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Trending: cults in YA

Lately the YA sci-fi/fantasy market has been dominated by Strong Female Protagonists who take down corrupt regimes or lead groups of survivors in the post-apocalypse. Meanwhile, Strong Female Protagonists in realism have been dealing with more day-to-day issues: boyfriends, girlfriends, dead parents, mental illness, etc. These young ladies, while being emotionally courageous, have not been able to take part in the same kind of grand heroism that the sci-fi/fantasy young women are somehow just unable to avoid. Until *big reveal*…cult books!

In each of the following books, a young female protagonist finds herself fighting a powerful enemy and enacting grand heroic events (middle-of-the-night escapes!) in order to save herself and — hopefully — her loved ones.

parker_astrayIn Christine Parker’s Astray (sequel to Gated), Lyla — having escaped from Pioneer and his Community — must now adapt to life with the Outsiders while surviving the Community’s rage over her betrayal. As a brainwashed teen, Lyla’s first-person narration is unreliable and emotional, scared yet resilient, making this a creepy, compelling, and enjoyable read. (Random House, August 2014)

heathfield_seedFifteen-year-old Pearl, star of Lisa Heathfield’s Seed, is ecstatic to have changed from “a child to a woman” — she can now be a Companion to the all-powerful patriarch, Papa S. But with her new status comes a more sinister view of the cult community of Seed. Pearl is occasionally an unsympathetic protagonist, but this debut novel’s well-paced plot, stirring climax, and provocative concept compensate. (Running Press/Teens, March 2015)

oakes_sacred lies of minnow blyMinnow Bly, ex-cult member and handless due to a horrific punishment, is alone in the city. A physical confrontation lands her in jail, where her story of life under the Prophet’s rule is unveiled. Visceral and frightening, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes is a fast-paced and absorbing bildungsroman mystery inspired by the Grimms’ tale “The Handless Maiden.” (Dial, June 2015)

Any others to add to the list?


Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.



  1. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    Totally inappropriate, but now I have the Kimmy Schmidt theme song in my head. “Un-BREAKABLE!”

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