A Stroll Down Memory Lane
Recently the title and cover of the final book in the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake was released. This is a series that I have devoured. And it got me thinking about some of the other YA series I loved growing up.
As I've gotten older, I look back on the books I loved to read and I don't remember being so involved online, or seeing the kind of hype and press related to books that I do now. Maybe it's because I was young and naive, or maybe it was because social media didn't quite center itself at every interest and hobby yet.
So I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and put together a list of some underrated YA series that I enjoyed growing up.
1. The Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen
If you loved Gossip Girl, as well as novels set in the past, The Luxe series will reel you in. Think scandals that consume high society: balls, young love, broken hearts, jealousy, gorgeous gowns, social pressure, and more, all at the turn of the century. The series spans four books, and starts out in New York City just before the 1900's, following socialites and sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland. I read these books long before I even knew Gossip Girl was a thing, but I remember how I flew through them.
2. Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz
This book is in a similar vein to Gossip Girl with it's high society New York Kids, and the typical catty teen angst and jealousy that you would find among snobby high school kids, but also they're vampires. Gossip Girl meets Twilight. What is it about YA novels centered around rich kids that seem so glamorous, but really is so cliche? There are actually now seven books in total in the series. I only ever read the first two when I was younger and gobbled them up, because what's more exciting than a teenager finding out they're supernatural? Writing this post, I'm tempted to go back and read the rest of the series. But also, I don't want to risk ruining something I remember fondly from my childhood.
I promise there are less cliche series on this post. Stick with me!
3. Witch Child by Celia Rees
I love books about witches. I've learned that it's quite common for young girls and women to have a fascination with witches, because historically, they're women who have power and who march to the beat of their own drum. They're typically women who say 'to hell with it,' and live their lives however they choose. There's something very empowering about reading about these characters. Witch Child is the diary of a young girl, whose grandmother was just hanged for being a witch. The second book in the series, Sorceress, is again written in diary form however it takes place more in modern day, with flash backs to the original character's life. If you loved the Royal Diaries series, you'll fly through this style of writing.
4. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney (The Janie Johnson Series)
Nowadays, I don't like thrillers or mystery novels much, but when I was younger The Face on the Milk Carton was an epic read that made my heart race. Not to mention, the missing girl was abducted from a mall in New Jersey, making the whole story extra spooky for a young Jas zipping through books in her New Jersey middle school library. I only ever read the first three books, although there are now six books in total in the series.
5. City of Masks by Mary Hoffman (The Stravaganza Series)
I don't think there's any series that is as close to my heart as the Stravaganza series. You can see from the picture that the first book in the series has been so worn that the front cover actually fell off, but I can't bring myself to replace it. At the last school book fair I ever got to attend, in middle school as a 7th grader, I purchased two books. One of them was City of Masks. The whole series is magical. It didn't just make me want to travel to an alternate universe, it made me fall in love with a real world place that I could one day visit. The similarities between Belezza and Venice, and parallels between other Italian cities, made me fall more and more in love with each book. I have yet to visit Italy, but it's so high on the list probably because of this series. With each book, there is a new character with a different personal struggle. Sometimes health issues, sometimes bullies, but always a good kid who is struggling with the things a normal kid could be struggling with. So despite the other world adventures, these stories build empathy and compassion for your classmates, because you never know what's going on at home. The characters and story line grow throughout the six books, but each one is centered around a new main character. There is so much about this series that I loved, that I've already written more about it than any other series on this list. I don't usually re-read books, BUT WHEN I DO THIS WILL BE THE ONE!
6. The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel Series)
If you're a Harry Potter fan, the name Nicholas Flamel will probably ring a bell. That plus the cool looking cover, and of course I would pick up this book! This series centers around two teens, Sophie and Josh, brother and sister, who find themselves thrown into the very urgent drama of immortals. What I love about these stories isn't just the magic, but all of the folklore that Michael Scott intertwines in the story. There are six books in the series, and I can't say that at any point I thought the plot was obvious, or that I saw the twists and turns coming. You might even find that some of your favorite historical figures are immortals, living their lives under the radar forever, and making an appearance in this story.
7. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
I just recently learned that there are actually three books in this series. When I first read it, it was just the one, but it wasn't your typical rich princess and royalty story. The king's priests have declared that the future princess to be married to the current prince will be from a remote mountain territory. The princess academy is set up to teach all the girls who could possibly be the future princess everything they need to know about being royalty. And it's not just curtsies and five forks at the dinner table. This was a fun story, and I'm intrigued enough to pick up the new ones in the series.
8. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Man, just thinking about this book makes me cringe. I shudder a little at the thought. Why is it on this list then? Because I don't think I could take a trip down memory lane, and think about all the YA books I've read and not remember Born Confused. Today there are tons of Indian creatives; writers, dancers, poets, singers, youtubers, you name it. But growing up there wasn't a lot of content for Indian American teens. And being one of only a few Indian families in a small town in Jersey, I read this book in a flash. It was like a lifeline. I couldn't believe that there was a book on the shelf about a girl like me. Looking back, the story was pretty cringey and cliche, but it didn't matter at the time. And I recently learned that there's actually a sequel. I'm sure it's just as cringey, if not more, and I probably won't read it, but I won't ever forget what this book meant to an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) like me.
I tried to include a variety of series on this list. But also, as I consulted Goodreads and double checked the spelling of author names, I saw that a lot of people didn't like some of these books. It made me think, am I crazy? Am I romanticizing these books I read? Are they actually really awful books?
And then I realized, 'who cares?' Because not every book has to be a best seller. Not every book has to be written by the greatest writer of our time. Not every book has to have a life changing impact. It's great to just have books that are fun. That we enjoy because they're a good story. That provide a little getaway from the real world. And that nurture our love of reading.
Maybe I should look back on my reading choices and be embarrassed, the way people are embarrassed by their high school hair cuts and the clothes they wore. But why turn against something that once brought me joy, simply because my tastes have changed?
Maybe there's a teenager in your life who loves to read, and they'll fall in love with one of these series. And then maybe they'll find themselves to be 27 and thinking about what a dork they were.