This time of year, vampires, zombies, and other things that go bump in the night — already omnipresent in YA fantasy — get an extra workout. These new novels are no mere creature features, though, presenting carefully crafted dark fantasy worlds and nuanced “monsters” more like us than we might want to believe.
In The Peculiars, author Maureen Doyle McQuerry draws from various genres — historical fiction, romance, mystery, Western, steampunk — to evoke the era of territorial expansion. Outsider Lena wonders whether there is any truth to rumors that her long-absent father is a goblin. She sets out to find him, ending up in the last town before the hinterlands where goblins and other “Peculiars” are exiled. Lena finds refuge at the estate of eccentric Tobias Beasley; the plot thickens when the real nature of Mr. Beasley’s work comes to light. A creative, entertaining, and wholly original fantasy. (Amulet/Abrams, 14–17 years)
Such Wicked Intent, the second book in Kenneth Oppel’s imagined Frankenstein origin story, begins with teenage Victor mourning the loss of his twin brother Konrad, whom he failed to save with the Elixir of Life. Visits to a spirit world revive Victor’s hopes and lead him to attempt the creation of a new body for Konrad’s spirit to inhabit. How far will he go to bring his brother back to life? Vividly descriptive language and complex characters keep the narrative intense and compelling. (Simon, 12–16 years)
Teen Mel believes vampires belong on their own side of town, not fraternizing with humans. When her best friend, Cathy, falls for Francis, the irritatingly stuffy new vampire at their high school, Mel follows him home — and is surprised to meet a human boy named Kit living there. Kit causes Mel to question her preconceptions about vampires, even as they investigate suspicious supernatural doings. Both fearsome and funny, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan’s Team Human is a fresh entry in the YA vampire subgenre. (HarperTeen, 14–17 years)
After causing a meat contamination incident at the chicken processing plant where he works, Nick is sentenced to a juvenile reform camp. Then all hell breaks loose: what was a few cannibal campers quickly turns into a full-blown zombie outbreak. Nick, his crush Petal, and other survivors fend off the horde and trace the source of the infection to — where else? — the sinister chicken corporation. An original voice, pop-culture references, and a twist ending will keep readers guessing throughout Sean Beaudoin’s blackly comedic The Infects. (Candlewick, (Simon, 12–16 years)
From the October 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.