2015 has been an amazing year for YA! Since we’re halfway through the year, I thought it would be a great time to post a roundup of what I’ve recommended so far at Coven Book Club (plus a few extras):
Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen: Seventeen-year-old Mare is a “Red” living in Norta: a kingdom divided by red blood and silver blood. The Silvers (and the royal family in particular), with their supernatural powers and wealth, rule over the Reds. (Recommended with The Sin Eater’s Daughter here.)
Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin Eater’s Daughter: Seventeen-year-old Twylla’s life seems ideal and reads like a myth or fairy tale. As a goddess embodied, she has superhuman powers, lives in a castle and is engaged to a handsome prince. But she is at the mercy of a tyrannical queen who has made her the royal executioner.
Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses: Inspired by Beauty and the Beast mixed with faery lore, this series features another strong heroine: nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre. After she kills a wolf in the woods, a beastly creature demands retribution by taking her to a faraway magical land inhabited by the Fae. (Read my discussion with Allison and Nicola here.)
Jodi Meadow’s The Orphan Queen: In this engrossing YA fantasy, a tough princess, Wil, 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.
Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn: This is the first book in a trilogy that reimagines A Thousand and One Nights, with a “Beauty and the Beast” twist. Every evening Khalid, the ruler of Khorasan, takes a new bride whom he executes at dawn. After Shahrzad’s best friend becomes one of his victims, she volunteers to marry Khalid. She intends to stay alive long enough to kill him (by cleverly telling him stories), but then…she falls for him. (Read my recommendations here and here.)
Melissa Grey’s The Girl at Midnight: I immediately loved this book’s protagonist, seventeen-year-old Echo, a runaway pickpocket whose home is a hidden room in the New York Public Library. Like me, she’s a hoarder of books who’s guilty of Tsundoku–letting books pile up without reading them; she also steals treasures and uses magic to travel through the in-between from place to place. Echo has been adopted by the Avicen–an ancient race of feathered people with magical abilities who live beneath the city–and she is the only human who can see them. Her relationship with the Avicen puts her in danger of being caught by the dragon-like Drakharin. For centuries, the Avicen and the Drakharin have been enemies. According to legend, the only way to truly end their conflict is to find the very powerful Firebird. The Girl at Midnight switches between the perspectives of Echo and Dragon Prince Caius as they both seek the Firebird.
Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes:This book explores familiar themes of tyranny, slavery, rebellion, magic, family loyalty, and forbidden love in a complex and unique way. Set in a brutal Rome-like world, the novel alternates between the perspectives of Elias, an elite soldier, and his mother’s slave, Laia. Elias unwillingly attends Blackcliff, where the Commander (his mother) trains him to be a Mask–an enforcer of the Martial empire’s laws. As he plans to desert the military, he’s chosen to compete for the Emperor’s throne, an opportunity that hasn’t come along in centuries. Laia is one of the conquered Scholar people. After her brother was arrested for helping the Scholar Resistance, she agreed to spy for the rebels as the Commander’s slave as long as they help save her brother. As Elias and Laia struggle to hide their true feelings toward the empire in order to survive, their lives intersect, further testing their beliefs and loyalties. I can’t wait to find out what happens next to Elias and Laia! (Allison loves this book too! Check out her recommendation here.)
Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap: Two months ago, Finn was the only witness to the disappearance of Roza, his brother’s girlfriend. While the people of Bone Gap stop looking for her because they think she fled, Finn believes she was kidnapped and he must find her, but he can’t recall what her abductor looks like. (Recommended with The Walls Around Us and Bones & All here.)
Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us: Told through alternate voices, this creepy supernatural tale combines prison drama and dance rivalry — “Orange is the New Black meets Black Swan” as some reviewers have called it. There’s Amber, imprisoned in a girls’ juvenile detention center, and Violet, a dancer haunted by her best friend Orianna’s imprisonment and death in that detention center.
Camille DeAngelis’s Bones & All: Sixteen-year-old Maren wants to belong and feel normal, be loved and love herself; but a dark secret keeps her ashamed and alienated.
MarcyKate Connolly’s Monstrous: Fairy tale fantasy combines with a Frankenstein motif, as twelve-year-old Kymera is brought back to life by her father, but without her original human body and memories of her previous life. (Recommended with Nightbird and Echo here.)
Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird: Twig is not just a lonely and awkward 12-year-old who has difficulty making friends and feeling normal. A family secret—more specifically, a witch’s ancient curse—keeps her and her mother in self-imposed isolation.
Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo: In these interconnected stories, a magical harmonica unites two boys and a girl growing up before and during World War II.
Sarah McGuire’s Valiant: In this retelling of “The Brave Little Tailor,” a clever and courageous tailor’s daughter, masquerading as a boy, defends a kingdom from an immortal duke and his army of giants. (Recommended with The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly here.)
Stephanie Oakes’s The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly: This debut about real-world violence against women in a religious commune is very cleverly based on the fairy tale “The Handless Maiden.” Minnow Bly lost her hands after she rebelled against the Kevinians, and now she is in a juvenile detention center as the main suspect in the Prophet’s murder investigation. Fortunately, this novel is hopeful as well as harrowing.
Marissa Meyer’s 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.
Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places: “Freak” Theodore Finch and “popular” Violet Markey don’t kill themselves by jumping off their high school’s bell tower. They don’t suffer through their darkest days alone. Rather, their meeting on the ledge of the bell tower saves their lives. (Read my recommendation here.)
Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Only one person knows that sixteen-year-old Simon is gay: the anonymous “Blue.” But when Simon forgets to log out of his email account at school, Martin reads his secret email correspondence with Blue and threatens to out him. Unless Simon can convince his new friend Abby to fall for Martin. As Simon’s relationships with his friends, family, and Blue become compromised and more complicated, he has to make tough decisions about what to disclose and what to keep secret. (Recommended with Because You’ll Never Meet Me here.)
Leah Thomas’s Because You’ll Never Meet Me: Ollie and Moritz are not automatic friends and their personalities are very different. While Ollie is willing from the start to befriend and open up to Moritz (his “Dear Fellow Hermit”), Moritz is rude and reluctant to talk about his life and become friends. But Ollie doesn’t give up on Moritz, and eventually their letter writing evolves into an intense and unusual friendship.
Courtney Summers’s All the Rage: No one believes Romy Grey was raped—certainly not by the sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner. Romy was once popular, but after she speaks up about being sexually assaulted her former friends won’t stop bullying her. Branded a liar and an outcast, she’s forced to suffer in silence and shame. (Read my recommendation here.)
Trisha Leaver’s The Secrets We Keep: After a heated argument, twin sisters Ella and Maddy are in a car crash and Maddy is killed. When Ella wakes up in the hospital, everyone thinks she’s Maddy. Consumed with survivor’s guilt and convinced that her parents love Maddy more, Ella decides to become her twin. (Recommended with In a World Just Right here; read my author interview here.)
Jen Brooks’s In a World Just Right: Ever since a plane crash left Jonathan’s parents and sister dead and him with disfiguring scars, he has coped with the real world by escaping to other worlds where he can be better versions of himself. (Read my author interview here.)
Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls: 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, this book 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.
Lori Goldstein’s Becoming Jinn: Sixteen-year-old Azra tries desperately to cut through a silver bangle, but nothing she conjures–a chisel, a hammer, a wrench–can free her from becoming a Jinn like her ancestors. (Recommended with Written in the Stars and Half Wild here.)
Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars: Seventeen-year-old Naila has no clue that she will soon travel to Pakistan on a vacation that will become an arranged marriage.
Sally Green’s Half Wild: In modern-day Europe, witches secretly coexist with humans and are divided into two warring factions: White (“good”) versus Black (“bad”) witches. Nathan, as a half code, is at the heart of this conflict.
Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky: Although it takes place in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, this book is 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.
Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger: This is the ideal book–and the perfect game–for book-lovers of all ages. You will have so much fun searching for hidden books, solving puzzles, creating secret codes, and dodging danger with Emily and James.
Kathleen Baldwin’s A School for Unusual Girls: This fun historical fantasy book (the first in a series) reimagines an alternate Regency England soon after Napoleon’s exile, where misbehaving girls at a “reform school” play an important role in saving England from its many enemies.
Cheri Priest’s I am Princess X: When her best friend Libby died, so did the heroine they created: Princess X. At least that’s what May thought. Then why, years later, is the Princess showing up everywhere? Could Libby still be alive? The clues are in the webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com.
Jennifer Latham’s Scarlett Undercover: Sixteen-year-old Scarlett is a smart and sarcastic Muslim American PI who will remind you a lot of Veronica Mars. What starts off as a case to solve a suicide enmeshes Scarlett in a supernatural world where magic, jinn and an ancient curse are tied to her own heritage.
Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books.