Every summer, whether it was from media I read/watched as a kid or my own friend’s stories, I longed to spend my summers at summer camp — an experience which I’m sure I glamorized a little but one that seemed magical in the memory and experience department.
My mom never quite got on board with my longing for summers filled with summer camps away from home but I did get to attend youth group camp for a week or 2 every summer which quelled a little bit of that longing for summer camp — an experience I’d realize maybe I wasn’t cut out for after my short stints each summer.
I got enough time for memories and fun and freedom but not enough time that I started to really hate the bugs and the sweat and the outdoors like the indoor cat I was. Nonetheless, I was always drawn summer camp settings in my books and shows/movies and I often still feel nostalgic for my camp memories and also the ones I never got but romanticized in my head.
Anyways, still to this day, one of my favorite summertime reads is always a summer camp book. Any book set at a summer camp, even if it’s a thriller or horror book, will always vividly inject me with nostalgic summertime vibes.
Honestly, it’s a setting I wish to see more often in books but I have found some go-to books about summer camp/books set at summer camp — both teen books and adult books; from romances to thrillers.
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Best Summer Camp Books To Read
I’ve separated them a little bit for your ease of finding exactly what you are looking for if you are short on time or have a specific type of book you are looking for.
YA Summer Camp Books
Teen summer camp books will always be my favorite! You can feel the freedom and the possibilities of the summer so vividly — especially if it’s a teen summer romance book!
You Have A Match by Emma Lord
At A Glance: contemporary YA, friends to lovers romance, sisters, family secrets
It’s no secret I love Emma Lord’s YA contemporary books and I inhaled this one with its summer camp setting, sweet sister story and friends-to-lovers romance.
After taking a DNA test with her friends, mostly as a show of support, Abby finds out she has a sister who lives only 30 minutes away. The two connect and decide to meet at summer camp to learn more about each other — the summer camp where her best friend Leo (who she also has a crush on) works as a camp counselor.
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
At A Glance: little more emotional summer read (mom with cancer), lake setting, romance, family matters
When of my favorites overall on this list and one that hit me very personally! Definitely a little more emotional than some of the other lighter summer camp reads on this list but it should not be missed as it has some great characters, self-discovery and romance.
It’s about a teen girl whose mother’s cancer has reappeared (just around the time her boyfriend puts a pause on their relationship) and, instead of spending the summer with them at their camp, ends up taking a job as a counselor (at her mom’s urging) at the hippie camp across the lake that caters to campers who are troubled/have gone through a lot.
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Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally
At A Glance: part of a loose series, church camp, faith, romance
A bit of a throwback but the third book (can be read without having reading the rest of the series) in the Hundred Oaks series is so good and such a great pick if you are looking for a YA summer camp romance book! It’s set at a church camp and features a teen girl’s summer as a camp counselor while also falling in love and grappling with her very strong beliefs. I remember feeling nervous it was going to be too religious as someone who is in a weird space with all that but I thought it was well done.
Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park
At A Glance: social media, influencers, cheesy fun, romance (opposites attract)
A social media influencer is shipped off to rural digital detox summer camp in Iowa after a cooking-video-gone-awry goes viral but she is determined to find a way to get back online if she wants a shot at a huge opportunity. This one was really cheesy (in a good way) cute and fun – romance, unexpected friendships and some exploration of the good and bad of social media.
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Long Story Short by Serena Kaylor
At A Glance: theater camp, lighthearted, great for younger teens
A newer one to add to the list! It’s about a not-so-social homeschooled math genius who finds herself out of her element at a theater summer camp when her parents, afraid socially/emotionally for her going across the world for college, make her sign up for camp armed with a checklist of typical teenage experiences they want her to have in order to prove she can manage heading off to Oxford in the fall.
Fun, lighthearted and I REALLY thought the summer camp theater setting was fantastic. A good one for younger YA readers, too!
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There is another YA summer camp book that I feel like NAILED the vibe of summer camp but the book didn’t really do much for me but I’d feel remiss to mention because others I know enjoyed it more back when it came out– Five Summers by Una LaMarche. You can take a look at my review of Five Summers to see if you might like it!
Thrillers & Horror Books Set At Summer Camps
Looking for books set at summer camp that are a little bit more thrilling or scary? Less romance, more blood? These are some of my favorite summer camp horror and thriller books.
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
At A Glance: creepy thriller, adult fiction, missing persons
I really enjoy Riley Sager’s books for the most part and this one might be one of my favorites.
A perfectly creepy summer camp book about a woman, haunted for the past 15 years after her three summer camp bunkmates left their room and never came back, and decides to accept the invitation to become an art instructor at the newly reopened camp with a mission of actually finding out what happened to her friends.
It goes back and forth from the past and the present at the summer camp and you get sucked in thanks to the atmosphere and thrills.
The Counselors by Jessica Goodman
At A Glance: YA murder mystery, lake setting, haves & have nots
This was a quick bingeable YA murder mystery set at summer camp and it really captured that summer camp vibe well! Less slasher thriller, more slow burn murder mystery.
It’s about Goldie, a townie, who now is a camp counselor at the camp of her childhood with her best friends. She’s been keeping some secrets from her best friends going into the new camp season and the summer gets more complicated when a dead body is found floating in the lake.
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Summer Camp Books For Adults
Looking for summer camp set books for adults? Check out these picks!
Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker
At A Glance: summer camp romance, second chance romance, opposites attract
If you are looking for a summer camp romance book for adults this one is a favorite! It’s a second chance romance about a woman who is reconnected with the boy from summer camp who broke her heart — a boy from the wrong side of the tracks that she fell for when working as camp counselors — when he shows up as the new building security guard where she works as a Senior Vice President at her father’s firm.
It’s a great second chance romance story but oh man do the past chapters, set at the summer camp, bring all the summer camp nostalgia.
P.S. I also highly recommend The Simple Wild by this author — one of my favorite romance-adjacent books!
The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman
At A Glance: women’s fiction, friendship, middle aged characters, 1980’s & present day, Michigan
This is not my typical read but I think I picked this up randomly from a Barnes and Noble one summer because I was craving a good summertime setting like summer camp and was really into books about friendships at the time.
It’s about three women who meet at Camp Birchwood in 1985 (lol when I was born) and became inseparable throughout their four summers together until that last summer that pulled them apart. The now middle-aged women are reunited, in an attempt to repair and reconnect the women when one woman shares devastating news via a letter, for one last time at Camp Birchwood.
Friendship, nostalgia and a little bit of sappiness. Loved the Michigan setting (though heavy handed at times reminding the reader of the setting).
(Also color me shocked when I looked up the author after reading this and found out it’s a pen name and a man wrote it! I do love the story of his pen name)
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Upcoming New Books Set At Summer Camp For 2023
These are all new releases on my radar for this year that are set at summer camp in the event you have read all of my go-to recommendations above. Let’s check out these new summer camp books together!
Give Me A Sign by Anna Sortino
At A Glance: young adult, romance, camp for Deaf and Blind, self discovery
This YA summer camp romance book looks fantastic! It’s set at a summer camp for the Deaf and the Blind where the main character, a 17 year old girl with hearing loss who has felt like she has never truly fit in anywhere, takes a job as a counselor there in order to be around more people like her. A summer full of romance, new friends and self-discovery.
That Summer Feeling by Bridget Morrissey
At A Glance: adult summer camp, sapphic romance, found family, self discovery
I have always dreamed of the concept of a summer camp but for adults (but with comfy beds and nice accommodations lol) and this book is probably the closest I’ll ever get to that.
It’s about a divorced woman who attends a sleepaway camp for adults only in the Blue Ridge Mountains and finds herself reconnecting with a man from her past but soon starts to catch feelings for his sister instead.
The Girls From Hush Cabin by Marie Hoy-Kenny
At A Glance: young adult thriller, murder, for fans of Pretty Little Liars
Looking for a YA murder mystery/thriller? Check this one out — it’s about four summer camp best friends, who have drifted apart after a tragedy closed the camp down, reuniting to figure out what really happened to their beloved camp counselor whose accidental death looks more like murder.
The Summer of Songbirds by Kristy Woodson Harvey
At A Glance: adult fiction, friendship, Southern
This is going in my beach bag this summer for sure — especially this author’s other book Feels Like Falling was such a great beach read for me!
This summer camp set book is about four women who come together to save the summer camp that changed their lives as young girls and set them on a path, as they are all dealing with their own personal things, to change the next chapter of their lives.
Wildfire by Hannah Grace
At A Glance: romance, college-aged MCs, summer camp counselors, part of a series
This one is about two college students who have a sizzling one night stand but are later surprised to bump into each other again as summer camp counselors, both hoping to escape their home lives by working there all summer, with a strict no staff fraternizing policy.
The Last Girls Standing by Jennifer Dugan
At A Glance: teen psychological thriller, 80’s slasher vibes, queer YA, trauma, survivor trope
Two teen girls, bonded after becoming the only survivors at a summer camp massacre that took the lives of their fellow counselors, have become inseparable in the months that follow. As new evidence and motives emerge one of the girls starts to wonder if the other was part of the ritual killing that bonded them and isn’t sure what to believe anymore about that night.
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Do you have any favorite books set at summer camp? I’d love any recommendations for summer camp books to check out. It’s one of my favorite settings — bring on all the summertime camp nostalgia!
Need to be transported somewhere else?