Hello Sonderlusters! This week I’m doing a slightly different blog format because I’m working on an extra-special (translation: long and involved) blog post for next week and I needed more time than the two days I allotted myself because I am a big procrastinator.
So, in case you hadn’t noticed, I read a lot. Like, a lot. And I could write this blog every Friday for five years and not cover each and every book I’d like to recommend to you. So this week, I’m doing a Top 5 list with little mini-reviews because I feel like that’s a good way to cover some ground. This week’s category:
Meg’s Top 5 Young Adult Trilogies Featuring Awesome Ladies
5) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Book Titles in Order:
1 – The Hunger Games
2 – Catching Fire
3 – Mockingjay
Quick Summary: In a future Dystopian version of North America, the rich, all-powerful, all-knowing Capitol City, led by President Snow forces each of the twelve Districts to choose one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a live televised fight to the death that can have only one winner. When Katniss Everdeen, a girl from the brutally poor and perpetual underdog District 12 volunteers to compete in the place of her little sister, it sets off a series of events that no one, not even Katniss herself, could ever have predicted.
Why You Should Read It: Forget about the movies starring J Law and that dude who looks like a llama and go back to the source material. The fact is, The Hunger Games is a phenomenon for good reason. In my personal opinion, the books are less successful as a trilogy than others on this list (Mockingjay in particular was a let down for me) but it makes my top five for the first book alone. The Hunger Games as a stand-alone novel was, when I first got my hands on it, one of the scariest, most gripping YA reads I’d had in a while. I still often re-read just that first book because I think it’s so well done. Despite what I feel is a slightly sloppy ending, the trilogy as a whole is still totally worth the read if only for the fact that these books set off a chain reaction of excellent Dystopian YA fiction and I think everyone should be up on their cultural phenoms. But also because Katniss is pretty cool as a somewhat unwilling heroine. There are worse fictional characters that young girls and teens could look up to.
4) The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
Book Titles in Order:
1 – A Great and Terrible Beauty
2 – Rebel Angels
3 – The Sweet Far Thing
Quick Summary: Following the mysterious death of her mother, nineteenth century British gal Gemma Doyle is sent away to an all-female boarding school where hopefully she can learn to be a proper Young Lady of Status. Instead she meets three friends: Felicity, Ann and Pippa, discovers some latent magical powers, uncovers the dark history of her school and learns how to enter a secret magical world called The Realms which is basically how I feel all trips to boarding school should go, but what do I know?
Why You Should Read It: These books take two of my favourite things – historical fiction and magic – and smooshes them into one big glorious corset-wearing, spell-casting stew. This is definitely a coming of age series, it just happens to involve fantasy lands and vanquishing dark forces. Really the books are entirely about four teenage girls coming to terms with themselves, their powers (magical and otherwise) and their place in a world that is almost never particularly girl-friendly. Gemma, Pip, Fee and Ann are all uniquely wonderful girls, each with their own set of foibles and follies and personal troubles. There’s a little bit of everything in these books, and though I’m going to admit that they didn’t have the “staying power” for me personally the way some of these other trilogies did, I still loved them and I still recommend them whole-heartedly.
3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
Book Titles in Order:
1 – Daughter of Smoke and Bone
2 – Days of Blood and Starlight
3 – Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Quick Summary: Karou is a college student living in Amsterdam, studying art. Top of her class, Karou creates drawings of spectacular beasts and monsters, so realistic that you’d think she’d modeled them from life; and here’s her secret: that’s exactly what she did. Not only does Karou see monsters, they are her family, the only family she has ever known. Raised half in the human world and half in the world of the Chimaera (a vast array of humanoid half-animals of which there are as many different races and cultures as we have on Earth) Karou knows she lived an odd life, but even she is not prepared for the full truth of her own destiny.
Why You Should Read It: So my little blurb up there does absolutely nothing to explain the complete amazingness and originality of these books but I can’t go into much more detail without giving stuff away and also these are the kind of books that have to be experienced to understand. Just know that these are probably one of the most original teen trilogies I’ve ever read. The world building and characters are second to none, and if you’re a sucker for that stuff the way I am, you’re bound to love these. Karou is also an excellent heroine surrounded by even more excellent supporting ladies (human, Chimaera and otherwise). The plot itself would not be the most original in the universe if it weren’t for the sheer imagination and detail of the fantasy world Laini Taylor creates. That’s really the star here and it remains one of my favourite “new realities” in fiction.
2) The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
Book Titles in Order:
1 – Sabriel
2 – Lirael
3 – Abhorsen
Quick Summary: The kingdom of Ancelstierre (which is pretty similar to turn of the century Britain) has always been protected from dangerous magic by the wall that separates it from the unpredictable Old Kingdom, and also by the Abhorsen, a strange and powerful master of the necromantic arts whose job it is, not to raise the dead, but to send anything that won’t stay dead back where it belongs. When 16-year-old Sabriel receives an unsettling message from her father, the current Abhorsen, she must leave her school on the south side of the wall and venture alone into the Old Kingdom to see what has become of him. If, as she fears, he has passed into the realms of death, this will make her the new Abhorsen, and the person solely responsible for the fate of two worlds.
Why You Should Read It: The first book in this trilogy, Sabriel, was (and still is) one of my favourite stand-alone fantasy novels of all time. It was so unlike anything I’d ever read and the rules of the universe Nix created and the creepy but oddly beautiful magic of the Abhorsen was utterly original and intriguing. I’ve already mentioned that I’m a sucker for world building, and these books have that in spades. I love, love, love authors who can create a whole universe from scratch and make us believe it without question. The two sequels in this series came out much later, and they are just as great, building on the world in the original and adding more magical touches (including a hyper-dangerous sentient library that is just gah). Sabriel and Lirael, the trilogy’s two leading ladies, are wildly different from each other but both equally worthy of their heroine status. I admired Sabriel more but identified better with Lirael. There’s a bit of something for everyone.
1) The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
Book Titles in Order:
1 – The Knife of Never Letting Go
2 – The Ask and the Answer
3 – Monsters of Men
Quick Summary: I can not possibly summarize these books without giving away some of your enjoyment of them because half the absolute joy of this series is the discovery of every new twist and turn. But here’s my best shot. Todd Hewitt is a citizen of Prentistown, which was settled not so long before Todd was born by explorers from Earth looking to find a new planet to live on since we effectively destroyed the old one. Todd’s town is odd for two reasons: one, there are no women at all because they all died of a mysterious illness upon arrival on the planet, and two, the virus that killed the women afflicted the men with Noise, which, essentially, is all of their thoughts projected out loud for the world to hear. NIGHTMARE FUEL. Anyhoo, on his twelfth birthday, Todd, the youngest male in Prentistown, will finally be able to participate in the secret ritual that will allow him to be considered a man. Aaand then everything goes to literal hell in a hand cart.
Why You Should Read It: This is my second favourite book series EVER (second only to Harry Potter so y’all should know how high this praise is), and given that the above summary talks entirely about a boy named Todd, you probably want to know why it’s on this list of series featuring awesome ladies, to which I will just say TRUST ME. Just… yeah. In the chance that you go and read this series, I don’t want it spoiled for you. I’ve basically given you the dust jacket run down, which is all the info I had going in, and that’s all you need, plus my hearty recommendation to read these books, seriously just do it. Worldbuilding? Check. Commentary on race and gender relations? Check. Commentary on the abuse of indigenous people? Check. Horrors of war? Check. Best talking dog character ever in the history of talking dogs? Check. HEART POUNDING TERROR?!? Check. Whole sections where you just cry your entire soul out through your eyes and nose? Check, check, triple check. READ THESE.