Book review: YA fantasy books with strong girls

Welcome to Part 3 of my book review series featuring speculative literature books with strong girl protagonists. In previous installments, I listed books for younger middle grade readers (ages 8-10) and middle grade readers (10-12). This post emphasizes readers 12-16, moving into the young adult category.

(By the way, my age recommendations are based on my judgement of thematic appropriateness, rather than on reader comprehension. Younger readers may be able to read older books, but parents and teachers might want to check out the books first.)

On to the books!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This book has been raking in awards, nominations, and glowing reviews for good reason. Set in a school for unique students who don’t fit anywhere else, this book explores what happens after children are cast out of Fairyland.

Of course, there are as many different fairylands as there are doorways (rabbit hole, anyone?). Seventeen-year-old Nancy was recently cast out of an Underworld, where she learned the power of extreme stillness as she served the Lord of the Dead. Now the noise and chaos of 21st century life is overwhelming. Sent to Miss West’s special school, Nancy and the other students (and teachers) learn to relate to one another based on their alternate reality (and its degree of Logic, Nonsense, or Absurdity) with the hope of reconciling to the “real” world–or finding their doorway back.

When a gruesome murder shatters the school’s calm, Nancy–the newest student–and her fellow Underworld friends are under suspicion. They must work together, using their various paranormal skills, to solve the mystery, clear their names, and save the school from further violence.

I loved this book’s tone, from the perspective of a quiet, moody, intense teenage girl who’s weird even among the weirdest kids. Her friends (and nemeses) are equally memorable characters from diverse backgrounds (although most of them are white). Of particular note is a clever, magnetic transgender student who befriends Nancy and becomes a love interest. Although I would have preferred more ambiguity in the final pages, I definitely recommend this book for anyone drawn to the spooky and strange.

Very excited to see that a sequel is due in June 2017!

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