Here are four YA reads that are on the darker side. I'd group them in with the older YA books. There's a killer nun, an ancient conspiracy, a plague-fueled dystopian, and a bloody ghost story.
A YA Fantasy-Romance for older readers with an intriguing mythology and
Set in a medieval Brittany where the old gods are
called Saints yet still worshipped, a daughter of Mortain (the god of Death)
finds a new purpose and political intrigue while nobles and other countries vie
for power and the hand of the young Duchess.
Ismae has known mostly
cruelty her entire short life, first from her father, then from her husband on
the day of her wedding. She is rescued from a certain witch burning and taken to
the convent of Saint Mortain, where she learns of her unique legacy and is given
a chance at a new life. This new life includes weapons training, poison, and
lessons in womanly arts all in preparation for her service as an assassin. This
is not your conventional convent. During the course of her assignments, Ismae
crosses paths with the mysterious Duval and ends up posing as his mistress to
try to uncover a hidden spy in the Brittany court. Lots of intrigue, some good
action, interesting side characters and a discovery of what it really means to
be a "daughter of Mortain" carry us through to the ending. It is an ending, of a
sort, but there is definitely more to the story. I'll be reading the next
There is a lot of blood and violence, which is why I'd put it in an
older YA category. Nothing too explicit, but there is a dark tone. The
characters live in dangerous times.
I thought that the world-building was
very well done and the characters were believable. It was a fast-paced book that
kept my attention. I liked Ismae's attitude. It felt realistic. I also liked
that she had a mind of her own. I understoond her inner conflict and thought it
done well. There is no love triangle and the characters don't fall in love at
first sight. Nor is the romance driving everything. It is more of a Fantasy with
I'd recommend for YA readers who want something out of the high
school setting, with some level of the paranormal but not really magic driven.
[I received an Advance Readers Copy to review for Amazon Vine.]
Kind of like a Da Vinci code with teens, except that it deals with alchemy, old letters written in Latin, and high school/college students versus religious conspiracies and famous artwork. It starts with Nora, a high school senior who is a research assistant translating old letters written in Latin. It seems like a boring assignment, with the only upside being the relationship she starts with fellow researcher Max. Soon, though, she stumbles into a centuries old conspiracy, her best friend is murdered, her boyfriend is the likely suspect, and there is much shadowy goings on. Throw in two warring secret societies with long reaches, betrayals, and teens on the run in Prague and you have a very intriguing action-packed read.
I'm stopping here with any plot details. To go over too much would just take the fun out of the ride.
This book really drew me in. Easy to read and fast paced. You need to suspend some disbelief (OK maybe a lot), but I had fun with it. I think this is a great summer read.
[I won an ARC from a blog contest.]
A plague has ravaged the city, maybe the world. No one really knows what's outside the city, so its hard to say. The rich live in towers, wear masks to filter the poisonous air, and try to mentally escape through alcohol, drugs and partying at places like the Debauchery Club. It's the end of the world and if you have the means, you party til you drop (literally). If you're poor, then you try to save enough to get a mask for someone in your family, or you wait for the plague to make its way through your loved ones. Lording over it all is Prince Prospero who rules through fear and violence.
Araby lives a life of seeming leisure, going with her friend April to the Club, numbing her pain and guilt over living while her twin brother died. Her father is a brilliant scientist responsible for creating the masks that allow people to venture outside. Her mother was a pianist and Araby harbors a grudge against her mother for being absent for much of her childhood. Everyone in her family is mostly shut off from each other. Then Araby is saved by the Club's bouncer Will, April disappears, Araby meets April's brother Elliot, she gets involved with a resistance group, and she finally starts acting instead of floating through life.
This doesn't mean that Araby makes the right decisions, of course, but then she didn’t exactly start the book making well thought out plans either. She is a character in progress.
This isn’t the happiest of books – everything is pretty bleak. I also can’t say that I really “like” Araby. I can understand why she is the way she is. I can even understand a lot of the decisions she makes and the hope she starts to have. There is potential here.
If you need to like the main character, you might have issues. If you need a really tough, kick-butt heroine, you won't find that either. Also, if you draw a line at your MC taking drugs or drinking, this could be a stopper for you too. There is a bit of a triangle here, although it didn’t bug me as some do. Also, the story is definitely not over. There is a lot left hanging.
That said, I did like the world and the political situation. I liked discovering all of the things around Araby that she was missing out on. Most of all, I liked the setup and where I think this might be going. I will be reading the next one.
[I received an Advance Readers Copy to review for Amazon Vine.]
First, what I loved: Anna. She is pretty damn awesome. Tragic, scary, strong. Sympathetic, yet you also wouldn't really want her hanging around. She ain't Caspar the Friendly Ghost. I loved all of the ghost story aspects, every scene she was in, her relationship with Cas and her uneasy relationship with everyone else.
In the middle: Cas, the narrator. I got Cas, his drive, what keeps him going. I also get why he is so enthralled with Anna. There were lots of times I wanted a bit more on why he is the way he is and why his mom/adult figures let him do what he wants, which brings me to:
What didn't work for me: basically every adult except for Morfran. I don't get the mom. She is just barely there until the end, yet she willingly uproots them and moves wherever Cas wants to fight ghosts without argument. I mean, if she had been more forceful, like a really violent stage mom, that would have made more sense ("You WILL be the best Chosen One ever! Go practice stabbing stuff.").
If I was a teen reading this, the adults lack of involvement (from parents to teachers to police) probably wouldn't have bothered me as much. That said, it still drew me in and I had to finish it, so I will be looking for the next book from this author.