15 YA Books Worth Curling Up With This Summer

Scanning headlines can be the best way to make a morning subway ride fly by, but when it comes to chilling out on the weekend, relaxing with a pleasure read is just so much better. Sometimes, those books can't be found in the section of the bookstore you tend to flock toward — they might actually be hiding on the shelves of the Young Adult section. Okay, we know there's been much debate as to whether Y.A. fiction can resonate with, well, grown-ups ... but we say screw it: It's summer. You should be sticking your nose in a book that's fun and exciting. Plus, in some instances, these "made for teens" books may be surprisingly more complex and rewarding than some of those on the best seller's list.

For New Yorkers looking to cool out (because really, who isn't?), these 15 NYC-set books will transport you to a world you never imagined. Grab one of these paperbacks, plop yourself in the nearest park, and let these stories take you far, far away.
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Photo: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
If you think New York City is tough now, Zevin's futuristic dystopia paints the Big Apple in the darkest possible light, turning it into a world where coffee is illegal and crime is rampant. Beyond the never-fully awake citizens and the lack of Starbucks bathrooms, these New Yorkers are dealing with a place over-run by the mob bosses of the future, and where romance can only truly occur when it's under-the-radar.
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Photo: Courtesy of Harper Collins.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
While the beloved Disney movie is set in hilly, beachy San Francisco, the stellar Meg Cabot series kicks off with Mia Thermopolis living in a Greenwich Village apartment with her mom (sans fireman's pole) and dealing with the popular crowd at a New York City prep school. Her grandmère is no Julie Andrews, either: She chain smokes cigarettes, runs around with her poodle, Rommel, and shacks up at the appropriately-glamorous Plaza Hotel while visiting, because what other residence is suitable for such a princess?
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Photo: Courtesy of Hyperion.
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
New York native the late-Ned Vizzini's third (and arguably most successful) novel is quickly becoming a classic in the Y.A. world, with its stark examination of mental illness amongst teenagers and the pressures they face on a daily basis (it was inspired by the author's own personal struggle with depression). Even more specifically, it's about the stress and competition that plagues the elite high school world of New York City, where the intensity surrounding one's academics, and future success may feel like too much to handle.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tundra Books.
The World Outside by Eva Wiseman
This work of historical fiction follows the story of a Hasidic Jewish teenager living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who is struggling to come to terms with the idea of a rigidly-regulated future. More importantly, a future that prohibits her from following her dreams of becoming an opera singer. Not only does Wiseman's book look into a New York community that is rarely examined (though very much exists today), but it also highlights the frightening reality of the 1991 riots. It marked an era where two communities in the borough turned against each other, as a result of conflicting views and opinions.
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Newly-minted high school grad and budding author, Darcy Patel, arrives in New York City with a signed contract and hefty advance for her teen novel, Afterworlds. She then finds a gorgeous apartment, populates it with a cool, literary circle, and lands herself a relationship with an even cooler girlfriend. While the New York she's living in may seem fanciful, it's the story within the story, the tale of her created protagonist, Lizzie, who is forced to navigate through a land that bridges the living with the dead, that truly captivates the audience.
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Photo: Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.
Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
Though the bulk of Armistead's debut novel takes place in Massachusetts, some of its most dramatic moments happen right in the middle of New York City. When Hank wakes up in Penn Station with absolutely no memory of how he got there (this moment alone will make you feel a little better about the next time you have to brave the terminal), he must embark on a journey of self-awareness and discovery, something most — if not every — New Yorker can relate to.
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Photo: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
With definite ties to the original teenage New York wanderer, Holden Caulfield, the novel's protagonist is all about trying to escape the city he grew up in. James Sveck, who hates authority almost as much as NYC, dreams of abandoning his family's West Village apartment for a house in the Midwest (which, let's be honest, is the opposite fantasy of most non-New York teenagers), and never having to see his therapist again. But, just because Sveck is so over New York doesn't mean the author's descriptions of his city haunts aren't compelling. In fact, he paints a picture that's relatable for most people.
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Photo: Courtesy of Harper Collins.
Great by Sara Benincasa
Great, a retelling of The Great Gatsby, depicts the Hamptons with every bit of glitz and glam as the Baz Luhrmann film adaptation. The exclusive beach community is a perfect backdrop for the lavish parities thrown by Jacinta Trimalchio, the book's modern-day female, fashion blogging version of Jay Gatsby. Jacinta has set high high hopes of solidifying a friendship with Delilah Fairweather — a.k.a the new Daisy. There's elaborate events, underage alcohol consumption, and loads of gossip. It's everything you'd want from an F. Scott Fitzgerald reboot.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
The follow-up to the beautiful If I Stay, Where She Went puts a slightly different spin on the commonly portrayed allure of falling in love during a night in New York. Forman's book focuses on falling back in love in the city, where protagonists Mia and Adam reconnect after leaving each other's lives after the accident that changed them forever.
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Photo: Courtesy of Random House.
Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner
Not all of the teens in NYC-based Y.A. books are born and bred New Yorkers. In Vaclav and Lena, we see Brighton Beach, Brooklyn through the eyes of two young immigrants trying to adapt to their new home, while clinging to the familiarity of each other. Their struggles of learning English, and simply understanding life in the big city, resonates throughout.
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Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic Books.
Kendra by Coe Booth
Set in the Bronx, Kendra tells the story of a teenager being raised by her grandmother as her mother pursues her PhD. It's an emotional piece about growing up too soon (which can easily happen when a city like New York is your home), familial ties, and coming to terms with one's adolescence.
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Photo: Courtesy of Random House.
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Post 9/11 New York is the backdrop for Y.A. master David Levithan's novel about three teenagers who become friends in the days following the attacks. Levithan is known for novels that have a surface levity but hit very serious issues. Love is the Higher Law examines relationships on multiple levels: From friendly interactions to romantic encounters, to dealing with a tragedy that is difficult for anyone to comprehend, let alone someone so young. It captures a very specific snapshot of the city in a time that was frightening for not just those who lived here, but people around the world.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little Brown & Company.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Sure, Bray's portrait of New York may be a bit creepy, but the flapper-filled 1920s Manhattan portrayed in her novel is also dipped in glamour. What's great about The Diviners is how much of New York it actually covers: From downtown boarding houses to speakeasies in Harlem. Plus, if you love (or are fascinated with) the occult, this book will satisfy all of your supernatural cravings.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin.
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
The teens of Isla and the Happily Ever After give every romance dreamer exactly what they want: Fall in love in Paris, and reignite that spark in the heart of New York City. Their unexpected encounter in the Big Apple proves not just that feelings have no continental bounds, but just how much a city — even one you're only in for a short amount of time— can change your life forever.
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Photo: Courtesy of Harper Collins.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Not all of New York is the right setting for adorable adolescent meet-ups, Myers' Printz Award-winning novel opens with notes from the Cell Block D, Manhattan Detention Center. It then tells the narrative of a teen locked up for a crime he might not have committed. It's emotionally-jarring and hits close to home, given the recent news stories about teenagers being held at Rikers Island.
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