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Smart Young Adult Fantasy

Stephanie
The list author says: "From magical fantasy, speculative fiction, fairy tale retellings, and frothy humor, Young Adult fantasy has gotten better and better in the past several years. Enjoy some of the most exciting contributions to the genre in recent years."
Graceling
Graceling
"This is my favorite book in quite some time. The narration is sure and dynamic, the world rich, and the characters' motivations well-developed. Plus, it's just fun."
Fire (Graceling)
Fire (Graceling)
"I enjoyed this less than the original--the main character was less easy to relate to in the beginning than Katsa was. But, I really got into the weave of the story by the middle."
Princess Ben
Princess Ben
"Ben is a really different kind of protagonist in a unique fairy tale-esque world. Must read for fans of the genre."
The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1)
The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1)
"It's hard to explain why this book is so good. The protagonist, Gen, is like a breath of fresh air. Something about this story and the writing is like nothing I've ever experienced. The others in the series are also excellent."
The Naming: The First Book of Pellinor (Pellinor Series)
The Naming: The First Book of Pellinor (Pellinor Series)
"I loved entering the world of this book--and it really is an entire world that the author has created. The characters and plot are intricate and get you invested. Very Tolkein-esque, to its detriment some might say. But I think it's unique enough to stand on its own away from the works that have inspired it."
The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern)
The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern)
"Now for some fairy tale retellings. This beautiful and incredibly unique first book retells the Grimm fairy tale "The Goose Girl"."
East
East
"I highly enjoyed this retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon."
Transformations
Transformations
"Though this is neither YA, modern, or fiction, if you're interested in fairy tale retellings, Anne Sexton's Transformations features some fascinating, freaky-deaky fairy tale poems (Cinderella is a stand-out)."
The Looking Glass Wars
The Looking Glass Wars
"A nice contribution to the genre--this is a twilight world retelling of Alice in Wonderland."
Ella Enchanted (Trophy Newbery)
Ella Enchanted (Trophy Newbery)
"Hopefully you don't need me to tell you this book is great. It really, really is."
A Curse Dark As Gold
A Curse Dark As Gold
"A different kind of retelling of Rumplestiltskin set during an actual time in history--the Industrial Revolution in England. Nice, rich characters that aren't predictable!"
Zel
Zel
"Donna Jo Napoli is a master of the fairy tale retellings. Zel is one of her darkest and best. I normally don't love shifting narrators, but it really worked in this book."
Keturah and Lord Death
Keturah and Lord Death
"Don't get thrown off by the romance novel-looking cover (it's actually a very beautiful painting by the Italian painter, Francesco Hayez, called The Kiss). I'm really glad I gave this book a shot. Regardless of how the publishers have tried to present it, it's unique, colorful and unexpected."
Feed
Feed
"And now for some fabulous speculative fiction. Feed should be required reading for all book lovers. This book blew me away."
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, Book 1)
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, Book 1)
"One of the most interesting worlds created in YA fantasy in some time. This book is one of those books that makes you want to ask the author how they came up with the idea. Great stuff."
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2)
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2)
"This was a nice addition to the story. Katniss is one of my favorite heroines in quite some time.  I wasn't a huge fan of Mockingjay, mostly because Katniss' voice felt very different to me and she was uncharacteristically complacent through much of the book. Still, I very much recommend the series."
Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1)
Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1)
"I expected this series to be silly fun, which it is. But the futuristic world is endlessly interesting and effective."
Genesis
Genesis
"This is one of the tightest, most compelling 150 pages I've ever read. It's short but extremely thought-provoking."
The True Meaning of Smekday
The True Meaning of Smekday
"Not many have given this difficult-to-classify book its due. A funny book about the aftermath of alien occupation featuring a lovable alien named J.Lo and a tough girl who travel across America together. Not to be missed."
The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
"Not Young Adult, but I think this book has meant more to teenage girls than just about anybody. If more girls read The Handmaid's Tale than Gossip Girl, the world would be a better place."
Coraline: The Graphic Novel
Coraline: The Graphic Novel
"The graphic novel version of this well-known story is highly enjoyable."