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Your End of Summer Book Guide - Top 5 Reads

Culture

Though they're never officially classified that way, books have their seasonal moods. With the approaching end of summer, it's time to get in our last summer reads, beach books, and otherwise. The following recommendations are perfect for lazy days on the beach and nights under the stars. Have fun with these stories of rediscovery, reinvention, and magic!

1. Night Music by Jenn Marie Thorne

Night Music quite simply has summer vibes. Summer is about self-discovery, as is this book. Ruby is increasingly lost after quitting piano in a family of musical prodigies, struggling with finding her place in the world. She feels as though she's done nothing to deserve to take up space. After meeting Oscar, her father's African-American prodigy, they explore New York City together and ways to not only rediscover music but their perception of themselves.

This is a touching read that beautifully integrates important issues, like systematic racism and the blindness of white privilege. The confrontation of Oscar's race with Ruby's family is even-handed and demonstrates that change isn't impossible. We've all been Ruby at some point, stumbling through a world that we think doesn't have room for us. But this book is true "Night Music" for the soul, reminding us that achievement is not what makes us who we are. Moreover, it espouses the precious joy of simply taking up space and living a life of your choice. "Night Music" is a fantastic composition, a true concerto of love and rediscovery.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern

This book is, at heart, a fever dream. It features Celia and Marco, who are pawns in a longstanding rivalry between two magicians. These star-crossed lovers form a contest taking place in the aforementioned night circus. The most magical part of this book is unraveling the mysteries of the circus and the intricacies of the game. Never once is it clarified how to win, but we keep on paging through anyway as Celia and Marco create wondrous spectacles in the name of the contest, falling in love with each other in the context.

For a few hours, we are tossed into another mystical world, where rules are formed and broken in heartbeats. If not the suspense, the luscious prose holds together the fabric of this amazing fantasy. This is perfect for a late summer night, watching the stars, and discovering the stars in the pages in the meantime at the Night Circus.

3. So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park

It's no exaggeration to say this is compulsively readable. This takes another aspect of summer, reinvention, and scrambles it with a confrontation of stereotypes and beautifully nuanced characterization. So We Meet Again stars Jessica Kim and Daniel Choi, former high school nemeses, who encounter each other once again in their hometown. Jess was recently laid off for her supposed lack of leadership when she encounters him in a parking lot.

As they get to know each other, they move past a cycle of comparison and explore who they were and could be. There are so many of us like Jess in the world- quiet, introverted people who don't realize their own worth. The way this book redefines leadership is absolutely touching. Not to mention, Jess's mother is laugh-out-loud hilarious. I can't list enough reasons to light up your summer with So We Meet Again. Suzanne Park has done a phenomenal job of writing a book worth meeting again and again and again.

4. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Tokyo Ever After features Izumi Tanaka from a small town in Washington, who suddenly discovers that her father is the prince of Japan. However, this is no Princess Diaries. Izumi faces conniving cousins and conflict between her two identities but faces them boldly. It comes with cliches, such as a brooding bodyguard, but at its core, it is a story of a family reuniting and growing. Izumi's mother's decision to leave behind the love of her life to spare her child's royal life is portrayed with grace, and Izumi's father opening up is equally poignant.

For the sentimental folks out there, this might draw a tear or two out. And the story doesn't end there. The sequel, Tokyo Dreaming, further elucidates this complicated and lovely family, depicting Izumi's process of self-discovery as well as her process of balancing her wants with her heritage. This book is best read at a picnic on a warm sunny day, dreaming about Japan and royalty.

5. By The Book by Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory's RomComs are absolutely fantastic, but one of her best is By the Book. Izzy Towers is an overworked, underpaid editorial assistant working on a novel, when she's sent to give a struggling celebrity, Beau Towers, a pep talk to finish his memoir. It ends up being so effective that she lives with him for the summer. This is Beauty and the Beast, but here both have their demons.

As a result, the book is more than a sweeping love story. It's perfect for a summer in the garden, getting lost in a book about writing a book. Izzy's character arc is realistic and nuanced and always memorable, while Beau is no reformed villain or brooding hero, but a complicated human in his own right. Somehow, it fulfills rom-com tropes while breaking them. In the end, you only hope that Beau and Izzy can not only write their own stories but live them too. "By the Book" is not by the book at all. In fact, it is writing a new book between the lines.

These 5 books carry you away and ground you in astounding worlds that are both fantastic and realistic. For those reasons alone, it's absolutely worth finishing your summer with these 5 reads!

Ananya Vinay
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Ananya Vinay is a rising high school senior from Fresno, California. She is a budding scientist and writer, as well as the author of a poetry collection, Dewdrops on the Mind, with work forthcoming or published in the Ice Lolly Review, Apprentice Writer, Teen Ink, and New Scene Magazine. When she’s not writing, you can find her with her nose in a book, inventing stories, or sometimes arguing with her younger brother.