Vampires and ghosts and dystopias—oh, my!

Welcome to Teen Read Week! What is TRW? Here’s a direct quote from the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Administration (ALA’S YALSA):

Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually during the third week of October. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.

When I was a teen in the 90s, Young Adult (YA) fiction was virtually nonexistent. Judy Blume, Lurlene McDaniel, Joan Lowery Nixon, Christopher Pike, and Cynthia Voigt were pretty much the only options. After trying a few of those I decided to skip YA fiction altogether and progressed immediately to adult paperbacks. Today, options for teens are seemingly infinite. With the popularity of Harry Potter and the Twilight series, it became readily apparent that YA fiction had something to offer adults, too.

For years I resisted the lure of YA fiction, thinking there was no way I could ever identify or even remotely care about these teen protagonists. Turns out I was so very wrong. And series are really where YA fiction shines. Readers get “the feels” for characters, truly caring what happens to them in the story. This is how I got sucked in. To prove it, I’ve prepared a sampling of some of my most favorite YA series. And despite my catchy title, I’m really not into vampires or dystopias, but that doesn’t mean that YA fiction isn’t packed with them.

Croak by Gina Damico

I’ve previously reviewed the first book in this series for the blog, so I suggest you check out that post for a full write-up. Please don’t read the comment, though, as someone posted a spoiler! Basically it’s the story of a teen Grim Reaper named Lex who struggles to not only learn to use her powers but also fit in with her new Reaper community.

So far the series is up to three books (the library is in the process of ordering the third book). I have been patiently—okay, impatiently!—reading each book as it is published. I’ve found that I always remember where the previous book left off and have discovered that I am deeply invested emotionally in everything that happens to our Reapers and their families.

The Memory Chronicles by Lenore Appelhans

Seventeen-year-old Felicia Ward is dead and spending her time in the hive reliving her happy memories. But when Julian, a dark memory from her past, breaks into the hive and demands that she come with him, she discovers that even the afterlife is more complicated and dangerous than she dreamed.

The first book in the series is called Level 2 and I devoured it in a day. Unfortunately the next book, Chasing Before, isn’t set to be published until August 2014. You may want to wait to read Level 2 until you can get your hands on Chasing Before.

The Ghost &the Goth by Stacey Kade

It’s the timeless tale of opposites attract. The popular (and snobbish) high school cheerleader/homecoming queen gets hit by a bus and her ghost is stuck in the land of the living. The only person who can see her is a loner Goth kid whom she always thought was a total loser. What happens when the dead and living join forces? Heartwarming humor, of course.

This trilogy has been completed and all books are owned by the library, though I have to admit to feeling a tad unsatisfied at the end of the series. I really want to read more, but alas that’s not meant to be. However, I feel the series is worth reading, especially if you’re as into ghosts and the possibilities of the afterlife as I am.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Am I obsessed with ghosts and death? Maybe. But The Diviners is a little different. The main character, Evie, is basically shunned from her small Ohio hometown and is sent to live with her uncle in New York City. The year is 1926 and anything is possible for a seventeen year old girl with stars in her eyes and dreams of living the high life in the big city. The author is very faithful to the time period, bringing out elements of the jazz age including the clubs, racism, sexism, muckraking reporting, and most of all, Prohibition that influenced both young and old.

But don’t be confused: this is actually a book that introduces teens with extraordinary supernatural gifts and a great evil that is threatening to take over the world. Remember Voldemort from Harry Potter? It’s like that—only more gruesome, ruthless, and immortal. Unfortunately the next book in the series, Lair of Dreams, won’t be published until—you guessed it—August 2014. That gives us enough time to read and re-read, right?

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

Speaking of Harry Potter, have you met Gemma Doyle? Yes, Libba Bray gets two mentions in this post. A Great and Terrible Beauty, book one in the trilogy, was Libba Bray’s first published book and one I only recently discovered. The trilogy is set in Victorian times at Spence Academy, an all-girls boarding school. Here we meet Gemma, her roommate Ann, as well as fellow students Pippa and Felicity. The girls don’t all get along or fit in—especially Gemma, who was raised in India, where she lived until recently when her mother was killed. Haunted with visions she cannot control, Gemma finds the diary of one of Spence’s former students and consequently stumbles upon a secret world filled with great wonders—and horrors beyond belief. Gemma finds a way to bring herself and her quasi-friends into the world and thus begins a tumultuous journey into the realm of the fairy. Yes—fairy! With such forces at work, what could possibly go wrong?

I quickly read the first two books in the series, but have been waiting until “the right time” to consume the third and final book in the series. Hopefully I’m not leading you astray, since I have no idea how the series ends or what becomes of our protagonists. But based on how much I enjoyed the first two books, I feel confident that you will want to meet Gemma, too.

The Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I’ve gone on at length about ghosts, the afterlife, and the great beyond. But what about aliens? Turns out I have a fantastic series for you alien-lovers out there. Beginning with Obsidian, we’re introduced to bookaholic Katy, who reviews books on her on book review blog. Gee, can you tell why I liked her from the start? Katy moved with her mom to rural West Virginia to start over after her dad died. Katy’s not impressed with the thick accents and lack of a decent internet connection. But all that changes when she meets her friendly neighbor Dee and her standoffish but totally hot brother Daemon. At first Daemon is antagonistic towards Katy and keeps her at arm’s length. But soon neither can deny their attraction, which leads to—attacking aliens? Yep, Daemon and Dee are aliens and Daemon has inadvertently marked Katy, who becomes a walking beacon for a rival alien race.

Four Lux books have been written and published so far. Jennifer Armentrout is working on writing the fifth book, which will conclude the series when it’s published—you guessed it!—August 2014. I quickly read the first three books in the series but decided to delay reading the rest until the fifth book is published.

So there you have it. Six stellar series written for teens that adults can love, too. But trust me—I haven’t even scratched the surface. For more recommended teen reads, check out the other YA reviews on this blog. Celebrate Teen Read Week with me, both here and over at the library’s Facebook page. What will you discover? For me, I’ve discovered the need to take some time off to read in August 2014!

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library

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