While much in the YA paranormal genre is formulaic, here are three novels that think outside the box.
In Blood, the first installment in K. J. Wignall’s Mercian Trilogy, the eternally sixteen-year-old William, Earl of Mercia, has just awakened from one of his decades-long hibernations (he is of course undead), and he needs lifeblood; Eloise, an unhappy teenager, is living on the streets. The two meet and begin an odd yet tender friendship. In a plot-driven story the reader and Will wind through his history together, the complexities and careful twists intriguing enough to keep the pages turning. (14 years and up)
Lush description of a gothic and ghostly Prague beckons readers from the first page of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Art-student Karou is a seemingly normal teenager; no one knows that the strange creatures from her sketchbook are in fact her family: chimaera, part human and part animal. When she meets an angel with wings of fire, the two are drawn together by a powerful force, and Karou discovers a parallel, war-torn world that is the key to her true identity. Taylor builds a fantasy realm with mythic creatures, human desires, and battles of biblical scale. The climactic revelations connect many strands, leaving the reader both satisfied and eagerly anticipating the sequel. (14 years and up)
“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, inspired by legends of deadly fairy water horses, begins rivetingly and gets even better. Stiefvater masterfully combines an intimate voice with a fully evoked island setting with a plot full of danger, intrigue, and romance. Sean Kendrick is tied to his stable job by his love of a water horse; Puck Connolly has been orphaned by the vicious creatures, but she is desperate enough to enter the perilous race. Tension builds until the final scene: the thrilling, bloody race along the edge of the sea. Stiefvater sets not one foot wrong as she takes readers on an intoxicating ride of their own. (12 years and up)
—Martha V. Parravano