Teen Reads – A collection of newer books from the most popular genres

Below is a collection of some of the teen books out there.  I have not read these, although we have some, and most look interesting.  There are some current popular themes:  vampires, werewolves, fantasy and historical. 

Parents should watch what their teens are reading.  Many of these books are not suitable for the younger teens, although my 14 year old tells me many of the vampire or romance ones are being read by her 8th grade classmates, and even she says they are not appropriate.  And she has been brought up in an atmosphere of trust and some restrictions – if you aren’t sure – then ask.  We keep an eye on, for some part, what movies our kids are watching (although I am shocked at what some of my 14 year old’s friends are allowed to watch, like Saw!)  But too many parents are leaving the book choices in the hands of their younger teens and they are choosing what the high schoolers read, and therefore not necessarily appropriate, depending on your views.

Since many of the searches that have found my posts on teen reads are about “clean” reads, I can see this is a concern for some parents.  Use your judgement – these listed here are for the older set, at least 8th grade, some older.  Anything labelled Y/A is high school, or older high school.  If in doubt, check http://www.schoollibraryjounral.com ( I tried to use as many reviews from SLJ as I could) and check the plot, parental boards, Amazon, and your school’s librarian.  But be aware that many school librarians do not have advanced training in library science, and simply say what the kids are checking out, when asked about books. 

Helping teens choose books to read is an important task – it helps mold their character, shape their development, and steer them into areas of reading that may become life-long interests.  I know I read a lot of Science Fiction as a child, and Historical Romances, and while the authors have changed, and I’ve given up on Romance for now, the interests have followed me through to age 50.  So help them choose wisely – a book that interests them, and slightly (emphasis on slightly) challenges them will help their reading skills, and since reading is a component of just about every academic area, their other classes as well, and far into the future of jobs and life.   The challenge should be slight, since a book that’s too difficult will turn them off, as will one that’s too easy, unless it’s a favorite, and a book that doesn’t challenge them but is at the right level is okay, but there will be no growth, so make a mix – some favorites or easier ones for fun, some at their level that they might enjoy, and some that challenge them a little so their reading skills continue to grow.

This advice comes from my own reading experiences, raising two reading daughters, volunteering/working in libraries most of my life, and working on a Master’s of Education in Reading before going to law school instead.  And be sure and spend some time reading out-loud to your teen – they’ll love the time with you, and maybe you can help them enjoy some books they might not otherwise.  And they’ll learn valuable listening skills.  If you come across a word that they may not understand, don’t interrupt the flow, but simply say in a quick aside a simpler term for that word, and continue on.  I’ve found this method works best – it doesn’t interrupt the story’s flow, and makes it less pedagogical to them, which helps prevent the bonds forming from slipping into that parental role – this is a time to be friends, sharing a book.

Books with just Amazon after the description are most likely from the publihser.  When there is no editorial review, I used a customer review.  All books are at least a *4 customer rating.  When in doubt I used Y/A, or if the plot/age of the heroine demanded it, Mature Y/A, meaning adult.

Teen (Ages 12 and up)

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) by Stephenie Meyer

Y/A.  “Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Headstrong, sun-loving, 17-year-old Bella declines her mom’s invitation to move to Florida, and instead reluctantly opts to move to her dad’s cabin in the dreary, rainy town of Forks, WA. She becomes intrigued with Edward Cullen, a distant, stylish, and disarmingly handsome senior, who is also a vampire. When he reveals that his specific clan hunts wildlife instead of humans, Bella deduces that she is safe from his blood-sucking instincts and therefore free to fall hopelessly in love with him. The feeling is mutual, and the resulting volatile romance smolders as they attempt to hide Edward’s identity from her family and the rest of the school. Meyer adds an eerie new twist to the mismatched, star-crossed lovers theme: predator falls for prey, human falls for vampire. This tension strips away any pretense readers may have about the everyday teen romance novel, and kissing, touching, and talking take on an entirely new meaning when one small mistake could be life-threatening. Bella and Edward’s struggle to make their relationship work becomes a struggle for survival, especially when vampires from an outside clan infiltrate the Cullen territory and head straight for her. As a result, the novel’s danger-factor skyrockets as the excitement of secret love and hushed affection morphs into a terrifying race to stay alive. Realistic, subtle, succinct, and easy to follow, Twilight will have readers dying to sink their teeth into it.”  School Library Journal

New Moon (Twilight, Book 2) by Stephenie Meyer

Y/A.  “Grade 9 Up–Recovered from the vampire attack that hospitalized her in the conclusion of Twilight (Little, Brown, 2005), Bella celebrates her birthday with her boyfriend Edward and his family, a unique clan of vampires that has sworn off human blood. But the celebration abruptly ends when the teen accidentally cuts her arm on broken glass. The sight and smell of her blood trickling away forces the Cullen family to retreat lest they be tempted to make a meal of her. After all is mended, Edward, realizing the danger that he and his family create for Bella, sees no option for her safety but to leave. Mourning his departure, she slips into a downward spiral of depression that penetrates and lingers over her every step. Vampire fans will appreciate the subsequently dour mood that permeates the novel, and it’s not until Bella befriends Jacob, a sophomore from her school with a penchant for motorcycles, that both the pace and her disposition begin to take off. Their adventures are wild, dare-devilish, and teeter on the brink of romance, but memories of Edward pervade Bella’s emotions, and soon their fun quickly morphs into danger, especially when she uncovers the true identities of Jacob and his pack of friends. Less streamlined than Twilight yet just as exciting, New Moon will more than feed the bloodthirsty hankerings of fans of the first volume and leave them breathless for the third.”  School Library Journal

Eclipse (Twilight, Book 3) by Stephenie Meyer

Y/A.  “Readers captivated by Twilight and New Moon will eagerly devour Eclipse, the much anticipated third book in Stephenie Meyer’s riveting vampire love saga. As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob–knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?”  Amazon 

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare

Y/A.  “Grade 8 Up–When Clary Fray witnesses three tattoo-covered teenagers murder another teen, she is unable to prove the crime because the victim disappears right in front of her eyes, and no one else can see the killers. She learns that the teens are Shadowhunters (humans who hunt and kill demons), and Clary, a mundie (i.e., mundane human), should not be able to see them either. Shortly after this discovery, her mother, Jocelyn, an erstwhile Shadowhunter, is kidnapped. Jocelyn is the only person who knows the whereabouts of The Mortal Cup, a dangerous magical item that turns humans into Shadowhunters. Clary must find the cup and keep it from a renegade sector of Shadowhunters bent on eliminating all nonhumans, including benevolent werewolves and friendly vampires. Amid motorcycles powered by demon energies, a telepathic brotherhood of archivists, and other moments of great urban fantasy, the story gets sidetracked by cutesy touches, like the toasted bat sandwich on the menu of an otherworldly restaurant. The characters are sporadically characterized and tend toward behavior that is both predictable and slightly repellent–Clary finds out who her real father is about 200 pages after readers will have it figured out. Despite the narrative flaws, this version of New York, full of Buffyesque teens who are trying to save the world, is entertaining and will have fantasy readers anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.”  School Library Journal

City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare

Y/A.  “Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.”  Amazon

Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz

Y/A.  “Grade 9 Up–De la Cruz has revamped traditional vampire lore in this story featuring a group of attractive, privileged Manhattan teens who attend a prestigious private school. Schuyler Van Alen, 15, the last of the line in a distinguished family, is being raised by her distant and forbidding grandmother. Schuyler, her friend Oliver, and their new friend Dylan are treated like outsiders by the clique of popular, athletic, and beautiful teens made up of Mimi Force, her twin brother, and her best friend. What they have in common is the fact that they are all Blue Bloods, or vampires. They don’t realize that they aren’t normal until they reach age 15. Then the symptoms manifest themselves and they begin to crave raw meat, have nightmares about events in history, and get prominent blue veins in their arms. Their immortality and way of life are threatened after Blue Blood teens start getting murdered by a splinter group called the Silver Bloods. This novel constantly name-drops and is full of product placements, drinking, drugs, nonexplicit sex, and superficial characterizations, but the intriguing plot will keep teens reading. De la Cruz’s explanation for the disappearance of the Colony of Roanoke is unique and the idea that models don’t gain weight because they are Blue Bloods rather than anorexic is unusual.”  School Library Journal

Masquerade by Melissa De La Cruz

Y/A.  “I picked up Masquerade after finishing Blue Bloods, Melissa de la Cruz’s first novel about the vampires aka Blue Bloods. This second effort follows-up where the first ended…the young Blue Blood, Schuyler Van Alen goes to Venice in search of her grandfather, Lawrence Van Alen whom she believes can help solve the mystery of the Silver Bloods, a deviant branch of vampires intent on destroying young Blue Bloods. Back in Manhattan, preparations are in full-swing for the Four Hundred Ball, the elite event for vampires only. We are re-introduced to familiar characters such as Jack and Mimi Force, the immortal twins, Bliss Llewellyn, Oliver Perry [Schuyler’s conduit], and some new ones like Kingsley Martin, the new boy. I thought this was a better plotted novel than the first…there’s more intrigue, and also a lot more elaboration on what makes the Blue Bloods tick, i.e. their abilities, the training that goes into the young Blue Bloods, their weaknesses and of course the partial unravelling of the mystery of the Sivler Bloods. Schuyler Van Alen’s character is more well-defined here, and her relationships with Oliver and Jack are explored in more depth in this novel though with no real resolution. There is a lot more that needs to be explained, and I guess that’s to be found in the third novel, Revelations, which I am eagerly anticipating.”  Amazon Customer Review

A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doy…by Libba Bray

Y/A.  “Grade 9 Up–Libba Bray’s new Gothic tale of a Victorian girls school with a deadly secret is brought to life in Josephine Bailey’s nuanced reading. At 16, Gemma must leave the only home she’s known–colonial India–when her mother kills herself under bizarre circumstances and Gemma is both confused and intrigued by the details. Although she longed to see London while her family lived abroad, Gemma is disappointed to find that she’s being packed off to finishing school there. At school, she stands up to the very circle of girls who seem to hold the most power, while also dealing with weird hallucinations and the furtive presence of the young man she first saw in Bombay on the day of her mother’s death. The school and its administration hold fast to a secret about the class of 1871, which passed through it nearly a quarter century before Gemma’s stay. As friendships develop between Gemma and three of the other students, and several of her teachers reveal interesting personal sides of themselves, the plot and the reader both tug the audience into the creepy depths beneath a cave on the school grounds. There the living girls find a pleasurable world populated by goddess figures–and Gemma’s dead mother. How all this ultimately connects with that mysterious class of 1871 will delight Gothic fans and inspire those new to the genre to taste such classic writers in it as Daphne du Maurier. The audiobook is further enhanced with an afterword spoken by the author–a young Texas woman who describes how she researched the background details she needed to realize a story set in a place and time so far from her own daily experiences. Highly recommended for all collections serving high school students.”  School Library Journal

Rebel Angels (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)by Libba Bray

Y/A.  “Grade 8 Up–At the end of A Great and Terrible Beauty (Delacorte, 2003), Gemma Doyle was determined to rebuild the Order and find and destroy Circe. Now the teen finds that she must do one more thing–find the Temple and bind the magic she released into the realms when she destroyed the runes. Her task will not be easy; Kartik and the Rakshana have their own plans, which threaten her; a mysterious new teacher may be Circe; and Christmas in London challenges the careful facades that Gemma and her friends Ann and Felicity have built. Dark things are stirring within the realms, including a possibly corrupted Pippa, and the only guides are Gemma’s horrifying visions of three girls and the gibberish of a girl confined to Bedlam. Like the first volume, this is a remarkable fantasy steeped in Victorian sensibility; even as the girls fight to bind the magic, they are seduced by London society and the temptation to be proper young ladies. Gemma and her friends are pitch perfect as young women in a world poised for change, uncertain of their places. In many ways, this volume surpasses the first. The writing never falters, and the revelations (such as Felicity’s childhood of abuse, discreetly revealed) only strengthen the characters. Clever foreshadowing abounds, and clues to the mystery of Circe may have readers thinking they have figured everything out; they will still be surprised. This volume does not stand alone; however, any collection that doesn’t already have the first should just get both volumes.”  School Library Journal

The Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy) by Libba Bray

Y/A.  “It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds.

The Order – the mysterious group her mother was once part of – is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence’s burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for.”  Amazon

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Y/A.  “Melissa Marr adds elegantly to the sub-genre of Urban Faery with this enticing, well-researched fantasy for teens. Wicked Lovely takes place in modern-day Huntsdale, a small city south of Pittsburgh whose name evokes the Wild Hunt of mythology. High school junior Aislinn and her grandmother have followed strict rules all their lives to hide their ability to see faeries because faeries don’t like it when mortals can see them, and faeries can be very cruel. Only the strongest faeries can withstand iron, however, so Aislinn prefers the city with its steel girders and bridges. She takes refuge with Seth, her would-be lover, who lives in a set of old train carriages.

But now Aislinn is being stalked by two of the faeries who are able to take on human form and are not deterred by steel. What do they want from her?

One is Keenan, the Summer King, who has been looking for his Queen for nine centuries, bound by the rules and rituals that govern his quest. The other is Donia, a victim of those rules, consigned to the role of Winter Girl when she failed Keenan’s test, yet still in love with him. Certain that Aislinn is the woman he must marry, Keenan shows up as a charismatic new student at her high school, unaware that she sees his true form. He’s determined to court her and is puzzled by her rebuffs. Suddenly, none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe is working anymore, but things aren’t going as Keenan expects either. Both will have to change, make startling compromises and enlist surprising allies if they want to break free from the wicked game that has ensnared them.

Their greatest challenge will be to avoid the fatal traps laid by Keenan’s mother, the Winter Queen. She will lose her power if Keenan finds his mate, and she will do anything to stop this. Unfortunately, she’s a little too over the top to be totally threatening, a campy version of Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen — part Disney witch, part Endora in “Bewitched.” But this didn’t stop me from devouring the book.

Marr creates a fully realized world that conveys the details and the politics of faery life. The suspense remains taut, as the point of view shifts between Aislinn, Keenan and Donia, allowing the reader to develop sympathy for all of them. Marr’s lyrical language and sensual imagery capture both the confused emotions and the physicality of adolescence.

The romantic scenes are delicious. The fantasy of being pursued by two young men is alluring in itself, but when one is a pierced and tattooed sexy outsider and the other is a blindingly beautiful King of Faery, how much better can it get? Halfway through the book, I knew which characters I wanted to end up together, and that made me read greedily on. Readers will beg for a sequel.”  Washington Post’s Book World

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Adult, Mature Y/A.  “The author of the Twilight series of # 1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake. Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time.”  Amazon

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Y/A.  “Grade 8 Up–Orphaned at 13, Quince Morris, now 17, has been living with her Uncle Davidson and managing the family’s restaurant. Her best friend and the love of her life, Kieran, is a werewolf in training who can not fully control the monster in him. As a result he will not return her affection for fear of the harm he could do to her. Within weeks of the grand reopening of the new vampire-themed restaurant, chaos breaks out. The chef is brutally murdered werewolf style, thus making Kieran a possible suspect. Quince has a month to transform the newly hired chef, Brad, into Sanguini’s vampire extraordinaire and at the same time deal with the fact that Kieran is abandoning her to join his own wolfpack and that Brad is making advances. Readers will be tantalized by this dark, romantic, and disturbing fantasy of vampires, werewolves, and a strong no-nonsense heroine. Fans of Stephenie Meyer and Annette Curtis Klause will eat it up.”  School Library Journal

Vampire Kisses (Vampire Kisses)by Ellen Schreiber

Teen.  “Grade 7 Up  – Raven, 16, doesn’t fit in at school or home. This goth-girl is obsessed with vampires and when a new family moves into the old town mansion, she is convinced that the son, Alexander, is a vampire. The story swirls around and through sibling rivalry, peer relationships, friendships, and love. Raven is a feisty protagonist with a quick wit and a real sense of self. She defends herself and her friends, often besting her peers with humor and a quick tongue. As her connection with Alexander deepens, she comes to understand her family better. It is through his shadowy character that readers are kept off balance. Schreiber weaves a tale that is more about acceptance and friendship than about vampire behavior and culture, and sustains a tone that draws readers to the characters rather than to horrific plot developments that would keep them reading. There is far less intensity than in Annette Curtis Klause’s Silver Kiss (Laurel-Leaf, 1992) and less moodiness than that found in Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’s Midnight Predator (2002) and Shattered Mirror (2001, both Delacorte). While the ending isn’t tied up in a neat and pretty bow, it fits the style and tone. All in all, a good read for those who want a vampire love story without the gore.”  School Library Journal

Vampire Kisses 2: Kissing Coffins by Ellen Schreiber

Teen.  “Grade 7 Up–This sequel to Vampire Kisses (HarperCollins, 2003) continues the love story between Goth-girl Raven and her vampire boyfriend. As this book opens, Alexander has left town and Raven decides she must hunt him down. She finds out that he is probably in a nearby town and it just so happens that she has an aunt who lives there AND it’s spring break AND her parents allow her to visit without any real explanation AND Raven’s aunt is extremely gullible so that Raven can sneak around and do what she needs to do. After Alexander is located and comes back to town, his evil nemesis, Jagger, decides to get revenge by biting Raven. Goofy high jinks ensue. Every step that the protagonist and her cohorts take is predictable, right up to the cliff-hanger ending. Schreiber’s sense of time is extremely skewed and the mentions of bands like the Smiths (Goth fare in the mid- to late ’80s) make readers question when the book is actually set until they happen upon mentions of Slipknot and Good Charlotte. Goth girls would certainly be attracted to the book based on the photo on the cover, but only middle school Goth wannabes who are closet Sweet Valley High readers will actually finish the book. Raven is far too saccharine and has no sulky-fierce Goth appeal, and the love story falls flat.”  School Library Journal

Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives, Volume I…by Ellen Schreiber

Teen.  Manga Version of the Vampire Kisses line.  “The absolute last thing goth-girl Raven and her vampire boyfriend, Alexander, need is another hitch in their nighttime-only romance—but dark trouble hovers on the horizon when Raven and Alexander discover four freshly dug graves filled with empty coffins. When a crew of sketchy vampires takes up residence in Dullsville’s lonely graveyard, Alexander finds this motley bunch led by his very own blood-sucking cousin, Claude Sterling. Shocking! Claude and his creepy crew can only spell out more problems for the pair, especially when Raven finds them in daylight in the very last place she could ever imagine. What could Claude and his invaders be doing—or searching for—in Dullsville?”  Amazon

Marked (House of Night, Book 1) by PC Cast and Kristin Cast

Y/A.  “Grade 9 Up—In 16-year-old Zoey Redbird’s world, vampyres not only exist but are also tolerated by humans. Those whom the creatures “mark” as special enter the House of Night school where they will either become vampyres themselves, or, if their body rejects the change, die. To Zoey, being marked is truly a blessing, though she’s scared at first. She has never fit into the human world and has always felt she is destined for something else. Her grandmother, a descendant of the Cherokee, has always supported her emotionally, and it is she who takes the girl to her new school. But even there the teen stands apart from the others. Her mark from the Goddess Nyx is a special one, showing that her powers are very strong for one so young. At the House of Night, Zoey finds true friendship, loyalty, and romance as well as mistrust and deception. She realizes that all is not right in the vampyre world and that the problems she thought she left behind exist there as well. Readers will identify with many of the characters, especially the protagonist. The story moves quickly (a little too quickly at the end) and purposely leaves many unresolved issues. A good choice for those libraries serving fans of the occult, but be aware that the book contains some suggestive language and sex.”  School Library Journal

Betrayed (House of Night, Book 2) by PC Cast and Kristin Cast

Y/A.  “Fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird has managed to settle in at the House of Night.She’s come to terms with the vast powers the vampyre goddess, Nyx, has given her, and is getting a handle on being the new Leader of the Dark Daughters. Best of all, Zoey finally feels like she belongs–like she really fits in. She actually has a boyfriend…or two. Then the unthinkable happens: Human teenagers are being killed, and all the evidence points to the House of Night. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey’s old life, she begins to realize that the very powers that make her so unique might also threaten those she loves. Then, when she needs her new friends the most, death strikes the House of Night, and Zoey must find the courage to face a betrayal that could break her heart, her soul, and jeopardize the very fabric of her world.”  Amazon

“The trials of growing up are presented in the new and original context of a vampire society, and they’re woven into a thoroughly entertaining story….This promises to be a highly addictive series.”
Romantic Times (four and a half stars)

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Y/A.  “Grade 9 Up–Helen died 130 years ago as a young woman. Unable to enter heaven because of a sense of guilt she carried at death, she has been silent and invisible but conscious and sociable across the generations. Her spirit has been sustained by its attachment to one living human host after another, including a poet and, most recently, a high-school English teacher. While she sits through his class one day, she becomes aware of James and he–unlike the mortals all around them–is aware of her as well. James, who also died years earlier, inhabits the body of a contemporary teen, Billy. James and Helen fall in love, he shows her how to inhabit the body of a person whose spirit has died but who still lives and breathes, and the two begin to unfold the mysteries of their own pasts and those of their adolescent hosts. Jenny, whose body Helen now uses, is the only child of strict religious parents who controlled her beyond what her spirit could endure. Billy’s spirit left his body after a string of tragedies resulting from drug abuse and domestic violence. James and Helen court in both modern and old-fashioned ways; here is a novel in which explicit sex is far from gratuitous or formulaic. Whitcomb writes with a grace that befits Helen’s more modulated world while depicting contemporary society with sharp insight. In the subgenre of dead-narrator tales, this book shows the engaging possibilities of immortality–complete with a twist at the end that wholly satisfies.”  School Library Journal

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black

Mature Y/A.  “Tripping the dark fantastic with newcomer Black means pixie dust may very well include blood spatter, sharp thorns and bits of broken glass. At the center of this edgy novel is Kaye Fierch, a 16-year-old “Asian blonde” who spends most of her time taking care of a would-be rock star mom. When her mom’s latest boyfriend turns homicidal, they return to Gram’s house at the New Jersey shore, where Kaye hooks up with childhood friend Janet and her gay brother, Corny Stone. Stark images ripple through the third-person narrative, offering clues to Kaye’s internal state (e.g., “She loved the serene brutality of the ocean”). A covert sexual overture from Janet’s boyfriend precedes Kaye’s nighttime encounter at the edge of the woods, where she meets and rescues Roiben, a mysterious Black Knight with silver hair. Throughout, the author subtly connects Kaye’s awakening sexual feelings in the real world and Roiben’s sudden appearances. Kaye soon discovers that she is a changeling-and that her one-time “imaginary” faerie playmates want her to pretend to be a human, so they can use her as the Tithe (“the sacrifice of a beautiful and talented mortal”) to earn their freedom for seven years. The author’s Bosch-like descriptions of the Unseelie Court, with its Rackham-on-acid denizens, and the exquisite faeries haunt as well as charm. When fate intervenes, sudden tragedy teaches Kaye about the high cost of straddling the faerie and human worlds (and sets the stage for a possible sequel). A gripping read. Ages 12-up.”  School Library Journal.   My 14 year old daughter says she has friends who are reading this and she doesn’t think it’s approriate for the middle school range.  It won the Hugo Award.

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

Mature Y/A.  “Grade 9 Up—Val Russell runs away from home after discovering her mom and her boyfriend making out. In New York, she meets two eccentric, homeless teens who take her to their hideout in the subway tunnels where Dave’s older brother runs an underground operation dealing potions to faeries. Lolli introduces her to the land of Faerie by shooting up an otherworldly substance called Never (named after Edgar Allan Poe’s “Nevermore” from The Raven). Val and Lolli are caught by Ravus, the powerful troll they work for. After enduring his rage and bargaining for Lolli’s life in true Beauty and the Beast fashion, Val is bound to Ravus for indefinite servitude and falls in love with him. In Holly Black’s dark fantasy (S & S, 2005), filled with twists and turns, her vivid portrayal of the homeless teenagers is harsh, realistic, and apt. Narrator Renee Raudman’s excellent voice-overs bring the characters to life, and listeners will relate to the teens. School libraries considering purchasing this book should be aware that there is strong language, sex, violence, and rampant drug and alcohol use. A unique mixture of fairy tales, urban stories, and fantasy, this title will fly off the library shelf. For public libraries, Valiant is a must for fans of Black’s Tithe (S & S, 2002).”  School Library Journal

Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale by Holly Black

Mature Y/A.  “Finding your place in the world is no picnic at the best of times, but pixie changeling Kaye finds it tougher than most. And no wonder: her boyfriend has been crowned king of the Unseelie Court and her best friend suffers from a faery’s curse. In this follow-up to Black’s previous two books about the urban fey, Kaye and her gay friend Corny (from Tithe, 2003) meet brothers Luis and Dave (from Valiant, 2005), and the teens are caught in the middle of a clash between the rival faery courts. As characters struggle to shape their identities, quintessential coming-of-age themes are as skillfully interwoven as in the earlier adventures, as are seductive contradictions: faeries who cannot lie nonetheless find ways to connive and betray, loyalty and love are wielded as weapons, and ethereal beauty often masks cruelty of the ugliest sort. The chilling game of wits culminates in a satisfying conclusion to this dark, edgy fantasy, a must-purchase for Black’s many devoted fans.”  Booklist

The Last Knight (Knight and Rogue) by Hilari Bell

“Grade 8–10—Longing for adventure, 18-year-old Sir Michael declares himself a knight errant (although the book has a medieval-era setting, no one has heard of such a thing in many years and the idea often gets him laughed at). Fisk, 17, is his indebted and unwilling squire. After rescuing Lady Ceciel from her prison tower, they learn that she is not a damsel in distress, but rather an accused murderess. Their attempts to bring her to justice result in her comeuppance and in the teens’ tightly forged friendship that will clearly lead to further adventures. The novel is brimming with saved-by-a-hair escapades and fast-paced realistic action, told alternately from each teen’s point of view. Their world is filled with “magica,” a gift that allows its possessor to perform extraordinary tasks. In fact, while Michael and Fisk’s bravery and wits frame their approach to the problems they incur, it is magica that enables them to escape their would-be dire fate. Nevertheless, the underlying messages could not be more real: the importance of truth, the value of friendship, and the need for staying true to oneself. Delivered skillfully, these ideas are sure to leave their mark on readers. Unusual and invented vocabulary is employed throughout. Like Bell’s The Goblin Wood(2003) and The Wizard Test(2005, both HarperCollins), this well-created fantasy is a great read with worthwhile moral issues pertinent to its intended audience.  School Library Journal

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Y/A.  “When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment. 

As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.

With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.”  Amazon

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Y/A.  “Characterizing the adolescent experience as monstrous is not exactly a new idea. M.T. Anderson’s woefully confused teen vampire in Thirsty and Jean Thesman’s reluctant young witch in The Other Ones serve as excellent examples of this metaphor set to fiction. But no one really captures how our hormones make us howl as well as Annette Curtis Klause. Blood and Chocolate chronicles the longings and passions of one Vivian Gandillon, teenage werewolf. Her pack family, recently burned out of their West Virginia home by suspicious neighbors, has resettled in a sleepy Maryland suburb. At her new school, Viv quickly falls for sensitive heartthrob Aiden, a human–or “meat-boy,” as her pack calls him. Soon she is trying to tame her undomesticated desires to match his more civilized sensibilities. “He was gentle. She hadn’t expected that. Kisses to her were a tight clutch, teeth, and tongue… His eyes were shy beneath his dark lashes, and his lips curved with delight and desire–desire he wouldn’t force on her… he was different.” But Vivian’s animal ardor cannot be stilled, and she must decide if she should keep Aiden in the dark about her true nature or invite him to take a walk on her wild side.

Klause poetically describes the violence and sensuality of the pack lifestyle, creating a hot-blooded heroine who puts the most outrageous riot grrrls to shame. Blood and Chocolate is a masterpiece of adolescent angst wrapped in wolf’s clothing, and its lovely, sensuous taste is sure to be sweet on the teenage tongue. (Ages 13 and older).”  School Library Journal.  This is one my 14 yr old has seen her friends reading.

Jinx by Meg Cabot

Y/A.  “Grade 7 Up—Jean Honeychurch is so unlucky that even her family calls her Jinx. To escape an unpleasant situation with a boy who refuses to let her end their relationship, Jinx moves from Iowa to Manhattan to live with her aunt and her family in their swanky Upper East Side townhouse. It’s no surprise that the klutzy, small-town 16-year-old doesn’t fit in with über-chic cousin Tory and her friends, and she definitely doesn’t share their fondness for drugs and alcohol. Tory, who has been practicing witchcraft for some time, soon realizes that Jinx also has the gift and invites her cousin to join her coven. But Jinx knows the dangers of playing with magic and refuses. Tory sees Jinx’s snub as a threat and plots against her. Though she wants to leave magic behind, Jinx must learn to harness the mysterious powers that are her birthright before Tory does too much damage. Cabot creates believable conflict and avoids being too fantastical, as Tory’s mental instability is more dangerous than her Wiccan powers. In the vein of Avalon High (2006) and “The Mediator” series (both HarperCollins), the author delivers her signature blend of romance and wit, successfully combining upper-crust chick-lit and a tad of the supernatural into an entertaining potion that is sure to please her fans and draw in new readers.”  School Library Journal

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Y/A.  “Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–Vampire stories are a staple of the publishing industry. They are usually romantic and sexy, steeped in a dreamy magic. Peeps is none of those–well, maybe a little sexy. Nineteen-year-old Cal, a Texas transplant, lost his virginity–and a lot more–when he first arrived in New York City. He became a parasite-positive, or peep–he prefers not to use the v-word. Now he works for the Night Watch, a secret branch of city government dedicated to tracking others of his kind. Unlike the rare natural carriers like Cal, who has acquired night vision, superhuman strength, and a craving for lots of protein, most peeps are insane cannibals lurking in darkness. But now the teen has found the young woman who infected him–and learns that something worse than peeps is threatening the city, and he is on the front lines. Cal’s voice is genuine–he’s a little geeky, as evidenced by the intermittent discussions on parasites, and he laces a dry humor through this immensely reasonable biological vampire story. The evocation of NYC is exactly right, so that even the most fantastic elements of the plot feel believable. Much of the story is concerned with Cal’s detective work and growing relationship with Lace, his Major Revelation Incident (he tells her his secret); toward the end, the action picks up in a race to reveal the horrors to come. This innovative and original vampire story, full of engaging characters and just enough horror without any gore, will appeal to a wide audience.”  School Library Journal

The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

Y/A  “Starred Review. Grade 8 Up–The names of rock bands are used for chapter titles in this intriguing, fast-paced sequel to Peeps (Penguin, 2005), and music permeates the novel. While mysterious, dark happenings have taken over New York City’s hot, humid summer (black water bubbling from faucets and hydrants, and rats congregating in packs on city streets), Moz, an aspiring guitarist, and his closest associate, Zahler, search for promising musicians to complete their sound. One night, as Moz tries to save a vintage 1975 Fender Stratocaster as it is inexplicably thrown out of an apartment window, he meets Pearl, an attractive and slightly off-center musical genius. With the help of Zahler, they recruit a street drummer named Alana Ray, and Pearl convinces her talented singer friend Minerva, who is recuperating from a serious illness that appears to have left her with a strange desire for human blood, to join them. Moz and Pearl work through power issues as they become closer. And as the danger to New York City begins to escalate, the band’s evolving music and especially the energized singing of Minerva–both described in great detail–play a central role in calling up the deadly forces and ultimately helping to defeat them. The dialogue is crisp and clear and alternately funny and biting. While it will help to read Peeps first, this novel stands on its own. It’s a real winner.”  School Library Journal

Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguié

Y/A.  “The True Face of Love

Ruth’s grandmother lives in the forest, banished there for the “evil” that the townsfolk believed she practiced. But if studying the stars, learning about nature, and dreaming of flying is evil, then Ruth is guilty of it too. Whenever Ruth took food and supplies to her grandmother, she would sit with the old woman for hours, listening and learning.

When she wasn’t in the woods, Ruth was learning the trade of her father, a blacksmith, now that her brother would never return from the Crusades.

Amidst those dark days, a new man enters Ruth’s life. William is a noble with a hot temper and a bad name, and he makes her shiver. But the young man is prey to his heritage, a curse placed on his family ages ago, and each male of the family has strange blood running in his veins. Now Ruth must come face-to-face with his destiny at Grandma’s house.”  Amazon

Glass Houses (The Morganville Vampires, Book 1) by Rachel Caine

Y/A.  “From the author of the popular Weather Warden series. Welcome to Morganville, Texas.

Just don’t stay out after dark.

College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks in the school’s social scene: somewhere less than zero.

When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don’t show many signs of life. But they’ll have Claire’s back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood.”  Amazon 

The Dead Girls’ Dance (The Morganville Vampires, Book 2) by Rachel Caine

Y/A.  “Claire has her share of challenges. Like being a genius in a school that favors beauty over brains; homicidal girls in her dorm, and finding out that her college town is overrun with the living dead. On the up side, she has a new boyfriend with a vampire-hunting dad. But when a local fraternity throws the Dead Girls’ Dance, hell is really going to break loose.”  Amazon

Midnight Alley (The Morganville Vampires, Book 3) by Rachel Caine

Y/A.  “Claire Danvers’s college town may be run by vampires but a truce between the living and the dead made things relatively safe. For a while. Now people are turning up dead, a psycho is stalking her, and an ancient bloodsucker has proposed private mentoring. To what end, Claire will find out. And it’s giving night school a whole new meaning.”  Amazon

Ill Wind (Weather Warden, Book 1) by Rachel Caine

Mature Y/A.  “Joanne Baldwin is a weather warden, who can control the weather and keep it from being more chaotic and destructive than it already is. She is on the run, though, for she is accused of killing a senior warden, which she did, sort of: a thread of corruption runs through some of the most powerful wardens, one of which put a Demon Mark on her and then died. Her only hope now is to get a djinn from her old friend Lewis, who stole three of them^B from the council of the wardens many years ago. As she runs, she picks up a hitchhiker who knows things an ordinary person wouldn’t, and who offers help. With djinns and other wardens, including those sent to arrest her, all giving her conflicting information, Joanne never quite knows whom to trust in this romantic escapist romp rife with danger, excitement, and even classic cars.”  Booklist

Heat Stroke (Weather Warden, Book 2) by Rachel Caine

Mature Y/A.  “Mistaken for a murderer, Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin is hunted down and killed by her colleagues. Reborn as a Djinn, she senses something sinister entering earth’s atmosphere-something that makes tomorrow’s forecast look deadly.”  Amazon 

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels Series, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews

Mature Y/A.  “Kate Daniels lives in a world in which magic fluctuations are an everyday occurrence. In fact, she makes her living off of these disruptions. However, her world is turned upside down when a vampire delivers a message about her guardian. Kate agrees to work for the Order to avenge the death of her guardian and soon finds herself in the midst of an ongoing conflict between the two major supernatural groups, the People and the Pack. Kate is in for some unpleasant surprises as she delves deeply into Atlanta’s magical world.

MAGIC BITES is what urban fantasy is all about! Ilona Andrews has written a tale that is not for the faint of heart as she is not afraid to take risks. There is little, if any, romance in this tale and the gore level is high. However, it is the phenomenal world building that makes MAGIC BITES such a success. Ilona Andrews takes a darker approach to vampires and shape shifters and the complexity of her world is astounding.

Kate Daniels is a great lead female character. She is the ultimate action heroine as she charges right into the thick of things. She is a bit brusque at times but Ilona Andrews does an excellent job at making Kate likeable in spite of her attitude. There is also a bit of a mystery surrounding Kate as tantalizing hints are dropped throughout the novel.

MAGIC BITES is a welcome entry to the urban fantasy genre. It is easy to forget that this is a first novel by Ilona Andrews as the tale is so well done. I can’t wait for the sequel as MAGIC BITES is easily recommended! ”  Amazon Customer Review

Urban Shaman (The Walker Papers, Book 1) by C.E. Murphy

 

Mature Y/A.  “Joanne Walker has three days to learn to use her shamanic powers and save the world from the unleashed Wild Hunt.

No worries. No pressure. Nevermind the lack of sleep, the perplexing new talent for healing from fatal wounds, or the cryptic, talking coyote who appears in her dreams.

And if all that’s not bad enough, in the three years Joanne’s been a cop, she’s never seen a dead body — but she’s just come across her second in three days.

It’s been a bitch of a week. And it isn’t over yet.”  Amazon

Staying Dead (Retrievers, Book 1) by Laura Anne Gilman

Mature Y/A.  “Manhattan’s night life just got weirder . . .

It starts as a simple job — but simple jobs, when you’re dealing with the magical world, often end up anything but.

As a Retriever, Wren Valere specializes in finding things gone missing — and then bringing them back, no questions asked. Normally her job is stimulating, challenging and only a little bit dangerous. But every once in a while . . .

Case in point: A cornerstone containing a spell is stolen and there’s a magical complication. (Isn’t there always?) Wren’s unique abilities aren’t enough to lay this particular case to rest, so she turns to some friends: a demon (minor), a mage who has lost his mind, and a few others, including Sergei, her business partner (and maybe a bit more?).

Sometimes what a woman has to do to get the job done is enough to give even Wren nightmares . . . ”  Amazon

Greywalker (Greywalker, Book 1) by Kat Richardson

Mature Y/A.  “PI Harper Blaine sees a strange shift in clientele in Richardson’s dizzy urban fantasy debut. After being dead for two minutes as a result of a clobbering by an angry perp, Harper discovers icky side effects complicate her Seattle life in unexpected ways—she sees ghosts and attracts otherworldly business as she pops in and out of a shadowy overlapping world. Harper seeks the assistance of Ben Danziger, self-proclaimed “ghost guy” and linguistics professor, and his wife, Mara, a witty Irish witch. They educate Harper on the Grey, “a place between our world and the next.” Harper tries to maintain a normal life, dating a sexy antiques expert while battling wits with Seattle’s vampire king, but being a Greywalker means she can only “pass for human.” Fast-paced fun, this first novel will captivate fans of Charmed, Buffy and Charlaine Harris (Definitely Dead).”  Booklist 

The Scent of Shadows (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 1) by Vicki Pettersson

Mature Y/A.  “Despite its romance pedigree (Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris contribute advance praise), this moody, fast-paced debut falls into the growing “dark fantasy” category, which blends fantasy, comic book superheroism and paranormal romance, but holds no promise of a happily-ever-after. The book’s heroine, Joanna Archer, has spent the years following a brutal attack learning martial arts and trolling Sin City, Nev., for trouble. On the eve of her 25th birthday, she finds it in the form of a peculiar date who looks like a gaunt banker one moment and like hell spawn the next. Joanna fights her way out of his grasp, but her close encounter is only the beginning. Before long, she finds herself caught up in a world where a superhuman few—the Light—fight evil from the Shadow realm, a world in which she’s recognized as the “Kairos,” a prophesied warrior made up of both Shadow and Light who’s destined to help Light prevail. Pettersson centers her story around the signs of the Zodiac, putting an imaginative spin on a familiar setup. Though graphic scenes (in which tongues are severed, heads ripped off, etc.) will repel some readers, others will embrace Pettersson’s enduring, tough-as-nails heroine and anticipate gleefully the next volume, due in April.”  Publishers Weekly

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

Teen.  “Zoe is 16 and facing bereavement: her mother is dying of cancer, and her father seems to be excluding her from her mother’s hospital bedside. No one dares speak to Zoe about the family tragedy, and she is isolated by grief, anger and fear. Then she meets the alluring, enigmatic Simon (“His eyes were dark, full of wilderness and stars”), who has an uncanny ability to recognize her feelings. After a series of nocturnal meetings, Zoe learns that Simon is a vampire kept alive by his thirst to avenge the death of his own mother three centuries ago. Drawn to him by an empathy charged with both longing and fear, Zoe agrees to participate in a dangerous scheme to trap Simon’s mother’s supernatural killer. The two emerge from their encounter able to mourn and acknowledge their losses. First-novelist Klause is excessively ambitious in her juggling of genres and themes; as a result, her suspense is uneven, her love story inadequately rooted and her resolution just a bit pat. Nevertheless, the use of the vampire figure to exorcise Zoe’s complex feelings and often striking prose attest to an intelligent and original eye. Ages 14-up.”  Publishers Weekly 

Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour (Midnighters) by Scott Westerfeld

Teen.  “Grade 6-10–Moving when you’re in high school is difficult enough, especially when your parents can’t seem to hold their own lives together and your younger sister is being more obnoxious than usual. However, for 15-year-old Jessica Day, these concerns pale when bizarre things start to happen and she discovers that she now has unwanted magical powers. Part science fiction, part horror story, this novel is the first in a series about the midnighters, a select group of individuals whose birth at the stroke of midnight gives them the special ability to move about in a mysterious 25th hour. As Jessica takes her place among these extraordinary teens, she must battle the increasingly dangerous slithers and other darklings that have suddenly become more violent and aggressive. The story is exciting and the writing compelling. Gaps in the account will not bother readers, who will be totally absorbed by the paranormal elements as well as the intriguing characters, and who will be eagerly awaiting the next book.”  School Library Journal

Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness (Midnigh…by Scott Westerfeld

Teen.  “In the town of Bixby, anyone born at midnight has access to a secret hour. The hour is also inhabited by dark creatures that prey on man. The first volume ended as one young midnighter discovers her midnighter power as a Lightbringer. It is now two weeks later. Now that the Midnighters have a powerful new weapon to use against the darklings trouble arises from a completely different direction.

Midnighter talents can be used for more than just the battle against the darklings. They can also be used to detect patterns in the Blue Time. These patterns detect a null spot in town that hides a secret. A secret that has worked very hard to remain hidden and something inside the null area is toying with the group’s Mindcaster. Discovering what is inside the null area also reveals more about the town of Bixby and its history with the Secret Hour. Now the Midnighters learn their true destinies and why they seem to be the only Midnighters.

This volume is rich in revelation. National trends had a different affect in Bixby due to its unique situation. This use of history meshed with the series framework works very well. The revelations go a long way to solidifying the series premises. I will not reveal any of these revelations as that would take away a lot of the fun of this volume. If you liked the first book and want more then will find plenty of it in this second volume of the trilogy. Check it out.”  Amazon Customer Review

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, Book 1) by Richelle Mead

Mature Y/A.  “After two years on the run, best friends Rose, half-human/half-vampire, and Lissa, a mortal vampire princess, are caught and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy. Up until then, Rose had kept Lissa safe from her enemies; school, however, brings both girls additional challenges and responsibilities. How they handle peer pressure, nasty gossip, new relationships, and anonymous threats may mean life or death. Likable narrator Rose hides doubts about her friend behind a tough exterior; orphan Lissa, while coping with difficult emotional issues such as depression and survivor’s guilt, uses her emerging gifts for good. Mead’s absorbing, debut YA novel, the first in a new series, blends intricately detailed fantasy with a contemporary setting, teen-relevant issues, and a diverse, if sometimes sterotyped, cast of supporting characters. Occasional steamy sex and a scattering of vulgar language demand mature readers, but teens able to handle the edgy elements will speed through this vamp story and anticipate the next installment.”  Booklist

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle by L. J. Smith

Y/A.  “Elena: the golden girl, the leader, the one who can have any boy she wants.

Stefan: brooding and mysterious, he seems to be the only one who can resist Elena, even as he struggles to protect her from the horrors that haunt his past.

Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him. Determined to have Elena, he’d kill to possess her.

Collected here in one volume for the first time, volumes one and two of The Vampire Diaries, the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.”  Amazon  http://www.ljanesmith.net

The Vampire Diaries: The Fury and Dark Reunion by L. J. Smith

Y/A.  “Elena: transformed, the golden girl has become what she once feared and desired.

Stefan: tormented by losing Elena, he’s determined to end his feud with Damon once and for all—whatever the cost. But slowly he begins to realize that his brother is not his only enemy.

Damon: at last, he possesses Elena. But will his thirst for revenge against Stefan poison his triumph? Or can they come together to face one final battle?

Collected here in one edition are the third and fourth volumes of The Vampire Diaries, a riveting conclusion to the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.”  Amazon

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