Reviews in Young Adult Fiction : Supernatural Novels

The next Young Adult genre – and probably the biggest – is the supernatural novel. It can be argued that Harry Potter started the trend ( which arguably falls under children’s literature, but I am clumping both of these together).  While the children supernatural genre tends to be more innocent and more focused on friendship for some reason young adult fiction has a huge emphasis on romantic relationships and oddly seems geared towards women. I don’t really see young boys remotely interested in reading many of these books, but perhaps I am generalizing a bit too much.

As with dystopia novels it has certain trends. Young character ( usually female) finds out that underneath the normal world lies a supernatural one, where all kinds of evil and good supernatural beings exist. It usually has one central Voldemort villain which the main characters combat. The main protagonist usually discovers a hidden power usually because of the love they develop for the Lover Boy character ( who is beautiful and perfect and has beautiful eyes and is beautiful… repetition repetition repetition)

Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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This series will become a  film premiering next month, and most likely is a strong candidate for becoming the next big franchise. Thankfully it has more in common with hunger games than twilight in the sense that it is better written and the characters have a lot more depth.  The books follow the adventures from the ( for once) male protagonist  Ethan Wates. Ethan lives in a small southern town where little happens except everything changes with the arrival of Lena Duchannes. He is instantly drawn to her ( mainly because he dreamt about her before he even met her). Lena is part of a family of witches ( yet they call themselves Casters) . When Lena reaches sixteen she will be part of the family curse which sets people to become part of the Light Casters or the Dark Casters.

It was a good try on attempting to rewrite the regular notions of witches, vampires and ghosts. The plot is pretty intriguing , even if ethan and lena are hopelessly self involved with their own relationship at times of the detriment to everyone around them.  My one complaint is that the authors use the supernatural element too much to get out of impossible situations ( even death) which if you dig deep enough makes little sense and makes you care less when something bad happens because you do expect them to revive at some point. Yet this is a common criticism I have of most of these books, they tend to cheat death far too much.  Sure, it makes sense they are magical beings but they keep doing it throughout the series.  The characters are pretty well rounded although I would have liked to understand the world of dark casters a bit better and what their motivations were. ( But I guess that’s asking a little too much )

Overall, all four books are pretty intriguing and well written. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite books about witches , but it’s a good attempt at rewriting the common myth. I still look at books like Anne Rice’s Witching Hour as a good example of an excellent book on witchcraft ( although it does have a lot of adult content in it).

The Mortal instruments series

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This book series is guaranteed to be a success with the movie coming out this summer. I am not going to lie, these books were like crack to me. I knew it wasn’t good for me but I couldn’t stop reading.  The way she writes makes you really root for the characters.

The story follows the main character Clary Fray as she discovers a hidden world of Shadowhunters who have angel blood and track demons.  She is the only one that can see them which leads her to the institute and a group of teenage shadowhunters lead by Jace. Slowly she traces back her past and leads her to a threatening maniac in the form of Valentine. ( Totally voldemort…. but I digress) A lot of plot twists ensue and while you do have to endure pages of descriptions about how beautiful Jace is , he is no Edward. Jace is a pretty intriguing flawed character and you can’t help but root for him. Clary herself is pretty annoying and selfish and does a lot of impulsive decisions but I commend the author in making her flawed. She is also not a weakling and can fend for herself with surprising newly discovered powers. The world she writes is pretty well written and you can’t help but be sucked into it. I read all five books in five days so they were compelling. I would say though there is truth to the criticism in that some of the plots of the first book do resemble Harry Potter and the author suffers from Using supernatural world to cover plot holes syndrome, which makes you not really care if a character dies or not as you think they will eventually revive or show up later. Personally the best book is the third one, after that the books seem like they are extending themselves for no real reason but to keep going on with the series. Even so they are intriguing enough to read them.  Overall I would say it won’t win a pulitzer prize and you do have to endure some repitition but the plot does suck you in with it’s twists and turns. Definitely recommend reading them.

 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and the evolution of Mara DyerImage

 

These books break a little from the regular mold and could constitute as a thriller , it’s not until midway through the first book do you realize it has any supernatural elements in them. ” Mara” ( who writes under a pseudonym) is half Indian ( finally some diversity in these characters without it being a big deal) sixteen year old girl. A couple months ago she had an accident at a mental institution where her best friend, boyfriend and another girl die due to the building crumbling below them. She does not remember anything and is transferred to another city.  Mara is struck by flashbacks and people believe she is suicidal or worse.  In her new school she meets Noah, the lover boy who is instantly drawn to her. Mara witnesses several other mysterious deaths, deaths which she herself may have caused.

I must say I loved the creepiness of these books, and it was taken in directions I wouldn’t expect. As an unreliable narrator you have no idea if Mara herself is a menace or if she is lying to us. Noah is a great character – although a little too perfect- but anchors the story well and brings much needed perspective.  We do empathize a lot with mara, who the more discovers the truth the crazier she seems. I liked how realistic it seems… after all in real life if someone were to talk about supernatural things wouldn’t they seem crazy? How would you deal with someone who is delusional? I like that most of the people around her were incredulous although it’s unbelievable how naive and stupid her parents could be. I loved that unlike most young adult novels, the parents were present and very much involved in controlling the character’s fate. I would definitely recommend these books, and I anxiously await the third installment of the series.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

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This book defies some of the conventions of the genre it could technically be called a dystopian novel as it set in a bleak future where zombies have taken over the world. The book is chock full of humor and witty banter, and our main narrator is actually a zombie. It begs to ask the question : If we knew what zombies thought what would it be? Our main zombie,  R is trying to answer these questions as well. In a remarkable description of a zombie world, where R has no memories of who he was before becoming a zombie. He shuffles through the routine of pillaging and eating humans but ponders the meaning of existence. In a beautiful plot twist R falls in love with a human and begins to change and heal himself.  Refreshingly , it avoids being overly corny about the love he develops and does not lose it’s witty banter.

I hate zombie books, but this one is different. It reminds me a lot of shaun of the dead. I am not sure what to expect from the sequel, but I am definitely intrigued enough to read the next one. The movie looks really good as well.

 

Percy Jackson Series and Heroes of the Olympians

 

Technically, this book isn’t YA but middle school level but like Harry Potter you really can’t tell the difference. I don’t know why I waited so long to read these books, they are really brilliant and funny. Percy Jackson and the other characters are allowed to grow over time, and like Harry Potter the relationships between the characters develop naturally. No one is in love after the fourth chapter , and they allow diversity of characters. The story follows Percy Jackson , who finds out that despite being ADHD and dyslexic his father is Poseidon the Sea God in Greek myth. He goes to camp halfblood to train to become a hero and to become protected from monsters who seek to harm him. Over the series of books, he encounters a series of quests which are modern adaptations of what his greek counterparts had to do including the golden fleece, the labyrinth , among others.  Rick Riordan is a funny and witty writer, and most of the books modernize greek myth and make it cool again. The gang which constitutes Annabeth ( Daughter of Athena ), Grover ( a satyr) and other friends who embark on different quests to protect Olympus.  I love how the writer does not shy away from depicting the Gods in greek myth as incredibly flawed and immature.  Don’t read these books if you would feel insulted on the depictions of religion, I believe he is more concerned on the concepts of myths than actual Gods. I am pretty sure that the author sees these beings as supernatural but hardly Gods the way we know of it today.  The biggest foe in this series is Kronos, who is threatening to return to earth and destroy Manhattan ( where Olympus now resides). There are five books and each of them are easy reads and the fifth book gives a satisfying ending to the series.

The second series, heroes of olympus follows the trials of the seven foretold heroes in a prophecy which will prevent the rise of Gaea the earth mother. I won’t spoil the series but this gives the perspective from Roman Gods and how they differ from greek ones.  I was glad to see Annabeth and Percy Jackson again and hope I can read the next two books of the series.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

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This has to be the best series of the bunch. It is so beautifully written and so unexpected . The book follows the main protagonist, a girl with blue hair by the name of Karou. She is living in Czech Republic and is an artist. She draws fantastical drawings of half beasts and half men called the Chimaera who look like demons. Only the truth is they actually exist. Karou has been brought up by  Brimstone ( who has lion legs and ram horns ) and his assistants Twiga and Issa. They send her all over the world to find teeth of all things.  Karou is funny and rebellious but also quite kind hearted, in the midst of all this she meets Akiva a man who seems like an angel but is called a seraph. She falls for Akiva, and finds that a parallel world exists which explains the angel and demon myth…although it is not as it seems.

The book is so eloquent and sad and the ending so stunning and unexpected. The second book which is understandably more darker and morose gives a glimpse to the dark warring world of the chimaera and the seraphs. I loved how there was no black and white characters, there were despicable people in each camp which were formed by war and bloodshed. She offers no quick solutions and thankfully does not use the supernatural plot device of her characters escaping death too much. I absolutely cannot praise these books enough and I really wish the third book would come out.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for peculiar children

I am not exactly sure if this counts as young adult fiction. The book is about a house where peculiar children reside , i.e. that have weird and special talents. The premise was promising as we follow a grandson who realizes what his father was saying was the truth and find that the children are all real and alive however towards the end of the book it falters and it was pretty disappointing and anti climatic for me.

There are several more books I could talk about but I will leave it there for now.  I might go into more depth about each book in separate posts. I won’t even bother with twilight, it isn’t worth reviewing. I thank goodness that none of these books are as bad as that series. The host by stephanie meyers is a bit better but don’t expect much from that book either.

 

 

 

 

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