5 Poolside Reads to Give You Hope in Life and Love this Summer

By: Farida El Shafie

This reading list will make all your single hearts swoon and all your committed hearts miss your significant other. WAIT! It is also for everyone who is currently feeling absolutely defeated. Yes, you read that right. If you’re just like me and are feeling like life has not been treating you well recently perhaps one of these novels will help you get your life (or whatever is left of it) back in motion. What also makes these novels perfect is that they’re all quick poolside reads to lose yourself in this summer (or distractions when you’re missing summer this upcoming school year…no judgement there).

#1 Normal People – Sally Rooney:

I don’t even know where to begin with this one, because it has managed to render ME speechless and that is quite an accomplishment if I do say so myself. This novel probably has two of the most genuine, real, characters fiction has to offer. Here’s a basic breakdown: essentially Rooney writes in the form of ‘snapshots in time’ as It follows Connell and Marianne who despite their differences manage to form a deep connection which we as readers get to witness grow as they move from school to university and so on. The best part about this novel is that the focus is not simply on how strong of a connection these characters have but rather how flawed they are. The two could not be more dysfunctional and imperfect but their struggles are what make them so incredible to explore. Don’t get it twisted it is not a sad novel by any means but rather an unconventionally hopeful perspective on a conventional tale.

#2 Pachinko – Min Jin Lee:

To be completely honest when I picked this novel up I was unsure of what to expect. Up until that point I had not yet introduced myself to the world of Japanese-Korean literature and as someone who isn’t incredibly familiar with historical fiction, this one definitely took me by surprise. To be honest I want you guys to experience this novel the same why I did by just going in blind (it is also kind of tricky to explain so bear with me). Sunja was born to a family with major financial struggles and has to work day and night alongside her mother after her father’s passing. Amidst all this Sunja runs into the arms of a man who comes to her aid as she’s being harassed on the street. A few months later… you guessed it… she falls pregnant. Sadly she discovers he’s already married and in spite of his offer to stand by her financially, her integrity forces her to decline and marry a sickly minister on his way to Japan. From this point onwards Sunja’s life unfolds right before our eyes. This novel will leave you feeling completely enamored by her courage, the hope she hold on to, and the love she grows to find for her savior.

#3 Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven:  

Holding Up the Universe is about Libby, a girl, who was once so overweight (as a downturn due to her mother’s passing) she needed a crane to be taken out of her house. Post losing control of her entire life she lost a lot of weight and is fairly confident, strong, and comfortable, but she’s aware of how those around her aren’t as accepting as she is of her appearance. Jack has prosopagnosia meaning he cannot recognize faces, and mainly recognizes Libby due to her size. In the eyes of their peers the two have been deemed as outcasts yet the two manage to love each other’s imperfections in a way that will truly make you swoon. It will make you believe (the same way it made me believe) that there is someone out there for all of us. The romance is cliché, I will admit that, but Niven has never failed to understand the turbulent mind of a teenager and she surely has not failed with this one. So, if you are going through a rough patch, maybe even a breakup, or your just cynical about love and waiting for something to make you believe in life and love again, maybe this is the perfect read for you.

#4 It Ends With Us – Colleen Hoover:

Spoiler alert: this one’s a tear jerker. This next novel spoke to me on a deeply personal level as there were moments throughout where I had to put it down and take a breath. It is a high-strung and vulnerable portrayal of relationships and I truly think that everyone needs to read it. Whilst this book shows us how love can hurt and it also impeccably demonstrates how love heals you in more ways than one would expect. Most importantly it sends a message that just because you love someone, doesn’t mean you need to give them the power to damage you. On a more important note, this novel, although fictitious, is based on a true story. The author’s own to be exact. Hoover depicts her mother’s domestic abuse, but she presents her as the capable, survivor, she has become. This novel will guide if you’re feeling torn apart and hurt by someone in your life. It will show you just how hope can manage to not only save but restore a broken soul.

#5 The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson:

This last one is absolutely phenomenal and one that flawlessly portrays what life becomes after the loss of a loved one. Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker has just lost her big sister, Bailey, to arrhythmia. Yet surely enough, she manages to find solace and comfort in her sister’s boyfriend. “La la keda elet adab” walahy I had the same doubts as you, but don’t let them spoil the beauty you’re about to encounter. They manage to form and create a bond over their love for Bailey, essentially allowing grief and loss to give life to a new relationship. It made them see each other in a different light and actually become one another’s light during a dark time. Something that they never thought was possible. It truly is an abstract, joyful read, with flickers of hope and love sprinkled throughout that will make you physically incapable of putting it down.

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