In a world where ‘getting away from it all’ is more difficult than ever before, escaping between the pages of a book is the teen reader’s best option for quick relief. Between increasingly dark newsfeeds, managing virtual school, and staying at home there’s a lot about life that seems overwhelming, but these books offer an escape to another world- one where the words ‘social distancing’ have never been uttered. Though these protagonists’ problems are none the smaller, in a time where the difference between right and wrong is increasingly difficult to decipher, the Young Adult Fantasy genre’s hallmark, ever-present distinction between good and evil offers a comforting and rewarding experience for teen readers in this trying time. These books act as a reminder that even the most villainous of characters cannot defeat the determination and courage of young heroes.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Sarah J. Maas’ intro to the massive Throne of Glass series takes readers on a thrilling adventure following the young, dangerous assassin, Celaena Sardothien, as she discovers her true self, fights mysterious evils, and makes dear friends along the way. Through Celaena, Maas reminds us that there is goodness within and we have the power to use it.
PET by Akwaeke Emezi
Emezi’s transgender protagonist, Jam, lives in a utopic society where the monsters of the past are no more, but Jam soon learns that in reality the monsters continue to hide in plain sight. Along with the monster hunter, Pet, who was accidentally summoned by Jam, the two work together to save their world from the monsters no one is willing to admit exist.
The Princess Will Save You by Sarah Henning
In Sarah Henning’s reimagining of The Princess Bride, this time the princess is taking problems into her own hands. Princess Amarande traverses the danger of this fantasy world to save her true love and kingdom from those trying to force her into marriage. With confidence, strength, and compassion Amarande reminds readers that it’s worth fighting for the future.
Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride
In a fictional Seattle, Sam’s world gets flipped upside down when he learns that he has the powers of necromancy and can raise the dead. In a whiplash tale full of biting sarcasm, pop culture quirk, and laugh-out-loud moments, Lish McBride offers readers a brilliantly paranormal, comedic escape.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Noelle Stevenson’s award wining graphic novel debut is everything a fantasy should be. Nimona puts a witty twist on the Hero-Institution-with-something-to-hide trope, in which our villain, Lord Ballister Blackheart and his apprentice, Nimona, fight against the forces of ‘good’ to uncover the truth. Stevenson’s poignant and humorous story is framed by her vibrant art style giving life to a story where everything is not as it seems.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Barnhill’s atmospheric take on a classic fairy tale features Luna, a girl meant to be sacrificed as a baby in order to protect the village from a local witch, is accidentally fed the magic of the moon and filled with incredibly powerful magic, magic she must learn to use to protect those she loves. The Girl Who Drank the Moon evokes a complicated message of empathy and compassion through Barnhill’s magical writing style.
Half Bad by Sally Green
The first in a trilogy, Half Bad places readers at the center of two factions of witches at war in modern-day England with 16 year old Nathan, the son of the most violent of all witches. Locked in a cage and abused for fear of the traits he may have inherited from his father, Nathan must escape to access his powers. Half Bad is a story of defying our preconceived expectations full of complex, multi-dimensional characters.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Sabaa Tahir’s introduction to this thrilling series places readers in a bleak ancient Rome setting where a devious Empire has oppressed Laia’s people for generations. Elias, a solider in training for the Empire, hopes to run from the suffocating tyranny. Told through both perspectives, the two collide and work together to uncover the truth behind their pasts. An Ember in the Ashes is a classic tale of the fight between good and evil and the difficult decisions that play into fighting for the former.
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
Onyebuchi’s antagonists are able to magically materialize the sins of others into lethal beasts. Readers follow 17 year old Taj, tasked with destroying the beasts, as he uncovers a conspiracy to destroy the entire city. The dark and gritty story evokes the classical elements of an epic-fantasy with a Nigerian-influenced twist.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Dean McKean
Gaiman and McKean’s award-winning, modern classic follows the experiences of Nobody Owens, a boy raised by ghosts, as he traverses the land of the living. This intoxicatingly dark take on a coming-of-age tale has enchanted readers for more than a decade and earned both a Hugo award and the Newberry Medal in 2009.
Stiefvater, M. (2011, December 20). The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction. Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/26/the-dark-side-of-young-adult-fiction/pure-escapism-for-young-adult-readers