Recommended Reading: 5 Urban Fantasy Young Adult books

Genre description

Urban fantasy is differentiated from traditional fantasy because it takes place in an urban setting -- it can be contemporary, historical, modern, or futuristic. The running theme is that is contains supernatural elements and takes place in a real-world city setting.

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The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan (series)

I think this series is great for many reasons. The characters are well developed, the pacing is perfectly timed, and best of all, I did not see the ending coming. I thought I did, but then she hit me out of left field with a completely different twist than what I was expecting.

Sarah Rees Brennan delivers a fast-paced book brimming over with emotion, wit, and beauty. She is a masterful writer, with an ability to draw the reader into her world and see and experience it all. Furthermore, she has these wonderful, clever bits of humor; one-liners that make me laugh out loud and love her characters.

With this series, Rees Brennan does something unusual -- she switches the protagonist with each book. The first is from Nick's p.o.v., the second from Mae's, and the third from Sin's. This writing technique made certain parts of the later books incredibly poignant and disorienting at the same time -- moments when Sin overheard or witnessed conversations and interactions between Mae, Jamie, Nick, Alan, and Seb.

It was incredible and fascinating and heart-wrenching to see these interactions in flashes and bits, knowing their background interactions and the internal minds of the other characters. By the third book, I often felt as though there were all these parallel stories and plotlines going on that I was just getting the barest hint of, not the experience of. It was really well done, and you have to admire the artistry of it. I highly recommend the entire series. It's a great read.

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (series)

The Immortal Instruments series was recommended to me through Sarah Rees Brennan's blog. She's definitely one of my favorite authors, so I tend to read the books she recommends. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have the same taste in reading as she does -- I like maybe 2 out of every 6 books/ authors/ series she recommends. This was one of the series I quite enjoyed.

I like it for a variety of reasons: A well paced plot, good character development, excellent execution of a unique idea, and well-laid-out explanations of how the fantasy world entertwines with and yet remains unnoticed by daily reality. I also liked her characterization of some sensitive topics, like how family and duty can intersect with love and personal fulfillment. The only thing I wish is that Clare would more thoroughly address the good/ evil dynamic -- she's written a fascinating fantasy here where the "good guy" Shadowhunters are descended from Angels and they fight the "bad guy" Downworlders, who are descended from demons (Lilith).

Immediately, within the first book, this whole idea of good guys/ Shadowhunters vs. bad guys/ Downworlders is turned upside down, as it becomes apparent that the villain is a Shadowhunter, while our protagonists turn to various Downworlders for help. Clare has very clearly outlined a world full of grey areas -- yet none of the characters really address what this means in terms of religion. The few times the ideas of religious belief and god are brought up, the characters tend to dismiss the questions.

I personally find this attitude utterly fascinating -- this isn't a world where the question of god is an academic idea, or where magic has naturally occurred through nature or the universe. This is a world where the Shadowhunters and Downworlders know for a fact that angels and demons exist. From this, it's not a very far stretch at all to assume there must be higher, stronger entities (god/ satan) controlling them -- yet no-one seems too concerned about whether or not essential evil and essential good exist, or whether they've even got the right end of the snake in assuming that Downworlders are evil while Shadowhunters are good. It's a valid question! Where are the Shadowhunter and Downworlder theologians? Why is everyone just willing to accept it as, "Eh, it is what it is?"

Despite that small quibble, I still recommend the series. It's a really well-written, well-characterized, and well-developed world. Her writing just pulls you right in and takes you along for the ride.

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Evernight by Claudia Gray (series)

I did hesitate about including this as an "urban fantasy," since it falls a bit into the "schoolboy fiction" genre with her removal from general society to an exclusive school atmosphere. That said, in later books she leaves the school setting. Even within the school setting, modern urban life is constantly referenced, as when older vampires were taught about ipods and computers.

Okay, so this was awesome. As a general rule, I avoid vampire lit like the plague because of that whole human/vampire love dynamic, which I hate. Seriously, think about it -- human and vampire fall in love, vampire bites human, and they are stuck together until the end of the earth. I'm sorry, no matter how much I love somebody I would never commit to living for several centuries with them. You know why? Because people change and grow emotionally -- as would (hypothetically) vampires. Ideals and values change, and they don't always change in tandem. And in most vampire lit there's some sort of blood bond between vampires of the same . . . bite?

Then there's the other scenario in human/vamp love -- the vamp loves the human so much that they don't bite them, and you end up with two ways to go. One, human and vamp live together in monogamous harmony until the human dies (rare) -- how dumb is that? An eternally young being being in a physical relationship with an 80-year old? You have got to be kidding me.

Scenario two, the human and the vamp go their separate ways, filled with forever love and regret. Sorry, again dumb. Vampires can live for as long as the earth exists -- longer, if space travel becomes commonplace and we do find other planets (ooooh, spaceman vampires!). Humans live an extremely finite period of time. So maybe the human will live a life of regret for their one lost true love, but the vampire will forget in less than a century -- two centuries if the human was exceptional.

Sorry, most vampire lit is retarded.

That said, despite my disdain of vampire lit in general, this book was incredibly well-conceived and well-executed. The author writes in an engaging manner, the characterizations are beautiful and the relations between everyone are perfectly written. This is a gem in the offal known as vampire lit. (I'm looking at you, Twilight).

Plus, as the series goes on, Claudia Gray throws some really interesting wrenches into existing fantasy tropes, which I'm really enjoying. I love when someone takes an existing trope and changes some seemingly minor but really awesome detail. In this one, not to give too much away, it has to do with ghosts, life, and death. I know, you're thinking it's a vampire series -- but like I said, it's a good one. Claudia Gray plays primarily with fantasy tropes regarding vampires, vampire hunters, and ghosts. She's written a very detailed and consistent universe, and it's a great read.

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Rampant by Diana Peterfreund (series)

It took me a bit to get into it, honestly. It's been really well reviewed by a lot of my favorite authors, and the concept -- killer unicorns! -- sounded fantastic. I was definitely intrigued.

Peterfreund writes well and moves the plot along quickly. Her protagonist (Astrid) is relatable, though Astrid's mother is never, at any time, even remotely sympathetic. I just don't get loving a mother who shows no real love or concern for her daughter as a person. Maybe I was just really lucky in my draw as a mother, so I don't understand and I'll never have to, but I simply do not understand Astrid's motivation or affection toward her mother. Every time they interacted, I was pulled out of the story and sat there shaking my head going, "Why? Why does Astrid seem to care about her?"

Regarding the unicorns . . . normally, urban fantasy asks us to accept that magic and real life exist side by side, or on top of each other, but it rarely to never intersects in obvious ways. In Rampant, Astrid is introduced to the reality that unicorns are real and are, indeed, killer monsters when her boyfriend gets gored by one, which is a fairly obvious intersection of urban and fantasy. This is all part of the re-emergence. Astrid is then carted off to Rome, where she begins training as a unicorn hunter. She spends a lot of her time in Rome raising some really good questions, which mostly boiled down to, "Why does it have to be magic? Why can't it be scientifically explained?"

I love this premise. I love that even when surrounded with ancient ritual, magic, and unicorns, Astrid's response is not to accept that it's all magical and unknowable, but instead to push back and try to find a scientific explanation. I was also intrigued by how the virgin/ unicorn equation was handled in the book -- the implications of using sex to avoid duty, the confusion over the social and personal definition of rape, and the various reactions of friends and family to rape. It was an interesting look at something that has been made such a religious and political issue that it's almost impossible for a woman to make the decision to lose her virginity on her own terms without weighing the social and often religious consequences.

I will admit that I was upset when, near the end of the book, Astrid meets somebody who basically convinces her to give up all these questions and just accept it. I just wanted to scream. I especially felt this attitude applied to the virgin thing -- I felt like they were willing to take a "science" attitude toward things like bloodlines, alicorn venom, unicorn mating and herding habits, hunting abilities, etc. etc. But especially near the end of the book, I had the definite impression that hunter = virginity. The End. No more questions. It felt inconsistent to me. On the other hand, if you want your kids to read pro-abstinence fantasy, I think this definitely falls in that category. I haven't read the other books in the series, but I hope they address the virgin/ unicorn relationship in better depth.

Where to buy:

  • Barnes and Noble (Nook-ready)
  • Amazon.com (Kindle-ready)
  • Google Play (Android Books)

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

This was my first foray into the writings of Neil Gaiman. I believe I had actually read about an intriguing movie on Netflix, and from there learned it was based on a book. I checked out the book and after reading it decided to never see the movie, as it was inevitable that they would butcher it (btw, watched the movie later, and they didn't butcher it. It's equally awesome).

This book was just . . . brilliant. I loved the concept of a London-beneath, and the fantasy aspect aligned so perfectly with the real-world aspect. Gaiman is an incredibly talented and brilliant author. If you like fantasy, if you enjoy having your perceptions challenged, if you like to look at the ordinary through an extraordinary lens -- read Neil Gaiman. You won't be disappointed.

I understand this is one of the less well-known and popular of Gaiman's books -- most people seem to know him through American Gods, Anansi Boys, or the Sandman series. Each of those are great, because Gaiman is a great writer -- but I particularly loved Neverwhere. The entire setting is based on this idea of history that falls through the cracks and continues to exist, all jumbled together, in a sort of parallel or underworld. Neverwhere is sort of a Narnian twist on urban fantasy -- instead of a magical, secret door taking the protagonist to another world, Neverwhere has a magical, secret Door take the protagonist to his own city (London), intensified and distilled all at once. It's the unfamiliar hidden in the familiar.

Where to buy:

  • Barnes and Noble (Nook-ready)
  • Amazon.com (Kindle-ready)
  • Google Play (Android Books)

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BONUS REVIEW:

Good Omens: The Nice & Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

As usual, Gaiman (and Pratchett) deliver on all points. This is a crisp, irreverent, funny little gem of a book. It moves along quickly, drawing in all the threads of the plot neatly after itself -- at some points, you think they may have gotten a bit lost, having fun with the characters and the interactions, but in the end it all comes together, as neatly and messily as fantasy ever does.

It's a beautiful piece of work, and it perfectly encapsulates the humor, stubbornness, stupidity, brilliance, cruelties and kindnesses of mankind -- amplified by the choirs of angels and demons, so ready to make war around them in God's name.

Where to buy:

  • Barnes and Noble (Nook-ready)
  • Amazon.com (Kindle-ready)
  • Google Play (Android Books)

Note on the Links

The books are all available at the stores listed, but I could not always link through to the Amazon page, because it was overly promotional. Since the hub is cannot be tagged as overly promotional for B&N I just left those ones up, but took down a few of the Amazon links. I did have Google Play linked through, but I just learned that is also a hub violation.

That said, these books are all available at all these websites. I have no doubt these books are also each available through the Apple i-tunes store, as well, but I run a Linux OS and just don't want to deal with the incompatibility of Apple on my computer, so I can't 100% verify that one.

I just genuinely enjoyed these books. I don't know the authors and I haven't been asked to promote them -- they're just really great books, in my opinion.

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6 comments

Chasuk 4 years ago

Have you ever read the Susan Cooper "Dark is Rising" series?


that one girl profile image

that one girl 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Yes! I love that series. I was going to include that on a future list of classic children's fantasy books.


Chasuk 4 years ago

I ask because I'm an urban fantasy fan in the sense that I prefer that my "other" intermingles with my contemporary, which Cooper does very well. I'll definitely be investigating some of your recommendations.


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Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge

Your hub has been stolen and posted here:

http://education.bigezine.com/recommended-reading-...

Cindy Murdoch found this site and about 90% of their posts are stolen from HP writers (photos and all). We all need to search for our work and then contact the company and HP. They don’t even bother to change the titles so it’s very easy to do a search. Please pass this alone and if anyone has an idea of how we can get this stopped, please contact me.


that one girl profile image

that one girl 4 years ago from Washington state Author

Thanks for the notice. I sent an email to them notifying them that a user has posted my content without permission and requesting the immediate removal of any content associated with me. I also cited the HubPages terms and conditions which specify that I own my content and articles. Then I shot off an email to Writer Beware Blogs (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/) notifying them of a website which runs plagiarized content.

If you find content of yours on the website, I suggest you take similar actions. We should probably also notify whoever runs/ owns HubPages, just to let them know content that they are licensed to run is being stolen from them wholesale.


YoungMistake 3 years ago

THIS IS A GREAT LIST! Well, sorry for being a bias but I 100% love TMI series and Demon's Lexicon series!

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