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Contemporaries with a Paranormal Twist

Do you ever want to pick up a book and escape into a totally different world…but, like, only a little bit? What I mean is, do you ever feel like delving into the world of a fantasy or sci-fi is too much, but a straight-up contemporary isn’t enough? If the answer to my questions is yes (or even if it’s no!) these contemporary novels with paranormal twists are absolute delights. So, for when you’re yearning for a mini-break from reality—rather than a two-week vacation—the books below are the perfect little escapes. Pack your weekender—and your tissue box—and get reading!

I’ll Be Waiting for You

by Mariko Turk

I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for a sad book—or movie, or song! But what I love about I’ll Be Waiting for You is that it isn’t just a sad book. It’s about the loss of a friend, but also has a heart-melting romantic storyline and a chilling ghost situation. Speaking of the latter, do you ever feel like contemporary ghosts are scarier? Like, a ghost in the 1800s doesn’t scare me, but a ghost in the era of self-driving cars and iPhones? Absolutely terrifying. Whether you agree with this “hot take” or not, this book is amazing, and you should go read it RIGHT NOW!

Right Here, Right Now

by Shannon Dunlap

If I’ll Be Waiting for You sounded like your type of book, then you’ll also love Right Here, Right Now. This one is a little less ghost-y, a little more parallel universe-y—so if ghosts aren’t your thing, start here! But then also go read I’ll Be Waiting for You because it is SO good. Right Here, Right Now is a heartbreaking and moving story about loss and friendship. And, of course, there’s a swoon-worthy romance. A romance that spans universes!

Sometime in Summer

by Katrina Leno

If you, like me, spend 75% of the year daydreaming about summer, then this is your book! The summer vibes are immaculate. Think: New England beach town, the smell of sea salt, a humid breeze, tan lines, ice cream cones. It’s about fourteen-year-old Anna who feels very UNlucky. Her parents are divorcing, her mom is selling their family’s bookstore, and Anna and her best friend are in a fight. This sweet book is the perfect beach read, or park read (for Fall and Spring days) or fireside read (for Winter days when you long for summer). There is also a splash of the fantastical, but I won’t give any spoilers away! You have to read the book to find out.

The In Between

by Marc Klein

If you are looking to be absolutely distraught (in a good way, of course) then read The In Between because it will destroy you (again, in a good way). This book is so beautiful and immensely heartbreaking but also kind of healing. It’s about first love, its tragic ending, and some encounters with the afterlife. There’s also a movie adaptation starring Joey King. But, like my mother always told me, read the book first! You won’t be disappointed.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

by Lev Grossman

Once you’ve cried your tear ducts dry reading The In Between, find some relief with all the cuteness that is The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. It’s a short story—i.e. a very quick read, and perfect for anyone falling behind with their reading goals—and it was also adapted into an adorable and utterly romantic film. It’s basically a “Groundhog Day” situation where two teens are the only people aware that the same day keeps repeating itself, and over the course of the story they fall in love while also making the most of their time in the loop they’re stuck in. But I should warn you, while it’s adorable and funny, by the end of this story, you will be crying, again.

The Astonishing Color of After

by Emily X.R. Pan

And here is another amazing, devasting, gorgeous contemporary novel with some mythical/magical twists. Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is about Leigh Chen Sanders, who, after her mother’s death, travels to Taiwan for the first time to her maternal grandparents. While there, Leigh uncovers family secrets, grieves the loss of her mother, and deals with the consequences of kissing her longtime crush and best friend(!), Axel. This book truly has it all and it is just told so beautifully.

Where I End and You Begin

by Preston Norton

I promise that if you are wholly against reading sad books then this is the book for you—though I might argue that one should have a well-balanced book diet of both sad and not-so-sad books. But seriously, this book is so funny, so when you need a break from the tearjerkers, laugh it out with Where I End and You Begin. This one is kind of a body-swap “Freaky Friday” situation, where two teens, Ezra and Wynonna, wake up in each other’s bodies. It’s a little Shakespearean, with Ezra having a giant crush on Wynonna’s best friend and Wynonna having a crush on Ezra’s best friend, à la Twelfth Night. This book is truly such a good time and the perfect book to read between all the devasting books on this list.