8 Perfect YA Reads for Your Next Picnic

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

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For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we’re finally beginning to see the sun again! The beginning of spring and the warmer weather it brings means one thing for readers: it’s time to return to reading outside. Is there any more peaceful image than reading under a flowering tree, petals dancing in the spring breeze?

If you’re serious about reading for a long period of time, whether outside or indoors, you’ll need some snacks and beverages to sustain you. The perfect array of fun drinks and finger foods transforms a 15-minute reading session into hours of page-turning. This is a great excuse to combine reading outside with another seasonal activity: picnics. You’ll be the envy of the park with a basket of picnic foods and a stack of books. Reading over a picnic can be done solo or with other book-loving friends. Either way, make sure to check the weather forecast because outdoor reading and rainstorms don’t mix well!

Just as important as packing the right snacks is selecting the right books to read with a picnic. You’ll want a book that’s easy to read with distractions — one that will grab your attention but isn’t so heavy that it clashes with the fun, light atmosphere of a picnic. Young adult novels and comics are a good place to start. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorites that pair well with a picnic, from romance to adventure to cozy fantasy. Enjoy!

Bunt! cover

Bunt! by Ngozi Ukazu & Mad Rupert

For readers looking to take a fun sports-themed comic on a picnic.

Molly Bauer is off to college, but it is starting out to be a disaster. All of the money she was promised in the form of financial aid disappeared. But she’s scoured the papers and policies of her school and discovered something: if she and nine other art students can win one game of softball, they’ll all be able to enjoy a full athletic scholarship.

Of course, they’re going for it! Who cares if they don’t know a thing about the sport?

Something Close to Magic cover

Something Close to Magic by Emma Mills

For readers who want a cozy fantasy for their picnic.

It might sound like a dream gig, but for 17-year-old Aurelie, Basil’s Bakery is tough work. She keeps to herself, even though she’s overworked as an apprentice. Then a stranger walks in and gives her a set of Seeking stones. Seeking, an old-fashioned way of magic, is a skill Aurelie has, even though most people in her world do not.

The stranger is a bounty hunter and has a request of Aurelie: help rescue Prince Hapless from the Underwood. She agrees and quickly finds herself drawn into Hapless’s world full of portals, trolls, and more.

Soon, she finds herself falling hard for Hapless and his wild world. Should she stay or return to her dependable, if boring, life at the bakery?

A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic cover

A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic by Yi Shun Lai

For readers who would like an adventure story for their picnic.

This book has everything: a historic setting, the Suffragist movement, a girl on an Antarctic exposition, and a survival story.

Clara Ketterling-Dunbar is part of The Resolute, a team of 28 crew members on an Antarctic exposition. It is November 1914, and the ship is stuck on ice 100 miles from the continent. How will the team survive? How will Clara figure out who she is amid a crew that is not necessarily happy there is a woman on board?

As a heads up: this book has sexual assault and harm to animals — the first is not unpunished, and the second is not out of gross cruelty but survival.

If you love survival, discussions of feminism and what it does or does not entail, and reading about the perceptions held by people around the globe about Americans in this era, don’t miss this one.

the davenports book cover

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

For readers seeking a swoony, frothy historical picnic companion.

If you want a delicious historical novel featuring an all-Black cast at the beginning of the 1900s in Chicago, do not look further. This book DELIVERS and then some.

Inspired by the very real Black entrepreneur CR Patterson, this book imagines what it would be like to be the daughters of a successful businessman at the time, and in addition to the two sisters’ voices, we get to know another daughter of wealth, as well as the assistant of the Davenport daughters. All of the girls have dreams and passions that fall outside of what is expected of them, and all four seem to be falling for people who are outside of their appropriate circles, too. So what happens when they seek to get what they want rather than what’s expected of them?

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert Book Cover

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

For readers who want to take an outdoorsy, (unfairly) cute contemporary romance picnicking.

Celine, the resident conspiracy theorist and local weird girl at her high school, and Bradley, the star football player who struggles with OCD, are ex-best friends. Actually, Bradley abandoned Celine because she didn’t fit in with his new, cool friends (tsks loudly). Now, they’re just academic rivals who engage in general pettiness and who have to work together in a survival course in the woods as part of a scholarship competition. To win, the outdoors isn’t the only messy thing they’ll have to wade through.

If You'll Have Me cover

If You’ll Have Me by Eunnie

For readers who want to picnic with a super sweet and sapphic romance.

Momo is an introverted sweetie. She’s always willing to help people, and she may be just a little naive. PG, though, is on the other end of things. And, though she has a bit of an f-girl reputation, she’s a loner. When Momo and PG have their meet-cute, an awkward but endearing romance starts. Hopefully, it’ll survive Momo’s friend and PG’s past.

The art in this is as adorable as the cover, and it follows characters on the older end of the YA spectrum.

The Laid Back Camp Volume 1 Book Cover

Laid Back Camp by Afro

For readers who’d like a soul-soothing slice-of-life manga about camping to enjoy with their picnic.

Two teen girls — Rin and Nadeshiko — meet each other at a campsite near Mount Fuji. While Rin is an experienced camper and just vibin’, Nadeshiko is going through it. Seeing Nadeshiko’s struggle, Rin offers the younger-looking girl hot ramen and a fire to stay nearby. Eventually, the two girls realize they go to the same school, and Nadeshiko joins the wilderness club with the hopes of going camping properly, while Rin is reluctant to sacrifice her alone time by camping with others.

It’s impressive how appealing this manga made camping seem — it essentially teaches you the basics of camping while showing you the tranquility of being outdoors. Perfect for a picnic.

cover of Salt the Water

Salt the Water by Candice Iloh

For readers who’d like a novel-in-verse about a Black, nonbinary teen who’s trying their best to forge their own path ahead.

High school senior Cerulean Gene was raised in a free-spirited household, which is partially why their school environment feels especially oppressive. Society at large feels oppressive, to be honest, and Cerulean plans to live off the grid with some friends after graduating from high school. Except, they get into it with a problematic teacher and impulsively decides to drop out. A family emergency means they’ll have to use the money they saved up to live with their friends, and we see how easily dreams can be deferred and what it means when they do.

Looking for more recommendations? Check out the best books to read in a hammock and these YA books set around the world.