YA Fairy Tale Novels: A Different Kind of Reading Challenge

entwined Romance reading challenges are not new to AAR. And then there’s also the Annual TBR Challenge that has people participating from various sites around the internet, including here. Most folks, like me, participate in challenges because they have too many books and want to see a dent made in their darn TBR. But this year I added a challenge – the YA debut authors reading challenge that tasks one with reading 12 books in the calendar year by debut authors. I’m finally done and thought I’d report in with some of my good reads.

One interesting point was that my books basically broke down into three categories: fairy tale themed novels, paranormals and science fiction. All three are the style of book I read in romance as well. My fairy tale reads are probably the most like my traditional romance reads.

My first book for the challenge was The False Princess by Ellis O’Neal, this charming tale, reminiscent of a Mercedes Lackey novel, finds a young Nalia in a very odd situation. Raised as the princess of her small kingdom she finds out she is actually an imposter, a divergence to allow the real princess to be raised in safety. As she tries to adapt back to the ordinary life she was always meant to have she discovers that there is actually something extraordinary about her. Magic runs deep and strong through her veins, something no one knew when they picked her as the substitute. Now Nalia is back in the capital, learning magic and reconnecting with the young nobleman who has always been her best friend. But Nalia is destined to keep discovering secrets about herself and the “new” young princess. She just hopes she can survive till she figures out the mystery. There is a sweet love story running throughout the novel and while it reads young I still really enjoyed it.

But not as much as my second book for the challenge, Entwined.  A retelling of the fairy tale the Twelve Dancing Princesses, this novel centers on Azalea, her love of dance and her growing love for a young man who visits her in the palace. But she finds herself trapped, dancing endlessly in a shadowy court that should not exist. Azalea is a bit immature but learns the ways of life and love as she navigates herself and her sisters through a difficult situation. This novel has a to die for cover and a depth that keeps you thinking about it even after you have closed the last page. What especially interested me in this novel was the mother/daughter relationship. Even though the Queen is gone for much of the book I felt we got to know her through the choices her daughters were making. It will be interesting to see what new worlds this debut author will take us to.

Warped, my third book, was easily the most debut-ish of the three. Author Maurissa Guibord had a wonderful concept, but I struggled a bit with how she executed it. The book was filled with terrific fairy tales aspects – witches, unicorns, a prince and a lovely maiden – but it was missing that magical spark that moves a book from good to memorable. My review for it can be found here.

Starcrossed is not what I typically consider fairy tale but LLB made a good argument for Greek myth being the origin of many of these stories so I will include it here. This fantastic story is about the beautiful Helen, who hates attention but whose appearance and abilities draw it to her constantly. Helen is stunned when she meets Lucas Delos that she not only hates him on sight but starts a very attention getting fight with him. The working out of the who, what, when, where and why of their relationship is bittersweet and makes for terrific reading. I don’t normally like Greek myth, in fact it would be fair to say I hate them, but this terrific story turned my prejudice on its ear. I’m so glad I took a chance on something different.

One thing I really loved about these novels was the reliance on an HEA. These are not the “I finally got a first date novels” of my youth but genuine “he is my true love forever” endings. Some of them, like Starcrossed, may take several books to achieve but I know we are headed there. It made me wonder just how much our genre is an influence on this one. And I would imagine that that is a large part of what appeals to me as an adult reader of YA.

I also enjoyed the fact that I was reading debut authors. I don’t just feel as though I am boosting someone’s career when I read debut work but it seems as though I am getting a look ahead into what’s coming for the genre. While “my look” has contained lots of same old, same old, the debut authors list showed more science fiction, more fantasy and an expansion away from vampires. Very exciting to me and it enabled me in my own small way to let publishers know this is what I am looking for. This was in contrast to my experience with debut romance authors who all seemed to be doing the same plots that had been done a million times before.

One thing I will say for both groups of debut authors – the writing was much, much better than the debut authors of twenty years ago. Now it is hard to tell you are reading a first novel based just on writing or plot. The field is obviously competitive and while I can’t speak to creativity I would imagine we are seeing the best writers that publishers can find.

So do you ever read YA? Do you look for debut authors in any genre? What has been your best debut this year?

- Maggie Boyd

13 thoughts on “YA Fairy Tale Novels: A Different Kind of Reading Challenge

  1. I do read YA occasionally. I don’t really seek out books in this genre, but if I come across a good review, I am open to reading the novel. Right now, I take more notice of the authors that I know rather than debut authors. However, a couple of books you mentioned sound very interesting.

  2. I am currently reading “Entwined,” by the way!

    I read lots of YA books, many of them with my 15 year old daughter. I didn’t read any debuts this year other than “Entwined” although, the best book we read is the start of a new series by Cassandra Clare. Eve (my daughter) and I both thought “Clockwork Angel” was fabulous.

    I think YA is often a better genre than most others. The best of the books YA allow for joy and redemption–something “serious” adult novels shy away from–without sacrificing pain and struggle. I’ve talked so often with teens and adults about the choices Katniss makes in the “Hunger Games” trilogy and why she chooses the man she does. She’s given happiness, although it’s in a world of pain. It feels true to life, but still joyful.

    YA novels may offer an HEA, but it often comes at great cost. I don’t read any of the lighter YA–”Gossip Girls” type stuff, so I’m not thinking of those books. I’m thinking of books like “Impossible” by Nancy Werlin or “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale.

  3. Dabney,

    I adore The Hunger Games ! And I loved who Katniss choose. I was never a Gail fan. The wo of them would have fed each other’s resentments and anger. They each needed someone who would help them live beyond the past.

    Clockwork Angel is good. I’ve liked Clare’s City of books though so it makes sense for me to like that one.

    Impossible by Werlin is one of my favorite books ever. I have it as a book and book on CD. It is terrific to listen to and I highly recommend doing that if you haven’t done so. I didn’t get into Extraordinary as much but have been recently haunting her site since we are due for a new one soon.

    Have you read the Matched series by Allyson Conde? I’ve been dying to find someone to talk to about that.

    This year at least 25% of my reading has been YA. Like you said it allows for joy, redemption, growth – fabulous. stuff.

    maggie b.

  4. Leigh, what YA novels are you reading? Some of my best reads this year have been YA.

    Also, I know you’ve read some romance debut authors like Hope Ramsey. Do you see a big difference between debut authors and those who are more experienced?

    maggie b.

  5. I have not read the “Matched” series. I’ll check it out.

    Have you read “The Goose Girl” series? I think it’s phenomenal.

  6. Dabney,

    Book Two, Crossed, comes out in November. I would read Matched and see if you like it, then order Crossed. I have not read the Goose girl books but plan to.

    Maggie

  7. Ella Enchanted remains one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a bit younger than YA – more middle grade than TA – but I could read it any time. These books look interesting, and in the vein of Ella Enchanted. Thanks for the recs!

  8. I don’t necessarily seek out debut authors. As it happens, I’ve read a lot of debuts this year, as well as many YA novels. I think some of the best books published today are in this genre which is why so many adults seek them out. I have many fairy-tale themed YA novels in my TBR pile, and for some reason haven’t gotten to them yet.

    I liked The Hunger Games trilogy, which I just read this summer, though I was disappointed that the romance petered out in the end. Somewhere I read that Suzanne Collins may continue the series, which is good news. Also the previously mentioned Matched. Other titles of note are Divergent by Veronica Roth, Stork by Wendy Delsol, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Lynn Carson.

  9. Maggie, to be honest, I haven’t read any new YA authors lately. I always watch your reviews. But I have been tied up with other reading. I definitely want to read False Princess especially since you say there is an HEA.

  10. Both of the YA novels I’ve read this year were written the same way. None of the major plot lines & conflicts were resolved; the books got to a word/page count and just…stopped. The reader is clearly supposed to buy the follow-on volume to continue the story.

    Nope. I enjoy sequels and series but I’m not going to buy half or a third of a book.

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