Young Adult

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

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

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, “Chaser” Nightshade was accused of being a coward, fleeing the Kre... 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

The Wizard’s Daughter: A richly textured, exciting airship journey

The Wizard’s Daughter by Jeff Minerd

This YA novel is a steampunk adventure filled with deft airship handling, daring mid-air rescues, and the dauntless search for long-estranged family ties.

The Wizard’s Daughter (2018) is the second book in the SKY RIDERS OF ETHERIUM series, and I haven’t read the first, The Sailweaver’s Son, but nevertheless found this book a perfectly accessible entry point into the series. Our narrative follows Brieze, the adopted/apprenticed daughter of a wizard resident within the west-lying Kingdom of Spire.

Brieze’s still unmarried mother can’t obtain closure even sixteen years after the mysterious disappearance of her lost lover (Brieze’s biological father) who was from the Eastern City of Kyo (fictionalized Tokyo, steampunk-style). So, Brieze decides to board her invisible airship and embark on a journey a... Read More

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle by L.J. Smith

Elena is the ice-blonde queen of the school, admired by girls and boys alike. With her friends, Bonnie and Meredith, she enjoys her status and uses it to snag the most eligible boys. However, Elena always feels as though something is missing. When new boy Stefan starts at the school, she suspects she has found what she is looking for, but Stefan manages to resist her charms. Elena makes a vow with Bonnie and Meredith that she will have Stefan no matter what — little suspecting that he hides a deadly secret. When Stefan's brother Damon arrives on the scene, Elena may be in more trouble than she realizes.

I am a big fan of L.J. Smith's writing, and have enjoyed a number of her books. I did enjoy both The Awakening and The Struggle, but felt that they suffered due to an unlikable main character.... Read More

You May Now Kill the Bride: Nostalgic fun for fans of FEAR STREET

You May Now Kill the Bride by R.L. Stine

If you’re an adult who enjoyed R.L. Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS series as a kid and/or his FEAR STREET series as a teenager, then his new RETURN TO FEAR STREET series, beginning with You May Now Kill the Bride (2018), will surely pluck some of your nostalgic heart-strings. (The distressed, much-read appearance of the cover is an obvious nod to that very appeal.) I devoured Stine’s work as a young reader, so I wondered, what would my slightly-more-mature self think of it now?

The answer is that I wasn’t blown away by the quality of Stine’s writing nor his subject matter, but You May Now Kill the Bride was fun in a melodramatic paranormal soap opera kind of way. The biggest appeal for me was the nostalgia factor, and Stine didn’t disappoint: I remember staying up late und... Read More

Summers at Castle Auburn: A lovely YA romance

Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Summers at Castle Auburn (2001) was my first exposure to Sharon Shinn's fantasies, and it was pretty much insta-love for me (I like to think that Shinn returns my affections in a distant and anonymous fan-appreciation kind of way). It instantly set me off on a search for more of her books.

Corie is the teenaged illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who died before the story begins, but the royal family is still keeping close tabs on her. Most of the time she lives with her grandmother in a remote village, learning medicinal herbs and a bit of witchery from her. But her summers are spent with the royal family in Castle Auburn.

We follow Corie over the next several years as she hangs out with her half-sister Elisandra; Bryan, the stunningly good-looking ― and kn... Read More

Haunted: More teenage drama than plot

Haunted by Meg Cabot

Haunted (2003) is the fifth novel in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. You’ll want to read the previous books first: Shadowland, Ninth Key, Reunion, and Darkest Hour.

In my review of Darkest Hour I said that the series was getting more complex after we meet a guy named Paul (super rich and super hot, of course) who is al... Read More

The Blue Sword: Strong female lead, interesting moral conundrum

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

This, my friends, is how young adult fantasy is done. In The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley has created a world out of whole cloth and polished it until it shines. Or in this case, until it is a dusty desert full of horse riding warriors, a dwindling magic, demon barbarians invading from the north, and civilized white men invading from across the ocean. McKinley is a master of prose, and this book has stood the test of time for almost 25 years now.

The Blue Sword is the story of Harry Crewe — don’t you dare call her by her given name of Angharad — who, upon the death of her parents, is sent to live at a fort on the Homeland frontier with her brother who is in the colonial army. Unlike most of the colonists, Harry is fascinated by the desert, and when Corlath, the leader of the Free Hillfolk of Damar, comes to the Homeland fort to negotiate for a... Read More

Darkest Hour: This series is getting a bit more complex

Darkest Hour by Meg Cabot

“You really have the most alarming way, Susannah, of getting yourself into scrapes.”

Darkest Hour is the fourth book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. It’d be best to read the previous books, Shadowland, Ninth Key, and Reunion before picking up Darkest Hour. While each short book has a stand-alone story, the key characters are the same and there are some overarching plotlines including Suze’s crush on the ghost who lives in her room.

Suze is on su... Read More

Wavesong & The Stone Key: Still a long way to go…

Wavesong & The Stone Key by Isabelle Carmody

Every book in Isabelle Carmody's THE OBERNEWTYN CHRONICLES is longer than the one before, which accounts for the splitting of the fifth volume into two parts. Though The Stone Key (2008) was originally published by Penguin as a singular book, American publisher Random House divided it into Wavesong and The Stone Key, turning the original volume into the fifth and sixth books in the series.

As I'm a New Zealander, I ended up reading the Australian copy of the book, so any American readers should consider this a review of Wavesong AND The Stone Key. By this point we're several books into the series, w... Read More