Avid readers know that the Young Adult genre can be the literary equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, in recent years more than ever, the genre is going through what some are calling a golden age or renaissance. With so many options, for better or worse, sometimes it’s easy to walk or scroll right by a series that is great but doesn’t have big budget marketing (aka they aren’t getting a movie adaptation) or as large a readership. To help you find your next YA series here are five that you aren’t reading but should be.
1. ‘The Infernal Devices’ by Cassandra Clare
Now, people who saw City of Bones in theaters are thinking: Really? You want me to invest more time and money into the books that produced that? To which I say, fair enough, but the Moral Instruments Victorian prequel couldn’t be more different and better written than its more contemporary counterpart. The trilogy follows American orphan Tessa Grey’s journey to London to find her brother Nathaniel. She gets plunged into a journey to discover her real identity in a the world of demons, magic, and shadowhunters. Along the way Tessa endears herself to best friends Will Herondale and James “Jem” Carstairs. If you’re ready to scream at the mention of another long triangle I still implore you to try this series if only to see a love triangle done properly. The dynamic between Tessa, Will, and Jem is the single most satisfying love triangle I’ve ever read. There’s also a great borderline steampunk element along with a full cast of diverse characters (who you can see in the article banner photo by the talented Cassandra Jean on Tumblr). Start with Clockwork Angel available in hardcover, paperback, and e-readers.
2. ‘The Maze Runner’ by James Dashner
With the moving coming in September this is a great series to start over your summer vacation. The easiest summary might be to call Maze Runner an all-boys Hunger Games that wouldn’t do Dashner’s work justice. A boy named Thomas enters the Glade without any memories of his life beforehand. The group of boys who occupy the Glade, and have built a community around the supplies given to them by the anonymous “Creators,” explain they are at the mercy of the giant constantly rearranging maze connected to the Glade and the mechanically enhanced monsters who live in it. Dashner creates such visceral reading experience that you’ll find yourself genuinely anxious over the circumstances of the Gladers and the multi layered mysteries that have landed them in the maze. The series is a trilogy with a prequel fourth novel called The Kill Order. Make sure to check out at least the first book before swooning over Dylan O’Brien come September.
3. ‘Uglies’ by Scott Westerfeld
If the dystopian trend is your subgenre of choice then Scott Westerfeld’s world of coming-of-age plastic surgery, personality altering drugs, and hoverboards is a worthwhile read. Following their sixteenth birthday every teenager undergoes extreme plastic surgery to go from “Ugly” to “Pretty.” Pre-surgery children live separately from the rest of the “beautiful” society filled with parties and endless glamour. When young Tally meets and befriends Shay, who runs away on the day of their shared sixteenth birthday, everything Tally thought she knew about self-image and freedom gets brought into question. You can expect Big Brother governments, commentary on beauty and free will, strong action sequences, and great character relationships. The series is a quartet with the last book “Extras” essentially being a novel long epilogue for the core trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, Specials).
4. ‘Shades of London’ by Maureen Johnson
We all know the story of “Jack The Ripper” but trust me you’ve never heard it told like this. When Rory Deveaux goes to London for boarding school is a series of Jack the Ripper copy-cat murders occur all over the city. Soon “Rippermania” takes modern-day London by storm and Rory is at the root of it all being the one person who saw the man the police have named their prime suspect. Unfortunately she might be the only who can see him. Johnson’s supernatural series in one part Sherlock Holmes, one part boarding school drama, and another part English history class. While the first two books are out, Name of the Star and Madness Underneath, you’ll have to wait for the third installment until March 2015.
5. ‘The Seven Realms’ by Cinda Williams Chima
Princesses, court shenanigans, and magic make up Chima’s charming fantasy series. While the lore may not be as exhaustively detailed as Game of Thrones or other high fantasy stories, Seven Realms succeeds in developing smart characters in a world that’s both believable and fantastical. In terms of tone it reminds me of an early Legend of Zelda game minus some time travel and parallel dimension elements. The story follows Han Alister who was born wearing alchemy engraved handcuffs and what follows when he meets three wizards and a mysterious amulet. Running parallel to Han’s narrative is Princess Raisa ana Marianna and her fight to keep her crown and destroy the corrupt court surrounding her and her mother. The series has four books and The Demon King is where your journey will begin.