Now that winter is officially coming to an end, it’s a perfect time to highlight my favorite Winter 2015 YA releases, along with a few titles that are still on my TBR list.Fairest is the latest book (following Cress) in The Lunar Chronicles: a science-fiction retelling of Cinderella (Cinder, 2011), Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet, 2012), Rapunzel (Cress, 2012), and Snow White (Winter, Nov 2015). The series’ overarching plot involves the main characters trying to stop the Lunar queen (who can control minds with her powerful glamour) from threatening the humans, androids, cyborgs, and Lunar refugees that live on Earth. If Prince Kai won’t marry Levana, she’ll attack Earth!
Fairest (2015) tells Levana’s story of how she became the villain we love to hate. While the other books depict her as rather one-dimensionally evil, Fairest reveals the underlying reasons for her villainy. It does not justify her evil behavior but portrays her as a surprisingly complex and sympathetic character.
Jodi Meadows’ The Orphan Queen is an engrossing YA fantasy about a tough princess, Wil, who wants desperately to take back her conquered kingdom. Nearly ten years ago, the Indigo army attacked her homeland Aecor and killed every noble adult, putting their children in an orphanage (from which Wil and her orphan “family,” called Ospreys, escaped).
The Ospreys are stealthy thieves who have been plotting for years to infiltrate the Indigo Kingdom. To spy on the Indigo Court, Wil and her best friend, Melanie, impersonate refugee nobles who have fled a fallen kingdom for the safety of Skyvale Palace. Not only must Wil hide her true identity from Crown Prince Tobiah (whom she fears might recognize her from ten years ago), but she must keep her magical abilities secret. Magic is banned from the Indigo Kingdom to prevent the toxic by-product of magic (called wraith) from spreading. Wil must also avoid another confrontation with Black Knife, a vigilante who is really good at catching magic-users (besides herself). Full of risky adventure, magic, and romance, The Orphan Queen is a great choice for fans of Graceling and Throne of Glass.
I love modern retellings of fairy tales and myths involving magic, curses, and physical transformations. Cat Hellison’s Beastkeeper is influenced by “Beauty and the Beast,” yet thirteen-year-old Sarah’s struggles to understand and cope with her family’s curse is its own unique and lyrical fairy tale.
Why did Cody’s best friend Meg kill herself? Gayle Forman’s I Was Here explores this difficult question with emotional complexity and resonance. Whether you’re a fan of If I Stay, or just want to read something profoundly heartbreaking and heartwarming (along the lines of All the Bright Places), I recommend this book.
If you have read Lauren Oliver’s previous books (Delirium, Panic, etc), then you know she’s an excellent writer who realistically portrays what it’s like to be a teen. With its surprising plot twists and turns, Vanishing Girls is an emotionally turbulent account of how sisters Dara and Nick went from being inseparable to estranged after a terrible car accident pushed them apart.
Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky, which just came out yesterday, takes place in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, but it’s not a typical American frontier myth featuring stereotypical cowboys and cowgirls. The “cowgirl” narrator, fifteen-year-old Sammy, is Chinese, and what she struggles to overcome on the American frontier is racism. When her father’s death and another horrible incident force Sammy to flee Missouri, she and a runaway slave, disguised as male, join a group of guys heading for California on the Oregon Trail. Click here to read what Stacey Lee had to say about creating Under a Painted Sky.
SEQUELS: Since you may not have read the first books in these series (The Winner’s Curse and Seraphina), I’m not going to discuss the plots of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Crime and Rachel Hartman’s Shadow Scale. Overall, The Winner’s Curse trilogy is about the very complicated romance between a general’s daughter and her slave that takes place in a world similar to the Roman Empire’s conquering of Greece. (Read Nicola’s recommendation here). Seraphina is also about prejudice, political struggles, complicated romance, and war, that is set in an alternative-medieval world where dragons coexist uneasily with humans.
Here’s a recap of what I’ve recommended for Coven Book Club already (with links to those posts): All the Bright Places, Red Queen, The Sin Eater’s Daughter, Monstrous, Nightbird, Echo, A Darker Shade of Magic, Bones & All and Bone Gap.
MY TBR PILE
Here’s what’s still in my Winter 2015 TBR pile: The Mime Order (read Allison’s recommendation here), A Wicked Thing (read Nicola’s recommendation here), The Darkest Part of the Forest, The Wrong Side of Right, Everything That Makes You, When Reason Breaks, My Heart and Other Black Holes, and The Last Time We Say Goodbye.
I’ll be back tomorrow to share with you my favorite YA books coming out this spring!
Alyssa Raymond recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult) for Coven Book Club and its newly-launched sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, Netgalley, and the publishers for sending her ARCs and DRCs for review purposes. Please follow her on Twitter.