Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books to Get You in the Mood for Summer

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a Summer Freebie, so I’m featuring books that will get you in the mood for summer.

Books Set at the Beach

1) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler: This book’s cover and synopsis hint at a breezy beach read, but don’t be fooled – Twenty Boy Summer packs a punch. This moving story about friendship, loss, and healing is told from the point of view of a girl mourning her first love as she spends a summer with her best friend’s family on the shores of California.

2) Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen: Reading Along for the Ride always makes me yearn for a trip to the beach, as it follows a girl named Auden who spends the summer after her senior year with her dad and new stepmom in their seaside town. It’s a fun, relatively light read with boardwalk boutiques, new friendships, and a budding romance.

3) The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson: This book has a sweet, delightful protagonist, who also happens to be a homeless teenager living on the streets and beaches of California.

Book cover for Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah OcklerBook cover for Along For The Ride by Sarah DessenBook cover for The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson

Stories of Magic and Wonder

4) Summerland by Michael Chabon: When I was a kid, summer felt like a time of infinite possibilities, as though anything could happen. Summerland, whose pages are full of faeries, baseball games, heroes, and a battle between good and evil, embodies that feeling perfectly.

5) Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon: This is the first magical realism book I ever read, and the wonder and joy of it have lingered with me for years. It follows the adventures of a young boy in his marvel-filled hometown of Zephyr, Alabama, and something about it just feels like summertime to me.

6) The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater: This second book in the Raven Cycle Quartet will always be my favorite of the series, with its powerful dreamers, whispering forest, fantastical quest, and steamy Virginia-summer setting.

Book cover for Boy's Life by Robert McCammonBook cover for Summerland by Michael ChabonBook cover for The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Tales of Hijinks and Last Hurrahs

7) My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp: Most 18-year-olds spend the summer after high school graduation hanging out with friends or lounging by the pool. Not Lulu Mendez from My Best Everything; she uses her time to raise money for college by engaging in an illegal moonshining operation. (Read my review here.)

8) Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn: This hilarious story about a graduation bash that runs wildly out of control takes place in an abandoned theme park and is absurdly fun.

9) FML by Shaun David Hutchinson: FML is another an end-of-school-year-party book, one that will have you wanting to throw a crazy blowout of your own. (Read my review here.)

10) Why We Took The Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf (translated by Tim Mohr): This road trip book follows two teenage boys who steal a car and take off on a crazy jaunt through Germany.

Book cover for My Best Everything by Sarah TompBook cover for Kill All Happies by Rachel CohnBook cover for FML by Shaun Hutchinson Book cover for Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf

Let’s chat! I’d love to hear what books put you in a summery mood – drop me a comment below!

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Second Star Book Cover Second Star
Alyssa B. Sheinmel

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

Review:

If Second Star weren’t a retelling of Peter Pan, my rating of it would be entirely different. There are some pretty big detractors – frustrating romance, a second half that feels entirely off the rails – that would result in a low rating if this were your average book. Luckily for Sheinmel, her creative reimagining of Peter Pan enchanted me enough to appease the part of me that was irritated by the questionable parts of this story.

Wendy Darling is on a mission to find her brothers, 16-year-old surfers who ran away from home to chase the waves. Nine months later, they still haven’t returned, and the police and Wendy’s parents have given up the search, convinced that the boys have perished in a surfing accident. Wendy isn’t so sure, and as soon as she graduates she takes off in pursuit of her brothers, determined to find them and bring them home.

Wendy’s hunt leads her to Kensington Beach, where she meets a scruffy band of surfers – our Lost Boys in this retelling – who live in an abandoned mansion and spend their days on the water. Wendy finds herself enticed by the boys’ carefree lifestyle, drawn into their little world of salt and sun and sand. She’s especially beguiled by the group’s leader, Pete, who teaches her to surf and whose kisses make her feel like someone new, someone whose family and world haven’t fallen apart.

As delighted as I was by the Lost Boys, I was even more impressed by Sheinmel’s clever reimagining of Captain Hook. The role of the villain is played by Jas, a drug dealer who rules the opposite side of Pete’s beach. (What happens to people who take drugs? They get hooked. Get it? Huh? Like I said, clever!!) Wendy’s investigation reveals that Jas may have a hand in her brothers’ disappearance, and when she goes to confront him she soon realizes he’s an enticing as he is dangerous.

Jas is both a positive and a negative of this book for me. On the plus side, he has this dark pull that really appealed to me. He’s smooth and sexy and magnetic, and even though he’s a “bad guy” he’s charming and educated and polite, which adds great complexity.

The downside is that all this sex appeal makes Wendy fall for him, which I didn’t think was believable. It’s one thing to be attracted to him – I certainly was – and to accept his help in finding her brothers. It’s another thing entirely to trust him and fall in love with him. He is a drug dealer, Wendy! He ruins people’s lives and is fully aware of this fact! The stuff he does is unconscionable, and he shows no signs of changing his behavior! Yet you’re into him? Please.

Something else that detracted from the book’s appeal is the question of whether Wendy’s liaisons with Pete, Jas, and the like are real or a fantasy. I was so invested in the world of Kensington that I resented being distracted with questions like, “Is this a hallucination? Does anyone else remember ever seeing Pete? Or Jas?” It seemed out of nowhere and was the number one reason I didn’t award Second Star a higher rating.

Despite these qualms, I still really liked the parallels to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan stories. I enjoyed seeing how Sheinmel wove elements from the book into her adaptation. A lot of the references were subtle, such as Jas stopping at a bar called The Jolly Roger, a description comparing Pete’s laugh to the crow of a bird, and Pete encouraging Wendy to think of something happy to help distract her while she’s trying to surf (which she says makes her feel like she’s flying). It’s a very smart and unique retelling.