5 Intense YA Books For Creepsters, Apocalypse-Lovers, And Other Weirdos

They're extreme for totally different reasons, but what they all have in common is that they are ferociously good, and also wildly intense.
Publish date:
February 19, 2014
reading, s.e.'s bookshelf, young adult, extreme reads

Forgive me, gentle readers, as it's been a while since my last reading roundup. The thing is, I've been busy with many, many things (including reading -- and interviewing authors, as you may have noticed!), and thus book recommendations have fallen by the wayside.

To make up for it, today I have five extreme YA reads for you. They're extreme for totally different reasons, but what they all have in common is that they are ferociously good, and also wildly intense.

"Grasshopper Jungle," Andrew Smith

You need to RUN, not walk, to your bookstore to pick this book up. When I first read an ARC, it was described as a "holy shit" book, and that is exactly what it is. I can barely describe it to you. It's too weird. It's just -- you will finish it and you will involuntarily say "holy shit," just trust me on this one.

If you insist on having more before picking this delicious book (complete with electric yellow page edging!) up, here's a teaser: it's about the apocalypse, coming of age, giant praying mantises, and, uh, skating. When our heroes Austin and Robby clamber up onto a rooftop to retrieve their skateboards, they have no idea that they're about to set off a chain of events that will lead to a chain of giant man-eating praying mantises, the apocalypse, and a sojourn in an ancient underground bunker. It's the end of the world as you know it -- with more praying mantis sex and cartoon gore than you thought possible.

This book had better win some serious awards this year, because it is out of this world.

"The Glass Casket," McCormick Templeman

Oh maaaaan, you guys, this book is so creepy! AHHHHH. Do not, I repeat, do not, read this book in bed at night, because you will regret it. There's a creepy monster stalking the woods, some seriously bad witchcraft, and horrible, horrible people. Rowan Rose lives in a small woodland village where everything is peaceful -- until soldiers come to town and unearth bad magic that snakes through the town like poison, corrupting everything it touches. There are vampires, demons, and more in this positively shivery book. You're going to love it, but it's also going to make you feel all weird and wriggly the whole time you read it.

Seriously. Don't say I didn't warn you. I see you there with your little book light, thinking you'll cozy up in bed with this book and a cup of hot chocolate. Don't do it! Read during the day, all lights on, warm cat by your side. Trust me on this one.

"We Were Liars," E. Lockhart

This book doesn't come out until May, so I'm a horrible tease for bringing it up now, but put it on your wishlist. (Think of it this way -- now, in addition to eating through your current book budget, I'm also laying claim to your future budget!) You're going to want to read it, but I'm afraid I'm not allowed to tell you anything about it, because I don't want to spoil the shocking surprise. (No, really, this is a book that you want to read without any preconceptions. Don't even read the cover copy. Just read it.)

"The Lumatere Chronicles," Melina Marchetta ("Finnikin of the Rock," "Froi of the Exiles," "Quintana of Charyn")

Now that this trilogy is all wrapped up, I want to talk about how amazing (and long!) these books are. The characters, story, and setting evolve so much over the course of the series, and one of the things Marchetta does really well is humanizing characters and making us understand situations from varied points of view. These stories also get seriously dark and twisty (of course they do, otherwise why would I love them?) and you're going to find yourself seesawing between love and hate for the various characters.

Imagine a kingdom locked away behind a wall of magic after a horrible pretender slaughters the royal family and takes the throne. He maintains an iron fist on the kingdom of Lumatere while his soldiers rape, pillage, and destroy, even as Lumaterans trapped outside try to break the spell and free their kingdom. As the series develops, Lumatere opens and is forced to confront a swirling world of politics, evil, and, of course love. We follow several characters from different kingdoms over the course of the text, which is a stark assessment of evil, reparations, and how a country recovers after being ravaged.

Good news: the first two books are out in paperback, and the third is about to go into paperback, too!

"Fly Trap" ("Twilight Robbery" to you UK readers), Frances Hardinge

This is an older book that a friend just introduced me to, and I can't stop raving about it. What's a girl with an unlucky name, a vicious goose, and a heart of gold to do in a corrupt city that's being overtaken by sinister forces? Raise all hell, of course. Mosca Mye is trying to hop across the border to avoid some, ah, former associates, but first she has to pass through the town of Toll -- and all is definitely not right in this strange city where monsters rule by night and everyone politely pretends nothing is wrong during the day. Being the enterprising sort, of course she ends up trying to liberate Toll and save her own bacon at the same time.

(P.S. Fans of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" will find something to like in this book.)

So what are you cool cats reading these days?