The best books set in New Jersey by NJ authors

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a proud Jersey girl who grew up walking to the ice cream shop where Tony Soprano took his last breath and spending summers “Down the Shore,” near the MTV house, where Snookie and Co. tried to claim the Jersey Shore as their own. When I was younger, outsiders almost had me convinced those overdone jokes about New Jersey were on to something. After traveling the world and living in other places, I realized how much my home state had to offer. My four young adult novels feature proud Jersey girl protagonists and two of my books are set at the real Jersey shore—The Summer After You and Me and August and Everything After.

I wrote...

The Summer After You and Me

By Jennifer Salvato Doktorski,

Book cover of The Summer After You and Me

What is my book about?

For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn't just the perfect summer escape, it's home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. Still, she can't help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper.

Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy's summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski Why did I love this book?

This groundbreaking book is the reason I wanted to write for teens long before the “young adult” genre existed. Judy Blume, who hails from Elizabeth, New Jersey, inspired me to become the kind of adult and author who never forgot what it was like to be a kid. I first read this coming-of-age story in fifth grade and from the very first sentence,12-year-old Margaret spoke to me. Her worries about growing up and experiencing the mental and physical changes foisted upon her by puberty were also my worries. Her hopes were my hopes. And it didn’t hurt that she lived in a New Jersey suburb, just like me. This book taught me about the intangible quality of voice in writing. All of us YA authors owe Judy Blume a huge debt for showing us the way and arguably inventing an entire genre.

By Judy Blume, Debbie Ridpath Ohi (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Over Nine Million Copies Sold Worldwide.

Meet Margaret. She's going through all the same things most teenage girls have to face; fitting in, friendship and first bras.

Life isn't easy for Margaret. She's moved away from her childhood home, she's starting a new school, finding new friends - and she's convinced she's not normal. For a start she hasn't got a clue whether she wants to be Jewish like her father or Christian like her mother. Everyone else seems really sure of who they are. And, worst of all, she's a 'late developer'. She just knows that all her friends…

Book cover of The Wishbones

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski Why did I love this book?

Everything about this book screams New Jersey. The setting, the voice, the colorful cast of characters surrounding the main character, Dave Raymond, a guitarist for a wedding band called The Wishbones with a serious case of arrested development. Musicians and those on the cusp of marrying one (like I was when I first read this novel) will fall in love with this book for all its humor and quirky charms. I’ve read and loved every one of Tom Perrotta’s novels and short story collections, but this is the book that inspired me to proudly embrace my inner Jersey girl when I finally decided to write my first novel.

By Tom Perrotta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wishbones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The second novel from Tom Perrotta, author of 'Little Children', 'Election' and 'The Abstinence Teacher'.

Everything is going pretty well for Dave Raymond. He's 31, but he still feels young. He's playing guitar with the Wishbones, a New Jersey wedding band, and while it isn't exactly the Big Time, it is music. He has a roof over his head...well, it's his parents' roof, but they don't hassle him much. Life isn't perfect. But it isn't bad. Not bad at all.

But then he has to blow it all by proposing to his girlfriend...

One man's treasure is another man's millstone.…

Book cover of The Season of You & Me

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski Why did I love this book?

Set at the Jersey Shore, this book by fellow New Jersey native Robin Constantine, is my book’s soul sister (right down to the cover) and Robin is my kindred author spirit. We both write about our home state, rock bands, and first loves in a way that only Jersey girls can. By chance, I read this book while vacationing in Cape May, the town that formed the template for the backdrop of this wonderful love story, which made both experiences even more memorable. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Robin invited me to do a book signing with her in her hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey at an amazing indie bookstore called The Little Boho Bookshop.

By Robin Constantine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Season of You & Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

From Robin Constantine, author of The Promise of Amazing and The Secrets of Attraction, comes a funny and heartfelt summer romance set in New Jersey. Perfect for fans of Sarah Mlynowski, Jenny Han, and Morgan Matson. Cassidy Emmerich is reeling from a sudden, humiliating breakup. The last thing she wants to do is stick around and be reminded of her ex everywhere she goes. On impulse, she decides to spend the summer with her father and his family at their Jersey Shore bed-and-breakfast. A different scene and a new job working as a camp counselor seem like the perfect recipe…

Book cover of The Reminders

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski Why did I love this book?

I was honored to read an early draft of this novel by fellow human and Jerseyite, Val Emmich, and was immediately taken with the voice of Joan, a 10-year-old girl with a special condition that gives her the ability to remember everything, but is afraid of being forgotten. To remedy that, she wants to win a prestigious songwriting contest by writing a song that makes people both want to dance and cry (two of the strongest feelings in her opinion). So she strikes a deal with Gavin, an adult songwriter who she believes can help her make that happen. Jersey City is the primary setting for this novel, a city that along with its many other charms, offers spectacular views of the New York City skyline. 

By Val Emmich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Reminders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A wonderful and unusual story told in a beautifully understated way. Quietly magnificent' Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things

Ten-year-old Joan was born with a rare gift: she can remember every single day of her life in perfect detail. She can tell you how many times her mother has uttered the phrase 'it never fails' in the last six months (twenty-seven), or what she was wearing when her grandfather took her fishing on a particular Sunday in June years ago (fox socks).

But Joan doesn't want to be the girl who remembers everything - she wants to…

Book cover of One for the Money

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski Why did I love this book?

Humor is another intangible and often elusive quality to capture on the page when crafting characters and stories that are truly laugh-out-loud funny, but Janet Evanovich is the master. Born in South River, New Jersey, she draws on her hometown and the area in and around Trenton, the state capital region, to create the world of Stephanie Plumb, a bounty hunter with serious Jersey Girl attitude. Not only is it fun to follow the antics of Plumb and her hilarious Grandma Mazur, I love how Evanovich namedrops familiar New Jersey people and locales like Easter Eggs for only the most Jersey among us to find. With 29 books in the Stephanie Plumb series, I never spend a summer at the beach without one.

By Janet Evanovich,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked One for the Money as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephanie Plum is down on her luck. She's lost her job, her car's on the brink of repossession, and her apartment is fast becoming furniture-free.

Enter Cousin Vinnie, a low-life who runs a bail-bond company. If Stephanie can bring in vice cop turned outlaw Joe Morelli, she stands to pick up $10,000. But tracking down a cop wanted for murder isn't easy . . .

And when Benito Ramirez, a prize-fighter with more menace than mentality, wants to be her friend Stephanie soon knows what it's like to be pursued. Unfortunately the best person to protect her just happens to…

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Terracolina: A Place to Belong

By Carla Kessler, Richard Kessler (illustrator),

Book cover of Terracolina: A Place to Belong

Carla Kessler Author Of Terracolina: A Place to Belong

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Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, one of my favorite places was in the top branches of a tree. From up there I could watch the world pass by, remaining invisible. I could make up stories about the world below and no one would challenge me. The second best place for me was inside the story of a book, the kind that took you to magical places where children always found a way to win the day. I knew when I “grew up” I would write one of those empowering books. I became a middle school teacher and have since read many wonderful books for this age. Enjoy my list of favorites.  

Carla's book list on where kids who believe in nature make a difference

What is my book about?

Where do you turn when the only adult who gets you, your grandpa, is gone, and the world seems to be in self-destruct mode?

On his 12th birthday, Thomas runs away to the forest he used to visit with Grandpa. It is dying. Will saving it from a deadly parasite bring him closer to Grandpa or make his world safer? Before he can find out, he is enticed into a magical world under an attack of a different kind.

Welcomed by a garden of talking plants, mind-reading creatures, tree-climbing, nature-loving beings, Thomas conquers the stinging, prickly hedge that guards the portal to this alternate world. At last, a place where he fits in. A place that needs him. But what about his and Grandpa’s forest?

“…a magical book...” John Perkins, New York Times best-selling author

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Interested in New Jersey, puberty, and humour books?

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