Summer is a popular season to set books in, whether the book comes out in June and July or in the crispy days of October. Certain things work better than other tropes, though, and the great summer books are more than the ones that are simply set in May through August. I wanted to do more stuff under my FABULOUS Bookish Summer 2017 banner, so talking about the good and the ugly things that happen in summer books.
DO: that indescribable* feeling of summer
* but do describe it, because obviously it’s an important and awesome part of summer books
You know what I mean – those books that capture the magical way summer can make you feel, that happy feeling when sunscreen, streaming sunshine, chirping birds, and a general sense of freedom all combine to create summer. Maybe that’s at the beach, but it could also be set at home, in your everyday environment but with the changes that come with summer. I think it’s easier to accomplish this feeling if your story is set at the beach or a place that has distinct seasons, but if you write it properly, it can happen anywhere – the feeling of summer is a sense, not a place.
DO: give the protagonist a quirky and/or interesting summer job
For many teenagers, summer means a summer job to occupy your time in between sleeping in and forgetting everything you’ve learned for the past year. In the best summer books, these jobs are quirky and interesting, either because of the people or the job. Dog walking, babysitting, wedding planning – the possibilities are endless and should be entertaining!
DO: give the book and the characters a sense of freedom
Summer is all about having the freedom to try out new things, to figure out your life or boyfriends/girlfriends or family or anything else. Summery books need that freedom if they’re going to really capture that feeling of having endless days of possibilities.
DON’T: make it all about school and resume-building
I have one book in particular in mind, but I’m sure it happens in other ones: in Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything, there’s plenty of summery goodness, but one thing that really bugged me was that the main character obsessed over finding a job that helped her resume. Yes, thinking about college applications is an important part of teenage life for many people, but she was too obsessive, and it didn’t really seem like a character quirk but something that you have to do. I don’t know, it just bugged me and took me out of the lighthearted summery feel for a moment.
DON’T: have the cliche summer fling*
* I’m mainly talking about when the BFF tries to force the protagonist into a summer fling when they don’t want it
This goes with a general turn-off of mine – when the “wild” best friend is always there, trying to push the more timid protagonist into relationships they don’t want to be in. Normally things turn out at all right at the end, but that frustrates me even more – yes, we need sex-positive YA books, but we also really just need books that make it clear that romance should be about doing what’s right for you, what’s comfortable for you, not just what’s expected of you, celibacy or promiscuity or not.
DON’T: have a whiny protagonist who is just so pissed off that they have to travel
Oh no, you’re being forced to travel to exotic, culture-rich countries, you poor thing. *eye roll* I don’t have anything specific for this one, but I’ve seen plenty of reviews of travel-set YA books that cite this issue, which is why I avoid certain books as a result. Treat travel as the prize and privilege that it is.