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I Can't, I Have Work: 7 YA Books Featuring Memorable Summer Jobs

If you’re like I was most summers, you probably find yourself saying “I can’t, I have work” more often than not when your friends try to convince you to go on day trips to the beach. But all is not lost! The characters in these seven YA novels managed to make lasting friendships, discover something new about themselves, and/or even kiss a cutie or two all while slinging iced coffee and making peace with the fact that no matter how many times you wash your hair, it’s always going to smell a little like Birthday Cake Freez-e Blasts.

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Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for all—by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.

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Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She's landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.

* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou's never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.

* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who's always been up for anything, suddenly isn't when it comes to Lou's quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou's scheme to get close to Nick.

* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland—ever—unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Jennifer Dugan's sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love—and themselves—in unexpected people and unforgettable places.

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Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale

Babe Vogel has spent her whole life in the postcard-perfect small coastal town of Oar’s Rest, Maine. She works at the local coffee shop, the Busy Bean, lives in a lighthouse, and has a tight group of friends she’s known since birth.

When NYC-based artist Levi Keller turns up at the Busy Bean, Babe can immediately tell he’s from “out of town.” Levi is determined to live like a hermit and remain a mystery to the Oar’s Rest natives, but Babe won’t allow it. She takes Levi under her wing and shows him how the Maine locals live.

But as the seasons pass and Babe and Levi’s friendship becomes something more, they both have to figure out if they can balance small-town living with big-city dreams. Is Levi just a “summer boy," destined to go home when the seasons change, or is he in Oar’s Rest to stay?

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Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on.

That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business… but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

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If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

Winnie is living her best fat girl life and is on her way to the best place on earth. No, not Disneyland--her Granny’s diner, Goldeen’s, in the small town of Misty Haven. While there, she works in her fabulous 50’s inspired uniform, twirling around the diner floor and earning an obscene amount of tips. With her family and ungirlfriend at her side, she has everything she needs for one last perfect summer before starting college in the fall.

…until she becomes Misty Haven’s Summer Queen in a highly anticipated matchmaking tradition that she wants absolutely nothing to do with.

Newly crowned, Winnie is forced to take center stage in photoshoots and a never-ending list of community royal engagements. Almost immediately, she discovers that she’s deathly afraid of it all: the spotlight, the obligations, and the way her Merry Haven Summer King, wears his heart, humor, and honesty on his sleeve.

Stripped of Goldeen’s protective bubble, to salvage her summer Winnie must conquer her fears, defy expectations, and be the best Winnie she knows she can be—regardless of what anyone else thinks of her.

The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

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Just My Luck by Jennifer Honeybourn

Marty has terrible luck and she knows exactly why. While working as a housekeeper at the ritzy Grand Palms hotel in Maui, Marty made it a habit to steal small items from the guests. What better way to stick it to the rich snobs they have to clean up after? Marty knows how to turn her luck around — she just has to return all of the items she stole.

When Marty meets Will, a new guest who is staying for the summer, she does the one thing she always promised herself she'd never do — fall for an out-of-towner. But Will's special, different from the other guests at the hotel. Maybe Marty's luck is finally turning around.

After a string of misunderstandings and accidents threaten Will and Marty's relationship, Marty has to find a way to fix her luck for good — or say goodbye to Will forever.

Tell us about your best/worst summer job, Swooners! Summer romances, nightmare customers and everything in between. We want to hear it all!

Author spotlight

Liz O.

Brooklyn resident, sarcasm connoisseur, pop culture junkie, food obsessed. I am on the editorial board for Swoon, binge reading manuscripts ...

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