There are a lot of mainstream YA books everyone has heard of: The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Fault in Our Stars, to name a few. But being a mainstream read doesn’t necessarily make a book “good” or any better than others of the genre, and these underrated YA books prove just that. These books might slip under the radar, but after reading them you’ll ask yourself: where have these books been all my life?
1. ‘The Gypsy King’ by Maureen Fergus
The Gypsy King is one of my all-time favorite YA fantasy reads, yet. Maureen Fergus is a Canadian author and it can be hard to come by this book in the US but if you decide to go out on a limb and order it online, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
The book follows Persephone, a sixteen-year-old slave who is sold to a chicken thief named Azriel. But Persephone quickly realizes that Azriel is not what he seems, and Persephone herself is a part of a prophecy much bigger than herself. Equal parts sassy and brave, Persephone will have you rooting for her through her many adventures and her encounters with courtly life.
If you love deception, courtly politics, romance, and adventure—you’ll fall in love with The Gypsy King and its subsequent books. Don’t let its meager number of reviews discourage you; the book might not be well-known, but it’s certainly something you’ll wish you discovered sooner.
2. ‘White Space’ by Ilsa J. Bick
White Space is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Half the time you’ll be disoriented, confused, and maybe even a tad scared–but don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience!
The book follows Emma Lindsay, who has the ability to disappear into other people’s lives in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, she finds herself in “White Space”—the very story she thought she’d written. Here she finds other people from different lives, states, and even time periods. As the characters (and readers alike) struggle to separate reality from fiction, they must ultimately come together to figure out why they’re there, and how they might escape.
Compared to the likes of Inception, this book plays with your mind, pulling you in deeper into not only the world, but the minds of its characters. If you love ambiguous thrillers, add White Space to your TBR today!
3. ‘Pivot Point’ by Kasie West
Image via Goodreads
You’ve probably heard of Kasie West’s contemporary works, but what about her paranormal romance? Pivot Point follows Addison Coleman, a girl who can look into the future, and see how a decision will impact her life. When faced with the chance to live with her father outside of her paranormal world, Addie peaks into the future to see how her choices will play out. The book alternates between the two scenarios–one in which she stays with her mother, the other where she moves in with her father—showing both the good and the bad of each decision. At the end of the book, Addie must decide which path to follow.
Not only does Pivot Point explore a unique concept, but it’s heart-wrenching in the fact that Addie can only ultimately choose one path to follow, meaning she’ll never get to experience everything in the other. Short, fast-paced, and fairly easy to read, you’ll speed through this book in no time.
4. ‘These Shallow Graves’ by Jennifer Donnelly
While Jennifer Donnelly is a fairly well-known author, I haven’t heard much buzz about her YA historical mystery. These Shallow Graves, a standalone, follows Jo Montfort who, instead of getting married like she’s supposed to, wants to become a writer for a newspaper. When Jo’s father is shot dead in what is supposedly a suicide, Jo teams up with a reporter from her father’s paper to go in search of the truth.
Action-packed, well-written, and romantic, These Shallow Graves is perfect for the mystery lover in you.
5. ‘Meant to Be‘ by Lauren Morrill
Yes, this book is as cheesy as it sounds. But it’s cheesy in the best possible way, and is sure to hit you in your feels.
Julia is the complete opposite of her arch-nemesis Jason; she’s book-smart, and not very popular, where Jason is the class clown. But when Julia begins receiving romantic texts from an unknown number on a school trip, Jason promises to help Julia track down her secret-admirer. Meant to Be is not only funny, cute, and romantic, but it explores what “meant to be” (more commonly referred to in the book by it’s slang counterpart: “MTB”) really means, and if it’s as realistic as it seems.
6. ‘Chase the Dark’ by Annette Marie
I’ve recommended this book before, but will never turn up the chance to talk about it, simply because it’s so unknown. Available in both Kindle and paperback, Chase the Dark explores the paranormal world of Piper Griffiths. As the daughter of two haemons, children born to humans and haemons, Piper shouldn’t be alive. Yet, miraculously, she is. When her father’s Consulate—a place meant to shelter daemons in their travels, and keep the peace between them and humans–is destroyed, Piper finds herself on the run with two untrustworthy (but very handsome) daemons.
Set in an urban fantasy setting, this YA book is one you won’t be able to put down. Annette Marie explores her deeply-built world over the course of five books—giving you all the more time to fall in love with the series’ characters.
7. ‘The Demon King’ by Cinda Williams Chima
If you love fantasy, strong world-building, and courtly politics, you’re sure to love this four-book series. The Demon King introduces us to Raisa, the princess of the Fells, who yearns to one day lead her people like the famed warrior queen Hanalea. Meanwhile, Han Alister is a reformed thief who, in an encounter with the High Wizard’s son, steals the wizard’s amulet—only to realize it once belonged to the infamous Demon King.
Interweaving between plotlines, character perspectives, and remnants of the world’s past, The Demon King explores class relations and what it means to be a hero/heroine in a rich fantasy setting anyone with a love for the mythical will enjoy.
Featured Image via Mental Floss
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