathbed. Yes, please.
9. Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney (that’s me!)
Remember I said I was an author? Well, I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend my own great summer read, naturally! Romancing the Throne is set in the world of an elite British boarding school, where the relationship between two tight-knit sisters, Charlotte and Libby Weston, is forever changed when Libby begins dating their classmate, the future king. There’s just one snag: Charlotte dated him first. While, yes, it’s a bit of a royal love triangle, it’s more of a love letter about the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood (plus country mansions, polo matches, and a seriously epic party at Windsor Castle, to boot).
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