Alternate World Fantasy
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
On the cusp of manhood, Finnikin reluctantly joins forces with an enigmatic young novice and fellow-exile, who claims that her dark dreams will lead them to a surviving royal child and a way to regain the throne of Lumatere.
Why we love it: Complex characters, world building, good old-fashioned young-man-on-a-quest fantasy, surprises.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Accompanied by her shape-shifting daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.
Why we love it: Allegory, the importance of truth, friendship, talking polar bears, witches, parallel worlds, adventure and suspense, physical manifestation of the soul.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing, and teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king.
Why we love it: Emotional journey, epic fantasy, believable characters, strong and inspiring female lead, disturbing villain, swords, two different eye colors.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
After the suspicious death of her mother in 1895, 16-year-old Gemma returns to England (after many years in India) to attend a finishing school where she becomes aware of her magical powers and ability to see into the spirit world.
Why we love it: Well-written, Victorian era, good and evil are confused, fear, excitement, atmosphere.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Eldest of three sisters in a land where that is considered to be a misfortune, Sophie is resigned to her fate as a hat shop apprentice until a witch turns her into an old woman and she finds herself in the castle of the greatly feared wizard Howl.
Why we love it: Unique and involved concept with a well-woven plot, laugh-out-loud sarcasm, a real gem.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Cast out of Wonderland by her evil aunt Redd, young Alyss Heart finds herself living in Victorian Oxford as Alice Liddell and struggling to keep memories of her kingdom intact until she can return and claim her rightful throne.
Why we love it: Fun and action-packed, new take on a beloved tale, steampunk, detailed characters/character development.
The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
When 15-year-old Will is rejected by battleschool, he becomes the reluctant apprentice to the mysterious Ranger Halt and winds up protecting the kingdom from danger.
Why we love it: Action and adventure, great fun for all ages and genders—knights, archers, Vikings!
The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
After the mutant Erasers abduct the youngest member of their group, the “birdkids” (who are the result of genetic experimentation) take off in pursuit, also struggling to understand their own origins and purpose.
Why we love it: Wings, first love, darkly brooding Fang, future science seems possible, kids controlling their destiny.
The Fetch by Chris Humphreys
After exploring a sea chest full of runes and a journal belonging to his deceased grandfather, 15-year-old Sky summons the old man’s ghost, who teaches him how to travel through time and space.
Why we love it: Corsica, male protagonist, dark and mysterious, evil grandpa, runestones add a unique touch.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In future North America, Panem’s rulers maintain control through a TV survival competition, pitting teens from each district against each other. Katniss’s skills are tested when she voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place.
Why we love it: Eerily possible future, social commentary, love triangle, tough girl, nail-biting suspense, pure AWESOME!
Skinned by Robin Wasserman
To save her from dying in a horrible accident, 17-year-old Lia’s wealthy parents transplant her brain into a mechanical body. She must make the transition from leader of the rich, shallow girls at school to mechanical outcast.
Why we love it: Seems like a possible future (believable and realistic), girl trying to find herself, sister relationship, the best character development, inspires moral debate.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Just before their 16th birthdays, when they will be transformed into beauties whose only job is to have a great time, Tally’s best friend runs away and Tally must find her and turn her in, or never become pretty at all.
Why we love it: Fun invented language, social commentary fits modern society, utterly captivating world-building, strongly developed characters, exciting.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
In a future world where those aged 13 to 18 can have their lives “unwound” and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to uphold their beliefs—and, perhaps, save their own lives.
Why we love it: Current headlines projected into future, heart-pounding suspense, biting social commentary, not too much romance, realistic feel.