The List, a novel about the lives of CofC students, looks like a trashy romance novel. The book’s cover features two super hot teens in a tight embrace, the Ravenel bridge lit up in the background. The moment we saw it, we knew we had to read it.

“I lived in Charleston for four years, and I loved it,” says The List‘s author, Kate L. Mary. She’d always wanted to visit the city, especially after reading a lot of historical romance books set in Charleston. Mary and her family, including four kids ages five to 11, move around often since her husband is in the Air Force.

But don’t get it twisted: The List is far from a historical romance novel. The College Lodge and Joe Pasta (of all places, Joe Pasta) get name dropped before we’re even a quarter of the way through the story. But The List is a fun, well-written young adult novel. Well, new adult novel, if we’re being technical. According to Mary, “New adult is a new category about college-aged protagonists. It’s the age when you’re trying to figure out where you belong in life.”

The List follows Annie Roth, a freshman from California, who arrives in Charleston knowing no one. She quickly befriends her roommate, wild and promiscuous Cami. Ryan, Cami’s cousin is introduced soon after, along with his best friend Chris. Ryan and Chris are both super hot, obviously.

Annie is as innocent as a 19-year-old can be — she’s never kissed a boy, never had more than a sip of alcohol, and she sure as hell hasn’t gotten her ears pierced. Her mom died when she was a baby and her father and four older brothers are extremely protective of her. Which kind of calls into question the fact that she was allowed to move across the country for school … but why ruin a good story?

Cami takes Annie on as a project and the two create a list — The List — with 20 items Annie needs to cross off before she turns 20. These include everything from getting highlights in her hair to getting her belly button pierced to having sex. Remember the aforementioned best friends, Chris and Ryan? Cue the love triangle y’all, because you’re in for a treat.

One has to wonder how Mary can tap into the college culture of a school she never actually attended. Sure, she walked around downtown Charleston, but how does she know where underage CofC kids like to party? At the end of the day, though, college kids are college kids, and Mary depicts them pretty damn realistically. “I read a lot of books in this genre,” says Mary, adding, “And I emailed with a college girl for more research.”

Mary, who currently resides in Oklahoma, technically lived in Summerville during her time in the Lowcountry, but she writes about downtown Charleston in such a breezy way, you wouldn’t know that she’d never resided here. At 226 pages, the book is a quick read — we conquered it in about four hours from our phone’s screen. It’s prime beach reading, which is kind of what the cover suggests.

“I originally just wanted the Ravenel Bridge on the cover,” says Mary. “But my publisher said that it needed people, and there are some concessions you have to make.” While the cover image suggests some steamy teen romps through Charleston, the book offers a little more depth than that — albeit right alongside some graphic teenaged sex.

The book’s two main protagonists have troubled pasts, you know the kind that make them sympathetic, while also making them sexually attractive to other troubled teens. Annie’s mom died in a mysterious way and Ryan, one of her love interests, also lost his mom in some terrible event. Neither one will talk about it, until eventually they do. And you can guess what happens after that. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s kind of sweet, too. The emotional distress factor also lends some credibility to the characters, making their young relationship plausible in the eyes of more mature audiences.

The List is followed by No Regrets, Moving On, and Letting Go, which comes out this fall. Crack open a beer and pull a beach chair to the edge of the sea, The List just made your summer reading list.

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