This post is a lot sooner than I usually update, but I wanted to get it out before I started back at uni and got bogged down in work. Lucky you!
I’ve been volunteering recently at a library where a friend of mine is the acquisitions librarian, and knowing I had a strong interest in YA fiction she asked me casually if I had any recommendations to build up their collection. At the time, I didn’t give a proper answer, but never let it be said that I welch on book recommendations.
Some of my favourite YA books/series are missing from this list, but that is due to the fact that the library already has them. I’ve also come to the conclusion that my knowledge of non sci-fi/fantasy novels is woefully lacking, but is not a situation I would feel the need to specifically address unless it became necessary due to job requirements (ie. collection management).
Here is the list:
Laws of Magic – Series – Michael Pryor – Australian
Set in an alternative Edwardian period, this six book steampunk/fantasy series follows the adventures of Aubrey Fitzwilliam – son of the Albion Prime Minister – and his companions through their increasingly perilous adventures. It’s hard to sum up in a short paragraph what I love so much about this series, it just balances everything so well: the (almost) scientific approach to magic, the thrilling action sequences and feats of derring-do, and oh, the characters. I think Aubrey may be my favourite male YA protagonist, and his flaws just make him all that more real. Pryor is also really nice, and I’ve gotten my whole set signed.
Hero Trilogy – Trilogy – SD Gentill – Australian
I picked up the first book in this trilogy in 2011, whist browsing the shelves at the city library, and was immediately enamoured. The trilogy starts with the retelling of Homer’s Odyssey and continues on through ancient greek mythology, following the adventures of a band of siblings (including the titular Hero). The writing is slick, and engaging, and the final book came out on the 1st of March, so I’m impatiently waiting for a package in the mail. You can see my review of the second book, Trying War, here.
This is Shyness and its sequel, Queen of the Night – Leanne Hall – Australian
I’m not really sure how to describe these books – magic realism maybe? The prose is delightful (not flowery, just clever) and the setting quirky. Alternating between the two main characters, This is Shyness tells the story of the night Wildgirl and Wolf Boy meet, in a town where the sun never rises, and gangs of dangerous pre-teen Kidds roam the streets. These are shorter novels, and they just left a smile on my face. They’d go well as crossover books – good for those who like fantasy/sci-fi, and those who like realism.
Katya’s World – Jonathon L Howard
This was one of the ARCs I read from Strange Chemistry last year, and I was superbly impressed by it. Set on the water-world of Russalka, a long estranged Earth colony, the story follows Katya on her first official trip as submarine navigator. What she’s expecting is a standard, easy voyage; what she gets are pirates, politics and an ancient monster, disturbed in the deep. This gets an extra tick from me because YA sci-fi is fairly scarce in comparison with fantasy (or some kind of romance), and it is so well done. See my previous review here, for more info. I think there’s a second book planned, and if right, I’d be thrilled to read it.
The Assassin’s Curse – Cassandra Rose Clarke
Another Strange Chemistry title, this one is also nautically themed, but this time, our main character travels across the waves (and the desert) not under them (or the desert). Annana is a pirate, born and raised, and when she runs away from her impending marriage into another pirate family, they send assassins after her. Trapped away from the ocean, hunted, Annana accidentally saves the life of Naji, an assassin sent to kill her, locking them together in a magical bond they’ll have to travel to the end of the earth to break. The book is absurdly entertaining, and really well written – my only complaint was that it ended too soon and I have to wait for the next book. Again, this one has a more detailed review, here.
Monsterblood Tattoo – Trilogy – D.M Cornish – Australian
I first ‘read’ this novel in bed after my wisdom teeth were removed, on audio-book. I’d previously given the first novel a go but had been too impatient, and it is one which requires a little getting used to the style. Once I was into the story though, I was hooked. here was a world of monsters, and funny clothes, and old fashion manners, and a boy not quite sure where he fits in to any of it. I really enjoyed this trilogy and admire the amount of work Cornish put into the world. Plus, the illustrations are gorgeous. This could maybe go in older children’s section thinking about the themes, but due to the language use and length I’ve most often seen it shelved in YA.
Skulduggery Pleasant – Series – Derek Landy
With a skeleton detective who can shoot fireballs, this series seems on the surface like it’s tailored towards boys, but with a spunky young female apprentice the series appeals to both genders equally. Girls like fireballs too! As with series like Harry Potter, the first book starts firmly in the category of ‘children’s books’ but as the series progresses and the characters age, it gets darker and more grown up (though still pretty fun). I’ve been collecting these, and got the first 5 or so signed, but I think the series is looking to be about 9 books long, with only 7 released so far, perhaps it’s getting to the stage where as an adult I’m outgrowing the series, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for younger readers.
Blood Ninja – Trilogy – Nick Lake
I can’t believe I almost forgot about this one: a vampire/ninja tale set in feudal Japan. I’m desperately waiting to see if the final book will be released in a cover matching the two I already have, because I loved the others. Picking the first book up, I don’t think I was expecting too much, but I was pleasantly surprised with the style of the prose, and of course, the story. Taro lives in a small fishing town, but dreams of adventure, and of somehow becoming a samurai – but when ninjas attack his village, killing his father and looking for him, Taro and his friend are thrust into a world of violence and blood. Taro’s search for answers and revenge is compelling, and as we meet other characters along the way, the world just keeps opening up and motives become hard to define.
Technically, the library already has some Tamora Pierce books, but they are all from different series. I’d suggest at least one series be completed, but it’s hard to decide which as they are all so nostalgic for me. Maybe the Circle of Magic ones, because there are a few different characters for readers to get involved with, and it’s a bit more diverse.
Across the Universe – Beth Revis
This trilogy has been sparking attention all over the internet, and the only reason I can’t recommend it properly is that I just started reading the first book. So far, I can see why it’s gotten rave reviews.
Department 19 – Will Hill
I would have put this up in the main section of the blog, but for the fact that I would have had to look the book up to remind me of things. It’s a fun read, about a boy who discovers his father was part of a secret military group dedicated to controlling and eradicating the supernatural threat of vampires and werewolves and the like. It’s a good one for boys, with lots of guns, mysteries and fights (and a little romance) but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m a girl.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente
OK, this is actually a children’s book. Precocious children, maybe, with a use of language which is just… gorgeous. Reminds me a little of Alice in Wonderland, and I’ve been lending it to people left, right and center. As the title suggests, it follows September, a 12 year old girl who is spirited away to fairyland, and her adventures there as she has to figure out who to trust, and what it means that she was brought there.
The Search for WondLa – Tony DiTerlizzi
Another children’s book (though I picked it up from the YA section of my local library, maybe there due to length?) this is a fun sci-fi novel which impressed me not only with how fun and quick it was to read but with the use of interactive web-cam activities to unlock bonus content. Set on an indeterminate planet, the reader is never sure whether they are on a future earth, or somewhere off into the stars. The main character, Eva Nine is raised in a bunker by her robot ‘Muthr’ but when it is destroyed by a marauder she finds herself having to navigate an outside world larger and more strange than anything she could have imagined. I really want to read the second book, and am hoping my local library gets it in.