Top Teen Beach Reads: Which Should Scare You, Which Should You Borrow?
Beach season is upon us and tweens and teens, just as much as adults, are going to be grabbing dishy, fun reads to page through while they lie out on the sand.
Some are lighthearted and innocent, some are lighthearted and not-so-innocent, some are even a bit dark and dramatic. It all may leave you wondering if any of them might be worth reading yourself as a guilty pleasure, or if any of them may be too guilty of a pleasure for your kids to read.
Yes, we're talking about "Sex and the City"'s Carrie Bradshaw. Only here, we get introduced to the virginal 17-year-old Carrie, as she navigates the turmoil of her senior year of high school. Oh, there are teenagers who have sex in the book -- in fact, Carrie believes she's the only one of her friends who isn't having it -- and there's much talk about the act, but no play-by-play descriptions. Sex is a constant theme in the book, but it's really about friendships -- breaking up old ones, forging new ones -- and the intricate process of defining oneself at a pivotal age in life. Frankly, the underage drinking and chain smoking are a bit more troubling than the lusty talk. The book is heavier on the drama and much lighter on the comedy than fans of SATC may expect (ironically, the teenage Carrie seems more mature than the most recent version of the adult Carrie we've seen), but with no onslaught of groan-worthy puns, those fans may be happier with this book than they were with the movie.
"Sleepaway Girls" by Jen Calonita ($9, Poppy)
Girls who prefer their relationship drama with food fights rather than binge drinking (think "High School Musical," not "Sex and The City") will find the escapism they're looking for in this eminently likable tale of a group of summer camp counselors-in-training. In the kind of story that Disney Channel execs drool over, earnest new girl Sam is pitted against snarky queen bee Ashley over the course of a comedy- and drama-filled summer, complete with boyfriend misunderstandings, talent shows, color wars, parental romance, and yes, food fights. Calonita knows her audience and gives them just what they're looking for in a beach read.
"Thirteen Plus One (The Winnie Years)" by Lauren Myracle (Dutton, $17)
The fourth book about amiable Everygirl, Winnie Perry -- following "Eleven," "Twelve," and "Thirteen" -- features some kissing and even a run-in with some Internet nakedness -- but definitely falls far to the "innocent" side of the teen beach read spectrum. Myracle puts on a realistic and relatable teenage voice as she recounts the summer in which Winnie plans to check off her "List of Things to Do Before High School." As one of those things is "Do Something to Help the World," she ends up on a South Carolina beach trying to save endangered sea turtles -- and mixing it up with her fellow teen world-savers while down there. Mostly realistic, the book occasionally veers into the bizarre, as when Winnie's 7-year-old brother birdnaps a penguin from the zoo. But this is the kind of "teen" book that girls who are 13 minus one (or two) can have fun reading.
"Swim the Fly" by Don Calame (Candlewick, $8)
This one's for the boys. The premise is pure Hollywood sex comedy: Three teenage guys make a pledge that they will see a real live naked girl before the summer is out. But like most Michael Cera movies -- come on, you know he'd be in it – there's an endearingly sweet heart under all the dirty jokes and laughable goofball screw-ups. As these three non-daters try to finagle their way into some setting that may involve nudity, Matt the narrator falls for an intriguing new girl in town and wants something more than just a peep show. The humor can be decidedly lowbrow; the kind of raunch that often appeals to teenage boys. But author Calame pulls off some nice emotional moments as well, without ever getting sentimental.
"Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots" by Abby McDonald (Candlewick, $17)
For the Lisa Simpsons who've grown out of Happy Little Elf stories, there's this tale of a earnestly passionate "I care about everything" teen who learns the hard way that her eco-centric preachings, vegetarian diet, and Save-the-Earth mantras don't come across so well in a real-life wilderness town. When Jenna, the young suburban activist, spends a summer in rough and wild Canadian country, she has to work to convince the locals -- especially the dreamy boys she's met -- that she's not a self-righteous know-it-all. It's an enjoyable coming-of-age tale in an intriguingly eccentric setting.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.