From the Beacon: Summer books a teacher didn't assign

In just a few short weeks it will be the period of time teenagers everywhere look forward to for nine months of the year: summer vacation. Whether you choose to spend the blissful time by taking a trip, hanging out with friends, lounging at the beach, going to camp or getting an exciting job or internship, it is a chance to recharge, rest and recuperate after a school year full of homework and tests. Maybe you're simply longing to read something that wasn't assigned by a teacher. If so, here are three great reads that capture what it's like to face a summer full of possibilities:

"Lawn Boy" by Gary Paulsen: For his 12th birthday the narrator of this hilarious story is given an unexpected present: his grandfather's riding lawn mower. Setting out only to make enough extra money over the summer to replace the inner tube on his bike tire, he is completely surprised when there is enormous demand for his services. Arnold, a groovy ex-hippie and stockbroker, guides him on the rules of business and investing in exchange for free lawn mowing service, and soon the young entrepreneur is in charge of a lawn mowing empire. When choosing investments, Arnold advises him to sponsor a prize fighter named Joey Pow and things really start to get interesting. For those who can't get enough of the adventures of "Lawn Boy," there's a sequel called "Lawn Boy Returns."

"Along for the Ride" by Sarah Dessen: Seventeen-year-old Auden is academically gifted but socially awkward. Ever since her parents' divorce, she has immersed herself in studying and the clear-cut rewards of academic success, and she has missed out on the usual childhood milestones: going to the prom, learning to ride a bike and bonding with girlfriends. The summer before she is set to leave for college, Auden makes an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision to spend the time with her father, his cheerful young wife and her new baby sister, Thisbe. She stays with them in their small beach town instead of at home, getting a head start on her college reading with her controlling mother. A job in her step-mother's clothing store exposes Auden to the world of other teenage girls and a friendship with an intriguing boy named Eli who leads her on a quest to experience all the teenage fun she has missed. Dessen perfectly depicts the magic of a summer spent by the ocean; you can practically feel the sand between your toes and the sun on your face while you're reading.

"An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green: Life after high school graduation doesn't look great for Colin Singleton. He is convinced he is a washed-up child prodigy who will never do anything to classify himself as a genius and he has been dumped by his 19th girlfriend, all of whom have been named Katherine. Enter his brash, "Judge Judy"-loving best friend, Hassan, who has the idea to cure Colin's broken heart with a road trip. Off they go with no particular destination in mind. A sign for the Archduke Franz Ferdinand's grave leads them on a detour to Gutshot, Tenn., where friendly locals convince them to stay. Colin's goal is to create a theorem to predict the future of any relationship and have a "eureka moment," but his stay in Gutshot proves to be more informative than he would have imagined about love, friendship and reinventing oneself. This is a smart, funny, insightful story I didn't want to end.