Self-discovery through summer reading

Young adults are sure to enjoy these books that will also help them learn about themselves

Being a young adult is a time of discovery, and there is no better way to find your true self than through reading. Tweens and teens yearn to know more about themselves, and young adult authors help their readers find their place in the world. Reading is vital for their emotional and intellectual growth.

Language arts and literature teacher Kevin Grady of St. Mary’s Academy in Longmeadow, Mass., explains the symbiosis between young adult books and teenagers: “[…] teenagers face a great deal of instability and insecurity during an already tumultuous time of life. The best young adult writers are able to capture this feeling, while probing the various social issues that teens encounter on a regular basis.”

Many schools require students to read specific books over the summer. Teen Librarian Amy Graves of the Manchester City Library said to “[set] aside some time each day to chip away at requirements. Get it out of the way bit by bit, and you'll have time to read something that appeals to you personally.”

It’s important for tweens and teens to find time to read books they find exciting and interesting. Taking the time to integrate fun summer reading into their schedule will help make the required texts that much easier to explore, and will further develop their love of reading.

If your teen is stuck on where to begin their journey, here are a few summer reads they are sure to enjoy:

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – If ever there was a book to help your teen learn about the perils of popularity and what it means to be different, Stargirl is it. Brave, confident Stargirl is unlike most others in her school – she dresses differently, brings her pet rat to class, and plays a ukulele. At first she’s popular, but then she is shunned by her peers for being so different. All of which does not stop curious Leo from falling in love with her. As whimsical as it is familiar, Spinelli’s take on nonconformity and young love is heartwarming in its realism and long-lasting in its influence on young readers.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – A story about young love is not a unique theme, but Rowell’s Eleanor & Park raises the bar with two intelligent misfits, Eleanor and Park. As 16-year-olds who find a connection with each other, they know anyone’s first love never lasts, but that doesn’t stop them from experiencing it for as long as they can. Pelham High School student Angela Garozzo, 16, said, “Both the main characters contrast so much that they fit together so well. It’s a feel-good book and anyone can easily relate. It’s about breaking stigmas and loving yourself; something that kids today definitely should read about.” Be forewarned though: you may need some tissues.

Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, God of the Sea, discovers the truth of his family and the powers they possess, which forces him into adventures of mythical proportions. When Jennifer Nugent, Dean of English at Pelham High School, questioned her class about their favorite series, Percy Jackson was the first mentioned. “[The students] all agreed they enjoyed the action/adventure of the books and [were] able to see the parallels between the mythology they had learned in class and these books. They felt they had gained a deeper understanding of mythology by reading [this series].” Marrying the act of reading for intellectual growth and reading for fun, this book series helps expand a teenager’s studies and partners it with relatable themes such as friendship, bravery and ethical quandaries.

The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater – This magic-infused fantasy series contains four books that follow the journey of a group of unlikely friends from different worlds as they try to find a long-lost king. With a strong sense of family, this series’ storyline presents many struggles that readers can associate with. By presenting relatable issues in fantasy-like situations, teens can better connect with the characters as they solve their problems and overcome obstacles, leading the reader to perhaps do the same in their own lives.

A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White – Teens with an interest in sports will enjoy this story about an 18-year-old girl drafted by a major league baseball team. But with being an all-star, comes the responsibility and pressure of being center stage in a male-dominated industry. Defying gender roles and becoming a role model for girls everywhere, the main character’s struggles to make choices and deal with the doubts that follow, will certainly strike a chord with teens who face similar issues.

As a parent or guardian, you should try to give your teen the freedom to discover what they like to read on their own. Support their journey in every way possible, as for some teenagers books are the only escape they have. Encourage self-discovery in your child; it is during this time that teens start to break from the mold of the collective student body and find out how they fit in.

If you can, read the same books as they do, so that you can engage with your teen. Jennifer Nugent said, “I would encourage parents/guardians to read at least one book their students are reading. Having that common ground to talk about, and to share, is very important and powerful for the students (and probably for the parents too). It increases engagement, inspires enthusiasm, and encourages deeper understanding.”

Having such a dedicated involvement with your teen’s summer reading will help to further develop their love of reading, and may even bring you closer together.

Amanda Andrews, an avid reader and admirer of the written word, is a freelance copyeditor and an event coordinator at McLean Communications. You can find her somewhere in the woods of New Hampshire wandering between the pages of a good book. She can be reached at

Categories: Summer Essentials