I'm taking this topic from the Top Ten Tuesday prompts!
There are a lot of good books out there that are "quieter," i.e. they aren't all that well-known. Today, I'm going to list some of my favorite YA books that have fewer than 2000 ratings on Goodreads. These are in reverse order by date, so those that were published the most recently are at the top.
1) Toxic by Lydia Kang. This YA sci-fi features a living bio-ship that's in the process of dying and two unusual teens who seem doomed to die with it--especially once the murders start. It's full of sad and broken people I really felt for, and it also has a lovely romance.
2) For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig. This creative, vibrant, and brutal YA fantasy, told through a nontraditional format, follows a bipolar girl with an illegal ability to turn ghosts into puppets. She journeys across a land ravaged by colonialism, trying to find safety for herself and her family, even as she gets pulled into the rebellion.
3) The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas. This YA horror novel is a wonderful oddity about a girl who's furious that her demon was taken from her in an exorcism. The book follows her journey through the occult underside of her town as she tries to gain back her longtime companion, and it addresses issues like addiction and the complexity of good and evil, both in religion and relationships.
4) A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna. This YA sci-fi uses fantasy elements to tell the epic story of a girl who was cast away by her royal mother due to a threatening prophecy. This wonderfully imperfect character enters a competition to try and win back both her family and her family's lost throne, but things don't go the way she planned.
5) Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer. This YA horror novel follows a girl who dissects magical beings so that her mother can sell the body parts on the black market. But when her mother brings home a live specimen, the girl ends up on the market herself. The story is gruesome, brutal, and entirely absorbing.
6) #MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil. This near-future YA horror novel takes place on an island where criminals are hunted down by state-sponsored serial killers on live TV. It follows an innocent girl who wakes up on the island and has to figure out how to survive long enough to prove her innocence. The story is engrossing, engaging, and surprisingly believable.
7) A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman. This is a rare YA anthology that I loved, featuring a variety of short stories in different genres, all by Asian-American authors and inspired by Asian mythology and folklore. It's a magnificent collection full of beautiful tales. My favorites were "Bullet, Butterfly" by Elsie Chapman and "Daughter of the Sun" by Shveta Thakrar.
8) Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone. This lovely, emotional YA contemporary starts out slow as it tells the story of two ex-best friends and the near-death--possibly, the miracle--that forces them back into each others' lives. This is a story that feels deeply personal.
9) Your One and Only by Adrianne Finlay. This YA sci-fi takes place on a future Earth where the only living humans are genetically perfected clones--except for one "throwback" human, who lives as an outsider in their world. The story follows that "throwback" teen and one of the teen clones as they fall in love. It's a super interesting book, both lovely and brutal.
10) Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne. This YA fantasy follows a healer with a fatal illness who can't touch anyone without making them sick and an immune soldier whose memory is taken away as they come together on a secret mission to take down the empire that controls their lands. I love the way this book incorporates a chronic illness-type situation into the fantasy narrative, and I love the romance!
11) Odd & True by Cat Winters. This YA historical horror dances on the line between fantasy and reality as it tells the story of two monster-hunting sisters, once of whom is disabled due to childhood polio, living in 1909. It's well-written and definitely my style.
12) Waste of Space by Gina Damico. This YA sci-fi features a group of teens on a reality show that supposedly happens in space--but the showmakers only pretended to send them there. In fact, they're in a studio in the desert, but neither the audience nor the teens know that. When the teens lose communication with the showmakers, chaos ensues. This fun story combines Damico's snarky, off-kilter writing style with a nontraditional format.
13) Dreamfall by Amy Plum. This YA horror novel follows a group of teens who undergo an experimental treatment for insomnia, only to get trapped in a nightmare world when the technology malfunctions. The story is a bit simplistic, but also action-packed and impossible to put down.
14) Shadow Run by AdriAnne Stickland and Michael Miller. This YA sci-fi follows a young spaceship captain with dangerous powers and a runaway prince who joins her crew only to get caught up in galactic political intrigue. It's an incredible adventure with a solid romance and a diverse cast.
15) A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl. This YA contemporary follows a girl trying to uncover the messy humanity of her sister, who died in the midst of a fervor that claims her to be a miracle-making saint. It's an interesting and well-written story that addresses the complexity of life, the price of fame, and the relationship between sisters.
16) The Dragon's Price by Bethany Wiggins. Another book that's quite my style, this YA fantasy follows a girl who decides to be sacrificed to a dragon rather than be married against her will--but the boy she was supposed to be married to decides to follow her into the dragon's lair. This book has a wonderful, intense romance and a lot of heart, as well as discussion about prejudice and cultural differences.
17) The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee. This lovely and intriguing YA fantasy tells the story of a girl who has the magic ability to create love potions using her keen sense of smell. However, if she falls in love herself, she'll lose that power.
18) Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee. This interesting, engaging, and enjoyable YA contemporary follows conjoined twins as they consider the possibility of a surgery that would allow them to live different lives.
19) Run by Kody Keplinger. This YA contemporary follows two best friends, one of whom is a bisexual girl from the "rough" side of town and the other of whom is a sheltered blind girl, as they go on the run together. I love the way two stories from different points in time converge, and I love that it's about female best friends. Keplinger's usual free, open, and feminist style shines again.
20) How It Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes. This absolutely lovely YA contemporary follows a ballerina with body image issues who is sent to a summer treatment camp for teen artists and athletes struggling with mental and emotional issues. The book is an interesting and emotive combo of dance, body image, mental illness, and an unhealthy mother-daughter relationship.
21) Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano. This well-written and intelligent YA fantasy follows a boy falsely imprisoned for murder who, through his astral projection abilities, meets a girl who decides to help him track down the real killer. The book combines the harshness of juvie with the ethereal beauty of the boy's powers.
22) The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters. This YA historical novel is a retelling of Hamlet that follows a mixed race girl in 1923 as she tries to uncover the truth about her black father's death. It's a stunning, horrific, and vivid portrayal of terror and bigotry, from which I personally learned a lot.
23) Bluescreen by Dan Wells. This unexpected YA sci-fi takes place in 2050, where technology is implanted in people's brains, and it follows a Latina girl who gets caught up in a conspiracy after her friends get ahold of a "drug" that can be connected straight into their brains via that technology.
24) Calvin by Martine Leavitt. This YA contemporary tells the story of a schizophrenic boy who believes himself to be the real-life version of Calvin and Hobbes and who sets off on a journey across Lake Erie in the hopes that Bill Watterson will be able to cure him. It's a surprisingly sweet and engaging little story with heart all the way to the core.
25) Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis. This YA sci-fi retells Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans," following the only daughter of a powerful tech family who gets caught up in a conspiracy and must find a way to save her brothers without ever speaking a word. This book is suitable for sensitive readers, with good worldbuilding and vibrant emotional moments.
I think I'll probably continue this post, picking up with books released in fall 2015, sometime. It's so nice to look at these hidden gems! Thanks for reading, share some of your favorite lesser-known books, and I'll be back next week with a portfolio of essays from my college English classes.
Images via Goodreads.
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