Young Adult

Fantasy Literature for Young Adults (over the age of 12).

The Initiation: Classic YA paranormal romance

Reposting to include Kelly's new review.

The Initiation by L.J. Smith

Cassie Blake is distraught when her mother decides to uproot to the small town of New Salem in order to take care of a grandmother who Cassie had never even met before. But that is only the start of her problems. Starting a new school, trying to make new friends — and discovering that some of the people she would most like to befriend are all part of some secret Club that Cassie is not permitted to join. Then a girl dies and Cassie is finally initiated into the Secret Circle, learning that magic is more than just a folktale.

These days the YA market is flooded with paranormal activity — witches amongst them. But in 1992 when LJ Smith first wrote The Secret Circle trilogy it was something fresh and new — and should be reviewed with that in mind. LJ Smith was producing w... Read More

Damsel: A disturbing feminist allegory in fairy tale form

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Damsel
(2018) has an absolutely gorgeous cover, one of the loveliest I’ve seen, with a glowing title wound about with vines, bleeding hearts and other flowers. But on closer examination there’s something just a little bit off about the cover image. An anatomically correct heart. A golden spur with a myriad of sharp points. A dragon’s pointed tail. It’s a bit disturbing. And it’s an apt metaphor for the contents of Elana K. Arnold’s book, where the fairy-tale details initially mask an allegorical story that is far, far darker.

Prince Emory is on a quest, a traditional rite of passage in his kingdom: He is traveling to the gray lands to conquer a dragon, rescue a beautiful young damsel, and bring her back to his kingdom to be his wife, as his father and forefathers have done before him. The hazards of his journey to the dragon’s lair and his tension-f... Read More

Archenemies: Convenient tensions that irritate but don’t penetrate

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Archenemies (2018) is the second installment in the popular YA trilogy RENEGADES, by Marissa Meyer. The story revolves around a team of superheroes who police Gatlon City against crime. In Gatlon, superhuman powers abound and their possessors have polarized int two antagonistic groups — The Renegades and The Anarchists. With names like that, you may have a difficult time knowing which are the good guys and which are the bad — and that’s kind of the point. Marissa Meyer has drawn up a plot where she means to ask questions about who can be trusted with extraordinary power. And can we trust any of them to be good? On its face, the story has possibilities, but it’s too ambitious for Meyer. Her execution comes off clunky and heavy-handed.

Diving in, you need to know... Read More

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy: Diverse opinions for a story of diversity

Editor's note: BINTI was originally published in three separate novellas but has recently been released in a complete trilogy. We've combined all of our new and previous BINTI reviews in this post.

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor

As Binti, a mathematically brilliant, 16 year old member of the African Himba tribe, sneaks away from her home in the dead of night, I felt almost as much anticipation as Binti herself. Binti has decided, against massive family pressure, to accept a full-ride scholarship to the renowned Oomza University on a planet named ― wait for it ― Oomza Uni. (Perhaps the university sprawls across the entire planet? Certainly it covers several cities many miles apart.) Himba tribe members are technically advanced but socially isolated from other people, and Binti’s breaking away from her tribe evidences her courage, but leaves her isolated, an outsider.
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Year of the Griffin: A sweet boarding school fantasy

Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones

Year of the Griffin (2000) is a sequel (of sorts) to Diana Wynne JonesDark Lord of Derkholm, a satirical fantasy aimed at children and young adults, but just as enjoyable for grown-ups. Year of the Griffin is different — it’s not a satire and, for that reason, probably isn’t as appealing to adults, but I still enjoyed it. It’s what I like to call a boarding school fantasy, in the vein of HARRY POTTER. You don’t need to read Dark Lord of Derkholm first.

Year of the Griffin begins eight years after the events of Dark Lord of Derkholm and stars one of Derk... Read More

Realm of Ruins: Definitely not for me

Realm of Ruins by Hannah West

Though billed simultaneously as a stand-alone companion novel and a sequel to Hannah West’s Kingdom of Ash and Briars, I would strongly recommend reading Realm of Ruins (2018) after that novel, as many of the events and characters from the first novel are mentioned in the second, and not having any references for those details tended to distract me whenever they cropped up in the text.

European fairy-tale references abound throughout THE NISSERA CHRONICLES, particularly the ones adapted into Disney movies: Kingdom of Ash and Briars appears to have contained elements of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, while Realm of Ruins has sub-plots taken straight from Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, along with some clear nods to ... Read More

Dark Lord of Derkholm: A delightfully satirical fantasy

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) is a delightful young adult story for those who like a heavy dose of satire in their fantasy. Similar to Diana Wynne JonesThe Tough Guide to Fantasyland, it pokes fun of the genre we love by exposing and exploiting some of its most common clichés.

The story takes place in a world parallel to ours to which people can travel and pay to have an adventure. The company that sells the tours, Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties, is from our world. Mr. Chesney’s company has constructed a medieval fantasy setting in the parallel world and employs the people who live there to act out the stereotypical characters that its customers expect.

Much to his dismay, this year Derk ... Read More

Fearless: Second verse, same as the first

Fearless by Sarah Tarkoff

Sarah Tarkoff follows up her debut YA novel Sinless with Fearless (2019), the second installment in the EYE OF THE BEHOLDER trilogy. I didn’t enjoy Sinless and this trilogy’s middle book didn’t get its hooks in me either, carrying over a lot of the issues I had with book one and creating some entirely new ones that don’t bode well for the trilogy as a whole.

Grace Luther remains preternaturally lucky, which is a good thing for this series, because otherwise her ineptitude and impetuousness would make for a very short book with a swift and unpleasant ending. She’s currently employed by the Prophet Joshua and his Guru, Samuel, as an undercover agent ... Read More

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful: Linked stories exploring humanity’s potential

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

Arwen Elys Dayton’s latest novel, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful (2018) is a novel comprised of six linked stories, each taking part in a different point in humanity’s future, beginning “A few years from now,” leapfrogging to various points beyond, and ending when “They have left us far behind.” Dayton doesn’t specify the precise year or time period, letting the pace and scale of scientific advancements inform the reader’s imagination. Her teenaged protagonists each experience some kind of alteration (or lack thereof) and must cope with backlash, acceptance, or rejection of their changing selves and the significance those changes have on the world around them.

“Matched Pair” — An affecting story about twins Evan and Julia Weary, who are quite ill, and whose parents have decided that one surviving child, ... Read More

Kingdom of Exiles: Fae fantasy and sentimentality

Kingdom of Exiles by S.B. Nova

Here we have the tale of Serena Smith, blacksmith’s daughter exiled from her puritan-like settlement and then kidnapped by fairies and sold in the Kingdom of Aldar, which has much worse political problems than the oppressive community from which she’s taken. The difference is, she finds a way of making a difference — a thing she could not do in her human home.

I feel like this kind of fairy story is a bit at war with itself. Kingdom of Exiles (2017) bills as a feminist tale and means to make Serena fierce and self-actualizing, but there are at least as many times when the story can’t be served by this kind of persona and it falls into sharp conflict with its own ideals. Women ought to be playing heroic roles, but human power is never as good as fairy power in this story. When humans are amplified with magic, we’re again, not talking about feminine power. What is it... Read More

The Echo Room: Begins better than it ends (or middles)

The Echo Room by Parker Peevyhouse

In The Echo Room (2018), which is sort of a Groundhog Day meets The Maze Runner, Parker Peevyhouse takes on one of the most difficult narratives for an author — the time loop story. Unfortunately, while Peevyhouse has her moments, the time loop comes out victorious.

The story opens up intriguingly enough, when Rett Ward wakes up in a strange and seemingly abandoned building with no memory of how he got there, blood on his clothes, and a scar across his head. Equally disconcerting is that someone else, a girl named Brynn, is trapped in there with him, also with no memories and also with a scar. The two explore the place warily, neither sure if they can trust the other (Brynn, seeing the blood on Rett’s clothes, has good reason to be suspicious), ... Read More

The Vampire Diaries 2: The Fury & The Reunion

The Vampire Diaries: The Fury & The Reunion by L.J. Smith

This is the second bind-up for THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. The Fury and The Reunion were originally published as two separate books; in fact, The Reunion was published some time after The Fury, which effectively closes the trilogy begun with The Awakening and The Struggle). In The Fury Elena, alongside her friends Bonnie and Meredith, struggles to control her nature and discover the source of the evil Power that is haunting Fell’s Church. She knows that the only way it can be defeated is if the two vampire brothers Stefan and Damon can put alongside their lifelong enmity and work together. In The Reunion Fell’s Church is once again being terrorised b... Read More

Fire & Heist: An easy contender for Best YA of 2018

Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

I’d only previously read Sarah Beth Dursts QUEENS OF RENTHIA series, so I was excited to have the chance to read Fire & Heist (2018), her latest YA novel. I never know whether an author whose adult work is enjoyable will write well for a young adult audience — or vice versa — but I’m pleased to be able to report that Durst is clearly adept at writing for any age group, and particularly so for nerdy readers.

Sky Hawkins is the kind of leading character many readers would love to hate. She comes from a family who “owned at one time a fleet of Aston Martins and [gave] the gardener his own Tesla,” and readily acknowledges that she might seem like just another “poor little rich girl” in Aspen, Colorado who deserves “the world’s smallest ... Read More

The Girl with the Dragon Heart: Creating your own story

The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis follows up last year’s award-nominated middle grade fantasy The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart with The Girl with the Dragon Heart (2018), the second book in her TALES FROM THE CHOCOLATE HEART series. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart followed the escapades of Aventurine, a chocolate-loving young dragon enchanted into the shape of a young girl. The focus now shifts to Aventurine’s friend Silke, a dark-skinned girl with short black curly hair. More importantly, Silke is also brave, quick-thinking and fast-moving, and has a great talent for creating stories, including her own.

Silke, an ... Read More

Bright Ruin: Rebellion against magical tyranny

Bright Ruin by Vic James

"Fear was the superpower they all possessed. And unlike Midsummer’s monsters, there was no limit to the number of people they could control with it."

Vic James wraps up her hard-hitting DARK GIFTS fantasy trilogy with Bright Ruin (2018), which picks up right where the second book, Tarnished City, left off. This series is set an alternative version of our world where a minority, called the “Equals,” has powerful magical gifts. What they are supposed to be “equal” to is a good question, since ― in England and several other countries ― they have used their powers to cruelly oppress the non-magical majority. Among other abuses, all “Skilless” are forced to sp... Read More

Legendary: If you like The Cheesecake Factory, this book might be for you

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary (2018) is the second novel in the CARAVAL trilogy. The third novel, Finale, is due out in May of 2019. I entered this series midstream, after sisters Donatella (Tella) and Scarlet have escaped their father’s controlling grip and freed themselves from the hold of their first Caraval competition. Now Tella is about to dive back into the stream for the sake of a debt she incurred in Caraval. This time she has to find the name and true identity of Legend, the grand master of the Caraval show. The only way she can do that is to enter and win. At the same time, she is trying to find clues to the whereabouts of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared when she was a young girl.

The CARAVAL series has been very wel... Read More

Skyward: Fighting for the stars

Reposting to include Nathan's new review:

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s new young adult science fiction novel, Skyward (2018), replaces his intricately detailed fantasy magical systems with equally detailed dogfights between one-person starship fighters of the humans living on the planet Detritus (it’s as bleak as it sounds) and the starships of the alien Krell. The Krell chased a fleet of human spaceships to Detritus decades ago and have pinned them down on the planet since, frequently bombarding the humans with attacks that threaten to wipe out the colony, where people primarily live underground for safety.

Spensa Nightshade’s father died years ago during a major battle against the Krell. Though other families of spaceship pilots are lauded by the colony, “C... Read More

Remembrance: Totally unconvincing and just silly

Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous MEDIATOR books. If you’re interested in this series, please don’t read this review, but take a look at the first book, Shadowland, instead.

Remembrance (2016), the seventh novel in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series, was published 11 years after fans thought the series was finished with Twilight (though Cabot prepared readers for reentry with the novella Proposal, published just before Remembrance).
... Read More

The Silver Dream: The stakes get even higher

The Silver Dream by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves

This review will contain spoilers for the first INTERWORLD book, InterWorld. You should read InterWorld (2007) before beginning The Silver Dream (2013).

Joey Harker, the Walker, is now almost 17 years old and he has so far survived as a member of the InterWorld, the military organization made up of all the Joeys in the altiverses who have come together to protect their earths from the Hex and the Binary. On one of their missions, they somehow manage to bring back a stowaway when they return to their secret base. It’s a girl named Acacia Jones and she has a supernatural power, too. While the Joeys can walk through different spatial dimensions, Acacia can walk through time. She’s a handy ally to h... Read More

Interworld: Fun science fiction for kids and teens

Interworld by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves

Joey Harker thinks he’s a pretty normal kid except that he’s got a horrible sense of direction. When his social studies teacher makes the kids try to find their way back to school after being dropped off somewhere in town, Joey gets lost. That’s when he discovers there’s a good reason for his deficit — he’s a Walker. In fact, he’s THE Walker. He can travel through all the (heretofore unknown to Joey) alternate earths.

When Joey accidentally walks out of our earth, the InterWorld finds him. This is an organization made up of all the Walkers (i.e., all the Joey Harkers) who exist in all the alternate earths. They form a military unit that keeps their earths safe from the Hex and the Binary, the two groups that are trying to exploit the earths for their own purposes. The Hex, which controls some of the worlds, uses magic, while the Binary, which c... Read More

Proposal: A MEDIATOR novella that can be skipped

Proposal by Meg Cabot

Fans of Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series thought it was over back in 2005 with Twilight, but in 2016, Cabot published this novella as book “6.5” before publishing another full novel (Remembrance) that year. This review will have some spoilers for the series, so please don’t read further if you intend to read MEDIATOR.

Suze is now in college and Jesse is in med school. Theirs is a long-distance relationship, so Suze is not expecting to see Jesse on Valentine’s Day. Instead, she’s dealing with some young ghosts who want revenge on their killer. So, when Jesse shows up to surprise her, she’s kind of busy.

The earlier stories in this series are better ... Read More

Umbertouched: A satisfactory duology, and mercifully, not a trilogy

Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne

Livia Blackburne’s second novel in the ROSEMARKED duology, Umbertouched (2018) follows the story of plague-infected Zivah and -recovered Dineas as they escape imperial quarantine to return to their tribe and village, prepare them for imperial attack, and try to widely expose the rogue physician who had used the plague to deliberately infect imperial troops.

Tension between Dineas and Zivah remains consistent and credible, despite Zivah’s having restored his memory. Zivah feels guilt for the lingering negative impact of the treatment and psychological burden of having, effectively, cut his mind in half. Dineas is sure that Zivah loves him only without his burdened memory. They work together expertly, however, and when certain of the Shidadi tribe want to make... Read More

The Book Thief: A tale of a girl told by Death

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

"Here is a small fact. You are going to die."

It is Death who speaks the novel’s opening lines. And Death himself, for the duration of Markus Zusak’s bestselling novel, will be our narrator. It is 1939 in Nazi Germany and whilst he takes away an increasing amount of souls, Death muses on the unravelling of humanity.

Upon taking the soul of a young boy on a train, Death notices a girl. Her name is Liesel Meminger and she has just watched her brother die. Her mother takes her to a town called Molching, specifically to a street named Himmel, which translates as heaven. Here she is taken into the care of Rosa and Hans Hubermann, a German couple whose son has been lost in the war. With the death of her brother and abandonment of her mother, Liesel must come to terms with her new life under the watchful eye of Rosa, who swears at anything that moves (if she is not al... Read More

Twilight: This is not the Suze we know and love

Twilight by Meg Cabot

Twilight (2006) is the sixth novel in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. The first five books are Shadowland, Ninth Key, Reunion, Darkest Hour, and Haunted. I’ll assume you’ve read them (though, as I explain below, I think you could have skipped Haunted).

Twilight continues... Read More

Shadow of the Fox: An exciting tale of magic, revenge, and friendship

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox (2018) is the first of Julie Kagawa’s books that I’ve read, but based on how much I enjoyed reading it, this certainly won’t be the last. Readers don’t have to know anything about feudal-era Japanese culture, language, folklore, and customs that influenced the SHADOW OF THE FOX series, nor do they have to be ardent fans of manga/anime to appreciate what this first volume offers, but having even a little background in either will greatly enrich their reading experience.

Thousands of years ago, an audacious (and, I would argue, quite stupid) young lord got it into his head that he deserved to become a kami — an immortal god — by way of the Tama no Fushi, a jewel borne by the Great Dragon living beneath the seas surrounding the lands of I... Read More