From dark and mysterious boys to dystopian societies, the young adult genre has been dominating the shelves — and theaters — for many years now. Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones — these series became bestsellers and were worthy enough to make it to the big screen. However, just because these young adult series garnered a lot of attention based on the fact that they became a film adaption, there are a lot of other notable young adult series that may not have made an appearance as a movie, but there is a possibility that they will in the future.
For this list, it will be comprised of young adult series, more specifically the fantasy/supernatural sub-genre, that have not been turned into a film adaption or have not had any movie rights placed on them. As a reminder, this list serves to point out the highlights or unique qualities of these series that make them stand out among the rest. There may be disagreements and there are other series that have been left out, but what this list hopes to achieve is for you to start any one of these series and put it on your own “Best Fantasy/Supernatural Young Adult” series list.
NOTE: These are listed in no particular order. Also, there may be minor spoilers so proceed at your own discretion.
1. Starcrossed trilogy by Josephine Angelini
To start off this list, we begin with a series that doesn’t have vampires, werewolves, fairies, or fallen angels. We get what are called “Scions” — demigods who have unique abilities that align with the gods and goddesses they have descended from in Greek mythology. Helen Hamilton knows she’s different but she doesn’t know why, and hallucinations of three women called the Furies appear whenever she sees any members of the Delos family. Ever since they moved to small island Nantucket, they’ve been at the center of everyone’s attention and Helen can’t stand it. She feels unexplainable hatred towards them and they feel the same way towards her. It isn’t until she finally discovers that she’s part of a vicious cycle that the Furies intend to repeat with every reincarnation Helen and the Delos family members go through.
Bloodlines are a very important aspect of this series. There are many members in the Delos family (brothers, sisters, and cousins) so we get a huge cast of characters who are all different in their own way without giving them generic characteristics of teenage stereotypes. Helen is also quite the beauty and that’s because she’s the reincarnation of Helen of Troy, otherwise known as “The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships.” However, she’s humble and doesn’t focus on how she looks to other people. While some YA novels have protagonists who are focused on their appearances and say something along the lines of “I can’t help that I’m beautiful,” Helen finds her beauty unnerving and she covers her face with her hair and has poor posture in order to be unnoticed by everyone around her.
Another aspect of this series is that the protagonist’s best friend is Asian-American. Claire Aoki is Japanese and she doesn’t come across as submissive. In fact, she has the bold and in-your-face personality that breaks the Asian stereotype of someone who’s modest and quiet. Diversity is definitely a must for YA novels because readers of this genre are not always Caucasian. Having a character who is not Caucasian allows the story to be more relatable to non-Caucasian readers even if the character is only a supporting role like Claire.
To sum it up, the Starcrossed trilogy is a modern take on Greek lore and the story progresses fairly quickly throughout the three novels. Characters change drastically and there is, of course, forbidden love. The integration of Greek mythology gives a strong background for Helen’s story and she faces challenges that will save the people she loves even if it means hurting herself along the way. If Greek mythology, superhuman powers, family bonds, vengeance, and forbidden romance are in your field of interest, then this series is a must-read for you.
2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
This is a spin-off on fairy tales. Cinder, who is the equivalent to Cinderella but she’s a cyborg; Scarlet, who is the equivalent to Red Riding Hood but she wears a scarf; Cress, who is the equivalent to Rapunzel but she’s a total genius; and last but not least, Winter, who is the equivalent to Snow White but she’s a little crazy. What’s even better is that all of these characters coincide with one another even though each book focuses on the particular girl on the cover.
The Lunar Chronicles lets us meet different characters; each book in the series is dedicated to a new character so it’s not only refreshing, but we get to read a new story while it intertwines with the main storyline throughout all four novels. We also don’t lose previous characters. It’s one big, futuristic world but with different girls and even though each book focuses on one, the other girls won’t disappear. Each girl has something to love about her, so readers can decide which girl is their favorite instead of sticking to one main protagonist whom they may not like.
With every fairy tale, there has to be a Prince Charming. For this series, each girl has a particular love interest but are these boys the Prince Charming you would expect? Not really. Well, except Kai because he’s actually a prince. As for the others, they have personalities that wouldn’t strike you as a prince but that’s what makes them likable. There is a “Prince Charming” for each girl and the romances for all of them will leave you feeling butterflies in your stomach.
Marissa Meyer is a Sailor Moon fan and that has influenced the world she’s built in The Lunar Chronicles. She comes up with the most humorous and witty lines that each character says in the novel. Not a single character is dull and each one has something distinct to remember them by. If you’re looking for a fairy tale spin-off, androids, people who come from the moon and want to take over Earth, and an intermingling of all the characters, then The Lunar Chronicles is just for you.
3. The Iron Fey saga by Julie Kagawa
Here is a series that’s not exactly driven by fairies but fae. The difference between these two supernatural beings is that fairies are aligned with being good while fae are downright horrid, mischievous, and steal children from their homes to replace them with a changeling. These creatures can’t be seen unless you have the Sight, which Meghan Chase does. In this series, fae is spelled fey, which is author Julie Kagawa’s own take on these terrible beings.
Meghan goes to the Unseelie Court to find her brother who has been kidnapped and replaced by a changeling. Someone who helps her adjust to the sudden change in her life is her best friend, Puck, a prankster who is reminiscent to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Dream. In fact, there are a few characters as well as the courts that reflect Shakespeare’s famous play. However, it is not a complete copy since Kagawa forms the world of the Iron fey through her own eyes, so vividly that you know Kagawa has put a lot of thought into her world-building. Her form of writing goes down to the finest detail but it’s not where the descriptions are excess. The world of the fey is a crucial part of Meghan’s life and she’s discovering this world just like the readers are.
In the first novel, Meghan is driven by one goal: to save her little brother. But as the story progresses throughout the three novels (the fourth novel focuses on Ash’s story), Meghan discovers her origins and grows from that discovery. She doesn’t reject it like a bratty kid and even though she does have some teen angst, it’s a normal aspect of the YA genre. Ash is a notable character as he is one of the fey that are cruel and soulless, unsympathetic to human emotion. Just like many of the dark and mysterious young men who capture the hearts of readers, he has a complicated personality that will slowly unwind as Meghan breaks down his walls.
Meghan goes through many trials and challenges since the fey are bent on their tricks. At times, she may act out of impulse but it’s all for the greater good and the protection of those she loves. The humor doesn’t feel forced as it naturally evokes laughter because of how genuine the characters’ personalities are. As with all YA series, the protagonist only grows from the first novel to the last. If you’re interested in faerie folklore, tricky schemes, a talking cat who is similar to Chesire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, a love rivalry, and a protagonist who is more than just human, then The Iron Fey series is a must-read.
4. Blood of Eden trilogy by Julie Kagawa*
Another work of Kagawa’s has made it on the list but instead of the Unseelie Court and the fey, The Blood of Eden is set in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by vampires. What sets this series apart from the rest is that Allie Sekemoto, the protagonist, is Asian. We finally get a character who isn’t Caucasian and she’s fierce, all due to her survival instinct in a setting where humans are seen as a food source for the vampires who rule. However, they aren’t the only monsters; there are rabids, humans who failed to transform into a vampire and are bloodthirsty for anything with a beating heart. This world is more gritty and terrifying than the world of The Iron Fey and instead of facing challenges or schemes that decide if your soul gets taken, the characters of The Blood of Eden are faced with death — whether that takes the form of the Red Lung Disease, rabids, or a life of eternal damnation.
Allie is born human but she faces a life-changing choice when she gets attacked by rabids during a careless raid with her other human companions. A vampire named Kanin approaches her and asks her if she wants to live. When she says yes, she becomes the creatures who she’s hated all her life. When confronted with this sort of choice, Allie doesn’t care if she has to become a vampire if that means she can live. This tells you a lot about her character, as she’s more concerned about her survival even when she’s on the brink of death. She will do anything it takes to live, even if that means changing how she lives by drinking blood.
For those who don’t like love triangles, you can be rest assured that there isn’t one in this series. Allie’s love interest is a human boy named Zeke and it gets complicated when she meets him as a vampire. However, he doesn’t know this because Allie hides it as best as she can. Zeke is with a group of other humans who are seeking to find a place called Eden, a haven for humans from the threat of rabids and vampires. Allie is walking on a tightrope because if her real identity is discovered, her life would be in danger and the person who’ll end her life may be the person who she develops feelings for.
Everything in this series shouts “Survival!” and that goes for both vampires and humans alike. The Red Lung Disease plagues not just humans but vampires as well. The search for a cure is what prompts these characters to do whatever they can to find it, even if it means betrayal and deceiving others. Allie is an admirable protagonist because she remains strong-willed even if her hunger for blood threatens to take over and turn her into a monster she cannot recognize. The Blood of Eden series is not like the Twilight series where there are vampires who sparkle under sunlight; this world of vampires sheds blood everywhere in every possible way and death is always on the minds of both vampires and humans. If you enjoy dark, twisted, vampiric, post-apocalyptic stories that are filled with bloodshed, then this series should be on your “To Read” list.
5. The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare
Before you freak out over the beautiful covers, The Infernal Devices (TID) is considered the prequel to The Mortal Instruments (TMI), as it is set in London during the Victorian era. There hasn’t been any news about this series becoming a motion picture, which may come off as a surprise to fans of TMI because that series already has a movie and a TV show airing sometime in 2016. But we’re going to talk about TID so keep on reading if you haven’t read this series yet!
First and foremost, the writing style of TID is surprisingly representative of the tone and speech during the Victorian London era. Cassandra Clare’s ability to do this shows how hard she worked to make these characters feel like actual people living in that time period. Readers should feel like they’re immersed in the setting and culture, or else the story won’t feel as engaging. It would be hard not to read this series without a British accent.
Tessa Gray, like many YA protagonists, is not your normal teenager and you’ll find out that she has a significant role in the events that play out in these three novels. Rather than harnessing some hidden power that would make or break the good of humanity like Clary from TMI, Tessa possesses something that you might not pay much attention to at first. Each novel is like a breathless journey because we keep turning the pages to desperately find out what happens next. We are caught up in many fights, but then we dive in to the political affairs of the Shadowhunter (Nephilim — humans with angel blood) world. The romance is complex even though a love triangle is involved but there is no love rivalry as confusing as that may be. And, a woman who struggles to show that she can run an institute rather than a man subtly covers the topic of feminism during this time period.
Clare likes to have many things go on at once, especially since she wrote TID in the middle of the TMI series. Tackling on two series at once is no small feat, but luckily she was able to execute both of them in a way that was fitting for their storyline. The events in TID, as well as the people, find their way toward the last half of TMI, so that can kind of count as a crossover if you’re into that. If you love steampunk, the Victorian era, London, handsome violinists, complex love triangles, and, as the names of the series are called, clockwork, then you are in for quite a ride. Also, if you’re a fan of Clare’s books and you haven’t read this series yet, then you definitely need to get your hands on them!
*NOTE: The Blood of Eden series will be made into a film, although there haven’t been any updates since the news of Palomar Pictures claiming rights for it. I had to leave it on this list anyway because it’s such a great series 🙂