Category: YA

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

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This is another dark YA dystopia, this one set in a bleak world divided into the Reds and Silvers, where the reds (who bleed red blood) are the underlass to the Silvers, who bleed silver blood and have special powers. When Mare, our heroine, a teen girl slated for conscription into the ongoing war, is swept abruptly in the Silver world, she suddenly has the potential to make extraordinary change.

This has wonderful world building, but the unrelenting grimness becomes oppressive well before the end of the book. That said, it still kept me frantically turning pages as the plot drove forward with some truly terrifying political intrigue. For 16 and up for violence.

The Gathering, by Kelley Armstrong

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I’ve liked some of Armstrong’s earlier books, but this YA didn’t work for me at all. Our protagonist is 16, but seems much younger, plot twists are signaled way ahead of time, and it feels too much like stronger books, including Shiver, the Mercy Thompson series, and Morganville Vampires. The book ends on a cliffhanger, but I won’t be continuing the series. Okay for 14 and up (though that’s not a guarantee that later books won’t skew older).

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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Cassandra Clare begins a new Shadowhunters series, and she is in top form. Without the burden of exposition that slowed her first series, and back in the present-day, unlike her second series, she introduces us to new characters and the plot takes off from there. Fighter Emma Carstairs nearly storms off the page, and her best friend and fellow fighter Julian is well-drawn also, as a young man who has shouldered too much responsibility for too long.

Y’all know I am not a fan of fictional teenagers meeting and falling for someone they will love forever, but Clare’s tales are compelling enough that I roll with it. Recommended for 16 and up for (non-graphic) teen sex and some rock-n-roll violence.

 

 

The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead

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Our heroine is a countess in a fictional country who risks being betrothed to a man she despises. Her solution sends her on an adventure she could never have imagined to the other side of her world. This book had some echoes of The Selection, but I thought it took us in a very different direction, one much more filled with adventure and with a romance that carries danger and risk to both partners. I liked our heroine’s growth over the course of the novel, and her independence is hard-fought. I know there is more to this series, but this one is nicely self-contained. For 16 and up.

The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

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Kestrel is a 17-year-old general’s daughter, and the path before her is clear. She can join the military or get married. And she doesn’t want to do either. So when she buys a slave, a native of their conquered land, she doesn’t expect to find a third path, but she does. And that choice changes everything, as her understanding of what it means to be conquered pulls her the opposite direction from her duty to her father.

This book did not go where I expected it to, instead, it pulled me in multiple directions as surely as the story does its lead character. This is not a stand-alone; it will propel you into the next book. For age 16 and up for now. (One of my pet peeves in when early books are appropriate for a certain age, then later books in that series are definitely NOT appropriate. Looking at you, Sarah J. Maas!)

 

Bruja, by Aileen Erin

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In a change from the first three books in the series, this one focuses on Claudia (pronounced Cloud-ia), a witch or bruja, who is the cousin to our heroine of the first three novels. Claudia is the de facto leader of a small group of witches who have left their black-magic coven, and she has to figure out how to free them from their blood oaths to their former leader.  A fun read and it’s nice to have the focus on magic in this one. For 16 and up.

 

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

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A terrific heist novel, related only tangentially to Bardugo’s earlier trilogy. When a merchant wants to shut down a new drug that could literally change the world, he calls on the Dregs, a gang from the wrong side of town led by a scrappy and powerful 17-year-old named Kaz. As in any good heist story, Kaz assembles his idiosyncratic team of six, and as they proceed with their plan, we learn more about each of these teens and their traumatic childhoods. This is a twisty and intricate plot, and kudos to Bardugo for making each step in the plan as clear as she does.

In this as in Bardugo’s prior trilogy, her world-building has echos from Amsterdam, from Finland, and from Russia. There is no room for Anglo-centrists in this world. You will want to snap up the next book instantly – this is not a stand-alone. Recommended for 16 and up for violence and childhood trauma.