As a fellow reader, I know how irresistible it is to buy every new release you can get your hands on. But as a seasoned reader of the young adult genre for over a decade, I also know how often you can come across absolute GEMS when you attempt to read backlisted titles! Newer doesn’t always mean better, and older doesn’t always mean worse or irrelevant. This listicle is my attempt at adding some of my favorite backlisted young adult series starters to your existing TBR!
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1 || The Falconer by Elizabeth May
When anyone asks for recommendations for YA fantasies involving the fae, I always swear by The Falconer by Elizabeth May! A long time favorite of mine, the fae in this particular world are divided into the Seelie and Unseelie courts, are cruel and untrustworthy, and the main character hunts them!
One girl’s nightmare is this girl’s faery tale. She’s a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty. She’s a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them. She’s a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother. She’s a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.
“I’m like him. I’m a monster, too”The falconer
2 || Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
If I were to list my top five favorite books ever, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book showed up in that list! I wouldn’t necessarily call this a retelling of any existing Greek Mythology tales, but the characters and various personality traits and powers are borrowed from Greek Mythology! Also, it’s based loosely off Medusa!
Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is. Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued. She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very…different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her. Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.
“Thanks to Bruce and Casey, I could operate six different firearms, drop a two-hundred-pound asshole to the floor in three seconds, and cuff a perp with one hand tied behind my back. And they called it ‘family time’”darkness becomes her
3 || Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Enclave by Ann Aguirre is a nostalgic foray back into the dystopian craze of the early 2000s when books such as The Hunger Games and Divergent topped the bestsellers lists! With so few dystopian books being published in recent years, this once beloved genre must be pulled from the backlists in order to get that must-needed dystopian fix!
New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20’s. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters–or Freaks–who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight–guided by Fade’s long-ago memories–in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs.
“Here in the enclave, one didn’t prosper by demonstrating too much independent thought”enclave
4 || Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
There was a brief period where angels in YA were semi-popular, and that era brought us lots of bingeworthy novels such as this one! Unearthly features angels, high school, old prophecies, forbidden love, and oddly enough, skiing!
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy. Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side. As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
“In fact, I’ve essentially given up on the idea of flight altogether and accepted that I’m going to be an angel-blood who stays earthbound, a flightless bird, like an ostrich. Maybe, or in this weather, a penguin”unearthly
5 || The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
If you’re looking to read more backlist YA titles, then you’re bound to come across a plethora of vampire novels! A must-read vampire-centric book is The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa that never got the proper love and attention it deserved!
To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness. Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters. Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for again.
“You will always be a monster, there is no turning back from it. But what type of monster you become is entirely up to you”The immortal rules
6 || Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
It must be obvious by now, but I have a slight obsession with Greek Mythology retellings and/or inspired stories! Antigoddess is a backlist YA retelling of Cassandra and Apollo, with many fantastic creative liberties taken by Kendare Blake to make the novel compelling and heart wrenching to read!
Old Gods never die… Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health. Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath. The Goddess War is about to begin.
“Fate was the only lesson a god needed to learn. It was their only hard limit”antigoddess
7 || The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
The Testing is what I might consider a cross between the mind games and tests of The Inheritance Games but with the dystopian world and looming threat of death present in The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner! The novel keeps you on your toes and constantly guessing what the main character will do next!
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same? The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. Cia Vale is honoured to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies—trust no one. But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every gruelling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
“The earth is resilient, but it’s hard to imagine a time when this place will be anything but a terrible reminder of what we as a people can do”The Testing
8 || Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Yet another dystopian, because honestly, most every YA book was from 2005-on. But one you won’t regret giving a try, set in a really eerie world in which society is divided into castes based on physical appearance.
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever….
“We’re not freaks, Tally. We’re normal. We may not be gorgeous, but at least we’re not hyped-up Barbie dolls”uglies
9 || Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Detainment and hunting of magical creatures was apparently a popular plot device in backlist YA titles, because Paranormalcy also follows this trend, making it similar to The Falconer, which was listed above, and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through supernatural glamours. She’s also about to find out that she may be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. So much for normal.
“Tasers are a one-size-fits-all paranormal butt-kicking option. Mine’s pink with rhinestones”Paranormalcy
10 || Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly
In Angel Burn, angels aren’t the “good guys” but instead are the predators, who feed off the life forces of the human race. And of course, as if that isn’t cause for enough intrigue, there’s also the forbidden romance aspect 😀
They’re out for your soul. And they don’t have heaven in mind… Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself does. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems; least of all good and evil.
“A good angel is only a dead angel”Angel Burn
LET’S CHAT IN THE COMMENTS
What are some backlist YA fantasy titles that you’d recommend to other readers? Or backlist YA titles that you have on your TBR that you’d like to share? Were there any on this list that you found interesting and added to your TBR?