Books are not merely an enjoyable escape for me; I'm truly passionate about reading and writing and literacy. As a teen myself, I'm particularly zealous about Middle Grade/Young Adult fantasy/sci-fi; no other genre captures the imagination and encourages kids to read as much as fantasy does. While there are many possibilities that could be included on this list, the fantasy series below are, in my opinion, some of the best of the genre.
by Suzanne Collins
This book is probably one of the most impactful and intense books that I've ever read, and I recommend it for the twelve and older crowd. The premise of this book is gruesome: in a futuristic, dystopian nation, twenty-four teenagers are sent to the Capitol to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a battle that leaves only one child alive. Despite the violent nature of the story, Collins deftly reveals the humanity of her characters. Katniss, the main character, is strong and defiant, and the reader experiences the ordeal alongside her as she battles the totalitarian state of the Capitol. This was an incredible book; it's exciting, entertaining, dramatic, and completely engaging. It is also impossible to forget. I would highly recommend it and its sequels.
by T. A. Barron
This is one of my favorite books, and series, of all time. Anyone who loves the tales of Arthurian legend will love this book. The Lost Years of Merlin brings to life the mysterious wizard Merlin and offers unique and magical insight into the struggles and triumphs of Merlin as a young man. T.A. Barron masterfully weaves the story of Merlin’s past and transforms the mythical figure into someone one can relate to and real. I love the magic and adventure of the story, the memorable characters, and the beautiful writing. It should be on every fantasy-lover's bookshelf.
by Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan puts a new spin on Greek mythology by locating the fabled Mt. Olympus above the Empire State Building. The half-bloods, children of gods and humans, are sent to Camp Half-Blood to learn to fight against the Greek monsters that seek to kill them. Riordan’s excellent characterization allow the reader to become quickly involved in the story. This is a fun, fast-paced, action-packed, and enjoyable read that is perfect for even the most reluctant tween reader, and it offers the added benefit of providing an exciting lesson in Greek mythology.
by Eoin Colfer
This book blends science-fiction and fantasy, magic and technology. Child genius and evil mastermind Artemis Fowl is not very likable at first, but he is easy to root for as he outsmarts an underground realm of fairies and their superior technology. The characters, both fairy and human alike, are interesting and engaging. This book is smart, funny, and engrossing, as are the others in the series.
by Cinda Williams Chima
This urban fantasy is original and entertaining. Jack is an ordinary teenager, though he has been told he had heart surgery at birth and must take his medicine every day. Jack’s life is turned upside down when he discovers that this is a lie; a story told to keep him isolated from a world of magic. Jack learns that he is a Warrior, a magical gladiator, and that his life is at stake. Jack is an extremely likable character, and the story is well written and exciting, as it moves along at a well-timed pace. This is a very engaging and exciting series.
by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson
Westerfield rewrites history in Leviathan, which takes place in an alternate reality. In this reality, Darwin was not only the father of evolution, but he discovered how to manipulate DNA, resulting in the creation of fabricated beasts like a massive living airship called Leviathan. The story follows a loose replica of the start of World War I as the Clankers (machine-oriented peoples) and the Darwinists (those who rely on the fabricated beasts) clash in battle. This book had me hooked from the very beginning. I loved both the characters and the artful re-imagining of history. Leviathan is the first book in a series yet to be completed.
by James Patterson
Maximum Ride is an ordinary girl except that she and the rest of her "flock" are avian-human hybrids, meaning they have a variety of unique abilities; most notable of which is that have wings and can fly. James Patterson’s sci-fi novel follows the adventures of Max and her flock as they fight for survival, battling other genetic hybrids, while avoiding the depraved scientists who experimented upon them. This is an action-packed story, with likable characters, that doesn’t pause to let you take a breath.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Riley Carney
Riley Carney is the teen author of the five-book fantasy series, The Reign of the Elements, and founder of a non-profit for literacy called Breaking the Chain. Details on her books and non-profit can be found at her website.
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