Love, Cajun Style by Diane Les Becquets
It's the summer before their senior year of high school and Lucy and her best friends Mary Jordan and Evie are hot and bothered. In fact, everyone in their small Louisiana town of Sweetbay seems enflamed by secrets and passions.
Lucy's sweltering is caused by two men - the new, married drama teacher who keeps making inappropriate advances and the new, sweet boy in town, Dewey, who just wants to get to know her. Mary Jordan is having problems with her boyfriend Doug and Evie's looking at an old friend in a new way. Lucy's parents aren't seeing eye-to-eye and her Tante Pearl is acting awfully secretive. What's going on in Sweetbay?
As you can tell from the Southern Challenge, I really enjoy Southern lit and I loved this book. Les Becquets has the best descripitive powers I've come across in a YA novel in ages - you can almost feel the sultry heat, sea the view from the beach, smell the flowers in the air, hear the fiddle music, and taste the Creole shrimp. There is some mature subject matter in this one (hard to have a sultry summer without some sex), but it's handled well - one of the girls' decision to have sex is shown to have actual emotional consequences, not something I've seen too often lately. This is really a coming-of-age novel - Lucy recognizes that it's happening and she's actually not all that happy about the changes, she realizes things will never be the same as they were in childhood. Lucy, Mary Jordan, and Evie's wonderful friendship can weather the growing-up storm, though. And to top it off, there are some great funny parts, including a nude bike ride and some improvising during a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
(Just realized this could be a good one for Southern Challengers who are looking for an extra, quick read!)