My sophisticated and hand-picked taste in reading has been ruined since my junior year in high school. The minute I cracked the cover of Metamorphosis by Kafka second hour AP Literature, my childhood was over. So was my love for reading higher literature, when not enforced by a grade to read something over a middle school reading level. I grew up always wanting to read, maybe even with one of those gifted, top reading class superiority complexes fueling me to continue to read things I definitely did not need to read like Crime and Punishment (like anyone actually needs Russian dramatics).
However, school led me to burnout in reading. Having to read book after book on things that I wasn’t interested in or that were barely digestible in the most vague form of the English language made me lose interest in trying to read things that challenged me. I was challenged everyday I stepped in the classroom, so why would I continue to read 18th century poems outside of class? I hated not loving to read and I felt something was missing in my life, but I just could not bring myself to open a book for fun. That’s when I rediscovered the YA section that I knew and loved all too well when I discovered what a boy is.
YA is very simple: girl meets boy, maybe they are enemies, maybe they are best friends, but near the end, after a couple of twists and turns, they are madly in love, possibly on a beach. The most complicated thing about these may be if a character has a dark background, but they always end up being a softie to the other protagonist. Even if they were the typical bad boy in the beginning. You would think this would annoy me, but something so simplistic, always working out in the end, and needing both little thought and a small vocabulary, has become very attractive to me. It has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a while, but now I beg the question: why should we feel shame for embracing the easy and cute part of life? Anyone who has been on a date or even, god forbid, been in a relationship knows that love is difficult. Yet, we all get invested in the idealization of these stories because it’s what we’re all looking for from a significant other: something simple that makes us feel like the main character, searching for that happy ending.
In realizing that I cannot hide this cheesy part of myself, I have done some digging into this genre and have found books that made me not feel so bad about falling back into the version of myself that just found Hamilton and was first chair trombone in my middle school band and I can’t normalize it without giving my best recommendations. With these books, not only will you be able to turn off your brain, but also feel your heartstrings that haven’t been pulled since the first time you read The Fault In Our Stars or opened up Wattpad, which I had for an embarrassingly long time.
1. What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
This book follows two teenagers coming from hard circumstances: the boy being bullied for being eccentric and not understood by his classmates due to his disabilities, and the girl having just dealt with the loss of her father. Together, they join an unlikely friendship, and then relationship due to being able to understand each other better than anyone else through their struggles. I read this book every summer for an unconscious reason that the summer sun brings along to get me to pick up this book again. I read it like I have never read it before and I am still absolutely in love with it.
2. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Yes, I am a Julie Buxbaum stan, and I will not apologize for having two on this list. This enchanting story is about a girl that moves to a new school and gets a dramatic and anonymous email from a fellow student, wanting to give her advice on how to navigate their private, exclusive school. This one was such a slow burn, giving best friends to lovers vibes, warming my heart and also showing one of my favorite formats in Wattpad books: texting.
3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This one actually has a bit of substance, but I swear you can still find the garbage love story in it. This follows a fanfiction writer trying to navigate college, trying to fall in love while also fighting with her twin sister, and finding herself. This was one of my first loves in this genre and it will always be in my heart.
4. Anna K by Jenny Lee
This book changed my summer because it was all I thought about. It is very Gossip Girl meets Dynasty, encapsulating a group of teenagers falling in love and spending their parents’ money. This book, following with the sequel, was addicting. I am so passionate about these simple storylines.
All of these books may be the best or worst you will ever read, but I can promise you that you will be entertained. You also will not experience burn out because it takes little brain power to perceive these stories. The minute you embrace these books, the minute you realize it’s not shameful, but just more fun in general to put down your textbook and pick up something that is equivalent to Notes app poetry. I have loved these books for a long time, and I hope that you will live long enough to lose your pride and pick up these books.