Looking for your next summer read? Here are 7 young adult books set near the water to make you wish you were near it, too.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.
Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.
Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.
Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.
But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.
The Wicked Deep promises to be a book full of suspense and mystery. Set in a small coastal town cursed by three witches the residents drowned 200 years ago, the book has hints of magic, secrets, and revenge. A compellingly atmospheric read, even if it does include some YA tropes.
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.
What I Thought Was True offers a heartbreakingly realistic view of what it can be like to oneself with a reputation as easy in high school. Gwen certainly never thought of herself as a slut when she was sleeping with those boys, but everyone else seems to think she is, and now she is beginning to worry it might be true. The book follows Gwen as she struggles with coming to grips with how much everyone else is judging her versus how much she is judging herself. The story itself is never preachy and never really weighs in on one side or the other, instead emphasizing that it is possible to find new beginnings and to decide who you want to be in life.
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer—they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
Neither Krysta nor I have personally read this one, but it sounds intriguing and is by Jenny Han, so it has promise!
Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
You don’t know what you must give up to become a witch.
Avery Roe wants only to claim her birthright as the witch of Prince Island and to make the charms that have kept the island’s sailors safe at sea for generations, but instead she is held prisoner by her mother in a magic-free life of proper manners and respectability.
Avery thinks escape is just a matter of time, but when she has a harrowing nightmare, she can see what it means: She will be killed. She will be murdered. And she’s never been wrong before.
Desperate to change her future, Avery finds a surprising ally in Tane—a tattooed harpoon boy with magic of his own, who moves her in ways she never expected. But as time runs out to unlock her magic and save herself, Avery discovers that becoming a witch requires unimaginable sacrifice.
Avery walks the knife’s edge between choice and destiny in Kendall Kulper’s sweeping debut: the story of one girl’s fight to survive the rising storm of first love and family secrets.
Kendall Kulper’s Salt & Storm is a masterpiece witch book. With an elaborately developed system of magic and a rich history of witches and their tenuous relationship with the normal people they help, Salt & Storm approaches the topic of witchcraft with insight and realism. In Salt & Storm, magic can earn one power and respect—but it also comes with a price. Protagonist Avery, who has dreamed of becoming the Prince Island witch since her childhood is willing, determined, to pay that price and more.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
A backlist book that’s having a comeback thanks to BookTok! It’s set on a rich family’s private island, where secrets and mysteries abound.
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.
On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?
Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.
Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?
Kiss a stranger? Um…
Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?
Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?
Morgan Matson has a gift for writing books with wild premises but relatable characters that bring readers the best of two worlds: a story that’s both unattainable for many readers but will also make them feel right at home. Since You’ve Been Gone, for instance, is the story of a teenage girl whose parents are famous playwrights whose best friend has mysteriously disappeared and leaves her a list of crazy things to do. She makes more friends in the meantime, who are generally as rich and well-connected as she is (one friend’s parents are well-known architects). Yet Morgan’s focusing of the story on friendship and her talent of simply making the characters human grounds it. You forget you’re reading about privileged rich kids who have a life you’ll never have and who are having improbably adventures, and instead you just see their troubles with life, love, parents, etc., and it’s a glorious ride.
Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea by L. M. Montgomery
A wide-ranging selection of Montgomery’s tales that exemplify her story-telling art. Linked by the presence of the sea, these are sixteen enchanting tales, previously unpublished, forming a memorable volume for fans of the creator of Anne of Green Gables.
Ok, this isn’t strictly a YA book, but Montgomery often writes about younger characters, and everyone of all ages loves her work, so I’m including it here. This collection of short stories is, as always, charming and insightful and sometimes humorous, and you can really see Montgomery’s own love of the sea come through.