Give me something to read, please!
April 23, 2012 5:54 AM   Subscribe

I need more Young Adult dystopian or suspense fiction, with a dash of romance.

Ok, my taste isn't exactly fancy. I love me some fluffy, fast young adult books that involve some (or a lot of) romantic tension. But the shelves full of paranormal teen romance books that all look the same make it hard to find standouts.

Books/authors I love: Twilight series (I know, I know), Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, All These Things I've Done (by Gabrielle Zevin), Hunger Games trilogy, E. Lockhart.

I am kind of ashamed to admit that I really like Amanda Hocking's Trylle series, but it's pretty much at the borderline of what I can handle in terms of unpolished writing (that and Stephanie Meyer). I like things fluffy, but bad writing can really take me out of the story. I can overlook bad writing for a story that really moves along, as long as it's more telling than showing, if that makes sense.

Note- I saw this recent thread, and what I'm looking for is a bit different. Don't really need anything focused on teen girls finding themselves (though I expect that will happen in most teen books anyway). I am just a 32 year old lady who enjoys a good story. Also, I am pretty done with vampires but am willing to make an exception for truly excellent vampire stories (that meet my criteria, I am sure Let The Right One In is awesome but it's not really what I'm looking for).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
posted by quodlibet at 5:55 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

You need Sunshine by Robin McKinley.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:57 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

(Oops, just saw your caveat against vampires. I stand by my recommendation though!)
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:58 AM on April 23, 2012

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, an extremely unusual dystopia coupled to a slwoly emerging love story.
posted by ninebelow at 6:02 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Argh, I just re-read my question and I meant more showing than telling. Kind of a big difference.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:02 AM on April 23, 2012

You should check out Holly Black's first trilogy of novels, which begin with the book Tithe. She's a friend of and professional influence on Cassandra Claire, and her books are enjoyable, quick, intense reads.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:06 AM on April 23, 2012

I have been reading nothing but dystopian YA lately! Here's some good fluff for you.

the Matched series by Ally Condie. Everyone is matched by the government for marriage in a tightly-controlled society - our heroine, of course, accidentally falls in love with the wrong guy. A little simplistic, but good fun.

The Chemical Garden series by Lauren DeStefano - in the quest to eradicate age related disease, a genetic virus was released that kills all young people by their early 20s! Good, evocative writing but outlandish and unbelievable details even for dystopian sci-fi.

The Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. In the future, love is considered a disease. Everyone goes through surgery at the age of 18 to excise love and passion from their brains. Definitely the best written out of the bunch, really good characters.
posted by cilantro at 6:08 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Blood Red Road is good dystopian YA.
posted by gnat at 6:16 AM on April 23, 2012

I just came in to suggest the three series mentioned by Cilantro. All three are on the second books in their respective trilogies, so they should give you enough to read for awhile yet. I'd also recommend:

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, about a girl who leaves her sheltered, high-tech dome society and meets a wild boy who teaches her how to hunt and has amazing olfactory superpowers.

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, about a girl who is the first person born in generations to have a new soul rather than be incarnated on a science fantasy planet with dragons and centaurs.

Cinder by Marrisa Meyer, a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella starring a cyborg girl set in a futuristic China, highly inspired by Firefly.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis, about a girl who wakes up from cryogenic sleep on a spaceship where the mysterious "Eldest" rules a monocultured people. She and Elder, his successor, fall in love and must solve the mystery of who has been waking up--and killing--those in cryosleep.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty, by the author of Sloppy Firsts, about twin girls in a society where women can't reproduce over the age of twenty, and the reproductive pressures they face. More of a social satire than the other titles here.

I'd also recommend the following, with the caveat that they didn't really work for me:

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi a girl whose touch can kill is raised in isolation. She meets a boy immune to her touch and they must resist an evil (cute) overlord to escape.

Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller, a self-published title about a girl who lives in a dystopian future where witches are extinct--only she finds out that she's a witch, herself.

XVI by Julie Karr, about a girl living in a dystopian future where women are branded as sexually eligible at sixteen.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:21 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. The rest of her books are nothing memorable, but when I was a children's book critic, this one blew my coworkers' and my collective mind.
posted by pineappleheart at 6:41 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I second Sunshine. It's a fantastic book.

You should also check out Feed by M. T. Anderson.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:51 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The exception for truly excellent vampire stories: Octavia Butler's Fledgling. (I think she had intended to do more with these characters but she died before she could.)

Also, the best YA dystopia that I've read recently (besides Hunger Games) is Neil Shusterman's Unwind. Opens up interesting thoughts on the abortion debate (and the ending had me sobbing). I believe he's coming out with a sequel this year.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:51 AM on April 23, 2012

Oh, yes yes yes on Feed.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:52 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ashfall by Mike Mullin is told from a boy's point of view, which seems to be rare in YA, and takes place in the direct aftermath of an eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. It's the best apocalyptic YA I've read in a long time.
posted by something something at 7:25 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anything by Scott Westerfield is probably perfect - I liked the Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras series best (dystopian scifi,) the Midnighters books were a little more standard urban fantasy, and the Leviathan trilogy is steampunk alternate history.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:32 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK, it's not YA but Never Let Me Go is a compelling read that meets your other criteria perfectly (well-written, dystopian, romance). I recommend it.
posted by mmmbacon at 8:16 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing Scott Westerfield's Uglies series and Holly Black's Tithe trilogy.
posted by Adamsmasher at 8:21 AM on April 23, 2012

Nthing Sunshine (as I always do when these sorts of questions come up). It's something I would consider only borderline YA, but all the baking makes it fluffier than it could have been, and the writing is fantastic. Also, compelling female protagonist!

Also nthing Scott Westerfield's Uglies series. It's got about as much fluff as The Hunger Games, but less romance (or I don't remember it, I'm not sure which). Very good though, and another great girl character.
posted by ashirys at 8:28 AM on April 23, 2012

Try Girl In Landscape, by Jonahan Lethem.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:21 AM on April 23, 2012

Maybe Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy? A little bit of romance, lots of action and plenty of dystopia to go around. A ragtag group of people use magic that involves swallowing and wearing metals (cooler than it sounds) to try to overthrow the oppressive Lord Ruler. The story is mostly told from the perspective of a young woman who finds herself in the midst of a rags-to-riches story (again, much cooler than it sounds).

They're not YA, but they do read quickly. For some strange/awesome reason, Sanderson writes about dresses the way George RR Martin writes about meals. The action scenes are choppy and frantic and detailed without being boring.

My description isn't really doing justice to how fun these books are to read.
posted by giraffe at 9:45 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, oh! All the series I'd normally recommend have already been mentioned, except Maze Runner by James Dashner. YA, dystopian future, keeps you guessing all the way, particularly about the romance element - definitely what you're looking for! It is not the best written series I've ever read, but a) you said you were OK w/that, and b) it is definitely engrossing, with break-neck twists and turns that you did not see coming.
posted by widdershins at 10:32 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen is not particularly fluffy and also fantasy, not dystopian, but somehow I think it will fit your criteria. I loved it. Note: there ARE vampires but it's not a vampire novel. I can't explain it any better than that.

The Unidentified by Rae Mariz doesn't have much romance, but is a good, fast pageturner and was somewhat influenced by Feed.

I also liked White Cat by Holly Black, The Knife of Never Letting Go (male protagonist, took me awhile to get into because it's written in dialog and that kind of irritates me out of hand) and I've been hearing a lot of good things about Shatter Me.
posted by annathea at 11:20 AM on April 23, 2012

You'd probably enjoy The Giver! I read it when I was around 12 and I still think about it. Dystopian, creative, a bit of romance... overall, a great YA story.
posted by Paper rabies at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2012

Have you looked at the five-book "Tomorrow When the War Began" series from Australia? There's some romantic tension there, plus YAs onthe run from Oppressive Goverment Forces. I think the first one is already a movie.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:17 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fantasy world of good vs. evil + well written engrossing plots + kick-ass teenage female protagonists = Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy.
posted by Specklet at 3:05 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just started A Princess of Roumania, and its associated quartet by Paul Park, and I have been very impressed so far. There is a romantic element, but the writing is quality stuff and though ostensibly YA it's mature in nearly every sense. Park's dream-like quality may not be for everyone, but it's the best YA I've read for a while.
posted by smoke at 4:51 PM on April 23, 2012

Thanks so much for all the suggestions! My library list is going to be really long. I'll come back and mark best answers once I've read a handful of these.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:12 PM on April 23, 2012

Susan Ee's Angelfall fits. The Kindle version is a bargain at $1.99.
posted by Cuke at 7:30 PM on April 23, 2012

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is a great read. As with all Cory's books they are available as free e-books with no DRM (also print copies of course!)
posted by u17tw at 1:54 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Highly, highly recommend Octavia Butler's 1993 gem Parable of the Sower; it's a beautifully written, sensitively portrayed and very realistic near-future (2027) dystopia of desperate poverty and violence, with an 18-year-old African-American empath (she feels other people's physical pain when she looks at them suffering) as the first-person voice. My first thought after finishing it recently was "damn that was a beautiful, heart-wrenching scifi story" quickly followed by "smart Hunger Games fans should be all over this." Lauren struggles with faith, hope and getting enough bullets and acorns to survive and also works out her feelings about love and sex along the way.

It really is beautifully written and right up the Hunger Games alley. 5-star dystopia stuff with emotional weight, perfect for smart kid and adult fans.
posted by mediareport at 9:14 PM on April 25, 2012

It's not a dystopian's actually set in Victorian England...but is super fun: The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. First book is called Clockwork Angel.

The books follow a group of "shadowhunters" who protect the world by trying to rid the earth of demons. There are vampires around, but they are secondary characters.

It's supernatural, there's a bit of steam punk and some romance as well.
posted by 3fluffies at 11:05 AM on April 26, 2012


I know you have plenty of suggestions but as an adult reader who also writes and loves reading YA fiction I have a couple of suggestions for you.

The Special Agent Series by Sam Hutton. It's a group of highly skilled young people who join a special police task force run by the father of one of the youths. These are exciting and I've kept them for another readthrough.

Also some of Sophie McKenzie's books like Blood Ties and the rest of that series. They are exciting filled with action.
posted by Gailkate at 2:53 PM on April 28, 2012

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