Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: The Raven Boys

I'm lucky enough to occasionally get books in the mail, both from authors sharing their work and readers sharing their favorites. This is one of the latter:

 The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater

Malin sent me a copy (along with some other goodies) months and months ago, but it sat on my bookcase for ages before I finally gave it a try. Why? That cover. It just looks so... Twilight-wannabe, you know? I could tell just by looking it was another paranormal romance, and I never seemed to be in the right mood for another paranormal romance. Even the back blurb goes on about this is the year Blue falls in love, yadda yadda eyeroll.

Except, here's the thing: The Raven Boys is not a romance. There are no declarations of love, no unrequited pining, no angst-laden glances or tortured miasmas of desire. (And I guess it goes without saying from that tagline that there's no kissing. Ha!) In fact, I don't mind telling you that Blue does NOT fall in love. Is that a spoiler? GOOD. Because I want you to read this book for what it is, not for what some publisher's marketing department decided was "really hot right now."

See, The Raven Boys is not a romance. It's so much better than that.

Instead, this is the compelling story of a girl raised in a family of female psychics, and of a group of college boys on a quest for the long-lost tomb of an ancient king. The author does a fantastic job weaving in shades of the supernatural without turning the story into fantasy; nearly everything feels like it *could* happen, right here and right now. The characters also feel real, nuanced and distinct and believable.

The friendship among the 4 boys is beautifully written without feeling sappy, and I like that the story follows the guys on their own as often as it does Blue. Their two worlds intersect more and more as the book goes on, but you still get private moments with everyone, which makes it feel more like an ensemble cast.

The pace really picks up about midway through, as the guys stumble across an unsolved murder and a bloodthirsty rival, while Blue faces dark occult mysteries from within her own family.

This brings me to my only other complaint, but it's a doozie: The Raven Boys abruptly ends about 2/3 of the way through a great story. It was so sudden, in fact, that I went looking for ripped out pages in my copy. Then I tried to figure out how on earth the author decided it was ok to just END right when the story was getting so good! Very little was resolved, all the major questions driving the plot went unanswered, and there wasn't even a hint that an ending was coming. It just suddenly ran out of pages. Plus the very last line was such a painful non-sequitur that I had to go looking on the internet for answers, where I found - of course! - that this is only the first in a series.

Would you excuse me for a quick moment?

[picking up pillow]

[screaming into pillow]

Thank you.

I would almost be Ok with the abrupt ending, but it turns out the next book focuses on a different main character - my least favorite, in fact -  and switches plot lines all together. From Booklist:

"This time, their quest for the legendary sleeping Welsh King takes a backseat to a spate of secrets, dreams, and nightmares..."

So we STILL won't get any answers, AND it focuses on my least favorite character... and his nightmares.

BAH HUMBUG.

To be fair, The Dream Thieves has overwhelmingly positive reviews, but I'm just petulant enough to avoid reading it anyway. I just want a story, authors. One. Complete. Story. Why must you be so terrified we won't buy your next book that you have to extort us out of proper endings? If we like your work, we'll buy more of it, I promise!

Ok, rant over. Sorry.

So in conclusion: The Raven Boys is an absolutely fantastic 2/3 of a story that is in no way a romance. If you're ok with that, then you should totally read it. ;)


And to help out the rest of us, how about recommending your favorite stand-alone YA fantasy/sci-fi book(s) in the comments? No cliff-hangers or unresolved endings allowed! And.... GO.


* Check out the rest of my reviews (and my top recommendations) at my book review page!

148 comments:

  1. "Seraphina" by Rachel Hartman is a beautiful, intricately plotted fantasy that just... enthralled me. Almost right from the get go, I would catch myself grinning like an idiot just because of the magic of the lyrical prose and the involved worldbuilding. I'm a bookseller, and this is one of my go-to recommendations for anyone that loves fantasy. This is a book that I want to curl up and live in!

    Okay, enough gushing. "Seraphina" is the story of a gifted musician that comes to court just as a member of the royal family has been murdered in a suspicious fashion. She lives in a time of an uneasy truce between humans and dragons, and has very personal reasons to feel conflicted about any argument between the two species. Seraphina finds herself drawn out of the shell she has constructed for herself, and straight in to the thick of the murder investigation. This book has fantasy, mystery, and political intrigue; it's easily one of the best YA books I've read in a long while. In the interest of full disclosure, the author is writing a sequel - and I do very much want more stories set in this universe! - but the plot of this one wraps up the loose ends and works very well as a stand-alone.

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    1. It took me a little while to get into Seraphina, but once the story started to pick up, I really fell in love with it.

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    2. Count me in as a 4th vote for Seraphina!

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    3. As soon as I saw the request I was going to come on here and suggest this, but someone's beat me to it! I just finished it and I LOVED it. It is part of a series in the best kind of way, where the story wraps up nicely and doesn't leave you languishing for the sequel but also makes you happy that you'll get to see all the characters again. There's also a set of comics set in the same universe called Amy Unbounded that I also highly recommend.

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  2. Let's see... standalones...

    A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge (This one has great worldbuilding, and a sense of... well, I'd call it "creepy whimsy".)

    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Not technically YA but reads a lot like one. Also, Gaiman's other YA books are good, if you haven't already read them.)

    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (if you're anything like me you may cry)

    Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor. (a little romance-y, but this is a set of three novellas that are not traditional romances, more like dark fairy tales. Also, GORGEOUS interior illustrations.)

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    1. +1 to Ocean at the End of the Lane! I am STILL creeped out by that book.

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    2. +2 for ocean - gaiman's writing is incredible. Also: the graveyard book; if you cry reading books, you probably will with this one.
      ~erin kristine

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  3. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. There's a *few* sappy moments, but I picked it up because I wanted to see who this guy finishing the Wheel Of Time series was, and it was good enough that I picked up some of his others (he has a Mistborn series that is also good, if not *as* good, IMHO, and is three books instead of one)

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    1. +1 for *all* of Brandon Sanderson. Most of his books, including Mistborn and Elantris, are in a shared universe called the Cosmere, but they work well as standalones. There is romance, but it is not the main plot. Warning, the Way of Kings is the first in what's going to be a ten book series, interweaving a bunch of different storylines, and it's a doorstopper. Also, the Mistborn trilogy has a sequel called the Alloy of Law, which is clearly going to be a series book. The ending is somewhere between unresolved and just a big honking plot hook. There are also two more trilogies planned for that planet in different eras.
      -Paragrin

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  4. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. Just ... read it.

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    1. Yes! And "Gathering Blue" also by Lois Lowery. It is considered a companion novel to "The Giver" but has a completely different setting and set of characters.

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    2. And don't forget "Messenger" - it's also a stand alone companion novel to "The Giver." "The Son" is more of a sequel to "The Giver" but could still be read as a stand alone since most of the important information is included in it.

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    3. I just reread The Giver for a book club and am working on Gathering Blue now! Definitely must-reads.

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  5. I'm curious about how many pages this is. Most YAs I read nowadays ends about 2/3 of the way through the book!

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    1. The Raven Boys is right around 450 pages. Seems like less, though!

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  6. oh gosh, I could go on. Any of the Tiffany Aching books are worth reading. Read them in order to not come across spoilers, but each book finishes it's own story. Shannon Hale writes beautiful books that finish the story. The Goose Girl, Book of a Thousand Days, Princess Academy: all awesome. Gail Carson Levine also writes fantastic fantasy although hers are more romance than my other favorites. She does finish the dang book though. ;)

    As a life long reader of fantasy lit, I share your frustration with the cliff hanger ending.

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    1. Loved The Goose Girl (based on one of my fave fairy tales, I had to read it!). Beautifully written. It has sequels, but stands alone and complete just fine.

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    2. The Goose Girl is actually the first book in a 4 book series (The Books of Bayern) that visits the same characters. Each book has a definite ending and all can stand on their own, however they make the most sense if you read them in order: The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born. Well worth the read!

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    3. Another vote for Shannon Hale. Stand alone stories. Which include romance but aren't centered around them.

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  7. Anything by A. Lee Martinez is an excellent stand-alone book!! He is straight up hysterically funny, and NO CLIFF-HANGERS! My favorite is 'A Nameless Witch' and 'Gil's All-Fright diner'. give him try, if you haven't already.

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    1. I love A. Lee Martinez ever since I came across Gil's All Fright Diner and read it in about 2 hours. "Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest" is really funny. There is a bit of romance in it, but the orcs really even it out.

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    2. Yes! Love them. A friend introduced me to Gil's All-Fright Diner, then lent me A Nameless Witch, and I'm absolutely hooked. :)

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  8. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

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  9. Thanks for this review, Jen! I had just picked up The Raven Boys from the library when you mentioned last week that you were going to review it, so I've held off reading it. I think, basis your review, I'll place it on my "to-read" queue at GoodReads, return it to the library and wait until all the books in the series come out. I've started doing this with a lot of YA books - because, you're right, it's hard to find a good stand-alone book anymore and nothing is more frustrating than finishing a book, wanting to know what happens and realizing you have to wait a year or more for the next installment (which probably will leave you with even more questions)! Even more frustrating is when a series never completes - I started reading one trilogy that ended with somewhat of a cliff-hanger. Come to find out, the author had planned a fourth book, but it wasn't picked up by her publisher! Grrr!

    As for stand-alone YA books to recommend . . . you've already mentioned your love of Ender's Game. I'll second the vote for books by Shannon Hale. Love her stuff! Savvy, by Ingrid Law and its follow-up, Scumble. Both easily stand-alone and while more youth than YA, they are a hoot! And heartwarming. Oooh, and anything by Edgar Eager and E. Nesbit - once again more youth than YA but just - awesome. By far my favorite fantasy book I have read in years, though, is The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner. While it is the first in a series of four (hopefully more!) books with the same protagonist, it neatly wraps up at the end and doesn't leave you hanging. Like you said, this book is so well-written, you'll WANT to pick up the rest of her books, not be forced to just to finish the story. And they won't disappoint - each one just gets better!

    Good luck with your next reading adventure! And thanks for sharing your reviews and providing this space for us to share our favorites. I've found many great new (at least to me) authors through you and your readers!

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    1. +1 for Savvy, Scumble, and what's being called the Queen's Thief series.
      -Paragrin

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  10. I second The Ocean at the End of the Lane and also and old, but one of my favorites: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

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    1. I second Howl's Moving Castle. :)

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    2. YES. I'm reading How's right now! (I liked the movie long before I even knew there was a book.)

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    3. I second Howl's Moving Castle and would love to recommend all of DWJ's books! She was Neil Gaiman's mentor, but she wrote almost entirely for youth. My favourite thing about her writing is the way all the disparate threads (even some you maybe forgot about) get picked up and woven together at the end.

      Best stand-alones: Hexwood (a girl discovers a magical wood in her neighborhood... but whose neighborhood now?) and Fire and Hemlock (a modern day riff on the Tam Lin myth). These were both written for older readers. Then pick up the Dalemark Quartet (which is 4 books, but also 4 perfectly finished stories that don't read like a series (except that they exist in the same world) until the last one) and Homeward Bounders (sort of a Quantum Leap style standalone).

      Enjoy!

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    4. Seconding Dalemark and adding Dogsbody, also her.
      -Paragrin

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  11. Chalice by Robin McKinley is one of my very favorite books. I found a love of bees that I never found before when I read the book. It was a little tough to get into, as I felt like it was an established world that was a bit too established -- there were expectations that I would know things that I didn't. But as I read it, I grew to appreciate the world, and I reread it, and I wish that there were more books set in that world. I also love L.M. Montgomery (yes, the Anne of Green Gables author) for her wonderful short story collections and adult books. I highly recommend The Blue Castle. It's just... wonderful. A little old-fashioned in plot, but it describes relationships in a believable way.

    If you want series where the books can actually stand alone, I recommend Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magics/A Scholar of Magics, which are written in an early 20th century style (think Little Women) but have magic. They're unconventional, but really different in a good way. The Dragon Keeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul are also great stand-alones in a whole series. Each book is wrapped up nicely, and you want to continue the series because you want to know what else happens to the characters, not because there's a war or mortal danger or nonsense like that.

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    1. I forgot Owl in Love and The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl. Both are excellent books, with interesting protagonists (one is a were-owl and the other is very, very tiny), and even though I haven't read them in over ten years, I still remember them really well.

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    2. I love L.M. Montgomery's books and especially The Blue Castle. What a fabulous book! I had to comment because I hardly know anyone else who has read it. :)

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    3. Adore Blue Castle and reread it all the time. It is a romance, of course, and very much of its time period, but I still adore the main character so much!

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    4. Yes, Blue Castle rocks. I didn't suggest L.M. Montgomery myself as I wasn't sure of the overlap with the fantasy/sci-fi crowd, but her books rock. Anne will always be my favorite, but the Emily series is good for those looking for something a little darker and with a touch of the paranormal (which seems to be all the rage in YA these days . . . ).

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    5. Love Blue Castle. L.M. Montgomery's A Tangled Web will always be one of my favorites. I've read it maybe 10 times. Such a cast of characters!!!!!

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    6. LOVE Chalice and second the recommendation.

      Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKinley is also really good and a self-contained story. Gorgeous imagery and you could read it again and again to pick up things you missed the first time through.

      Probably not quite YA, but I also love The Book of Flying by Keith Miller. Another author who has a gift for describing places so you well you feel like you've been there.

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  12. Oh thank you!! I am so NOT a fan of series, and it seems like everything out lately is part of a series! Hoping for great recommendations in the comments so I can read some non-series books!

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  13. Ah, welcome to the world of Maggie Stiefvater. She is notorious for abrupt endings and misleading book covers. Yet, I can't get enough of her writing. The Dream Thieves actually made me like Ronan, which was a huge surprise.

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    1. ^^ This. I love Stiefvater's writing. That's the main reason I picked up Raven Boys and why I continued with Dream Thieves after. And I totally agree about liking Ronan after. In the first book he's so incredibly unlikable, but I sorta fell in love with him in the second. He's just so, so... tortured. :)

      Jen, you might retry Stiefvater's work in another of her (completed) series. I recommend Ballad. :)

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    2. That's the problem, though--Ballad is not a completed series. There's another book to come, and the publication date keeps getting pushed back. She does the same thing in that series, too--switching main characters. The main character in the first book (Lament) is practically cast aside in Ballad, and I'm hoping we get some resolution in the third book.

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  14. I would second the recommendation of anything written by Neil Gaiman. I'm reading The Graveyard Book and loving it.

    I also would like to add another comment, if it's okay. I've used several of your recommendations to find new books for my reluctant-to-read teenage son. (He's a good reader, but has reached an age where his friends think he's a "nerd" for reading.) He loves to read books in series more than anything. I think he likes to get to really know a set of characters and follow them through more than one book. As a librarian, I fully support your frustration with authors writing books with unfinished endings. As a mother, I hope you'll keep reading the series books and recommending good ones. You have great taste in YA literature!

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    1. Not to worry; I could never give up on series! I just crave a little resolution from time to time. And, as with the Enclave trilogy, if the writing is compelling enough I'm happy to put up with some cliff-hangers - provided there's an end EVENTUALLY. ;)

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  15. Thor's wedding day is a fun no cliff hanger stand alone book by Bruce Coville. I absolutely love this guy! Most of his stories are stand alone with reffrences to other stories. For example his Magic shop books are all separate stories with reoccuring characters. He does have one quadrillogy (?) called the Unicorn Chronicles that is amazing and despite the slightly stupid and girly name it's just plain awesome! I also love Gail Carson Levins books Ella Enchanted, Fairest, and the Two Princesses of Bammar. She also has another one called something like the quest for the fairy egg (?) that's about tinker bell. Another great stand alone is Peter and the Starcatchers, GO READ IT NOW!!!

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    1. I absolutely second Two Princesses of Bamaar! It's one of my favorites, and one of the very few books that my non-reading sister brought to college with her. There's a very little bit of romance, but it weaves through a plot that mostly focuses on the story of the sisters.

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  16. I highly recommend "Elantris", by Brandon Sanderson, if you are looking for a good fantasy book that has an ending. He's the author who copmleted the "Wheel of Time" series, and is working on his own mega fantasy series, but "Elantris" is all wrapped up in a single book. I also love his writing of strong female protagonists. His "Mistborn" trilogy is equally awesome, and I feel the first book can practically stand on its own, as well. Happy reading!

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  17. Left field reccomendation- Apocalypse Troll by David Webber. Stand alone story where tech from his Honor Harrington Universe falls to modern day (ish) earth. Really fun main characters.

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  18. Have you read The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden yet? I know you've read Valente's Fairyland series (or at least some of it) but, in my opinion, her adult works are where she really shines. I think you'd perhaps also enjoy Deathless.

    And are you familiar with Jess E. Owen? I really enjoyed The Song of the Summer King and Skyfire, even though anthropomorphic fiction are a bit of a deviation for me. I'm trying to branch out a bit and these were wonderful.

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  19. The World On Blood by John Narsaw. It's a story about human's who get high on blood but are trying to quit in VA ( Vampire's Anonymous. It takes place in the 80's and the main character is this great petulant old Queen from San Fran. Technically there is a second book with the same characters but they both stand alone and have totally different feels and messages.

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  20. if you can find a copy of it (it's out of print but you can usually find it on amazon marketplace) try "Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart. It is technically the first in a series of three but it stands alone perfectly well. It's awesome, check it out!

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  21. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is a beautiful (very long) stand alone novel.

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  22. Have you ever read Spindle's End by Robin McKinley? It's one of my all time favorites! It's a version of Sleeping Beauty that is masterfully done. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/77368.Spindle_s_End?bf=1000&from_search=true

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    1. Spindle's End, Rose Daughter, and Outlaws of Sherwood - all by Robin McKinley are favorites of mine. All are sweet and fun.

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    2. I think the Hero and the Crown and the Blue Sword (same universe, different characters in different timelines, no cliffhangers) were better than Outlaws of Sherwood, along with Beauty. Beauty is hands down my favorite Robin McKinley (and I swear Disney owes her some money for the Beauty who loves books) book.

      If you don't mind series (that stop in reasonable places), I've really enjoyed The Tapestry series by Henry H Nuff (First one is The Hound of Rowan), Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (1st) by R.L LaFevers, and The Cabinet of Earths (1st) by Anne Nesbet, all of which were found in the kids section of my local library. I also liked Horns and Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson. Oh, and I loved The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle (it has a Sherlock Holmes feel to it) by Catherine Webb, and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart!
      Yes, I do go wandering through the kids section of the library looking for the thickest books (or the ones with interesting titles).

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  23. The surprise series thing is a total pet peeve of mine. I don't mind a series in general. If I liked one book from an author chances are I'll check out their next book. But I prefer the Harry Potter style, there is an ongoing arc that connects the books but each book has a separate complete story. I get why authors do this, I have been known to read the next book in a series I didn't even like that much just because I'm curious what happens next but I usually get annoyed/bored with this blackmail and don't finish the series. Write good books and people will read them, blackmail your readers and you'll loose your audience.

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  24. I know you've had the Night Circus on your list for a while and it is truly wonderful. I'd also highly recommend the Thirteenth Tale. They're beautifully written, both are just a bit gothic, just a bit about mystery and fantasty but mostly remarkably sensory, twisty-turny character studies which I LOVE. And both authors seem to have extremely strong beliefs that all (or almost all) the loose ends should be neatly woven into the rest of the story. Bonus, they are both excellent audiobooks. Not sure if you are an audiobook person but if you are, absolutely worth the listen!

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    1. She already reviewed it! http://www.epbot.com/2013/11/book-review-night-circus.html

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  25. The Scorpio Races by the same author is really good, especially the audio. It has a bit of romance, but that its definitely not the main plot.

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  26. Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey is really, really good. (and nothing to do with the movie, I promise!!)

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  27. The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan is a fabulous YA novel, if you like Christmas-themed stories. There is romance, but the central focus is mainly a very sheltered young girl finding her independence. It's actually quite creepy at times for a story about the daughter of Santa Claus, but it's beautifully written and the illustrations are drop-dead gorgeous.

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  28. My references are awfully out of date, as I haven't ready any new YA except Harry Potter since I WAS a young adult. Amusingly I was going to recommend the Ancient One by T.A. Barron except I pulled up his wikipedia page and it turns out it's the 2nd in a series. I had NO idea! I read it in high school and a few times since, and it never struck me as one in a series. So I guess YA folks don't write many standalones, ha.

    If you want to read it anyway, you can get the 3 books here all in 1 cover: http://www.amazon.com/Heartlight-Saga-T-Barron/dp/0147510325/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392061747&sr=1-11&keywords=t.a.+barron. I can only vouch for the 2nd one though. I might have to read the 1st and 3rd, myself.

    I was also going to recommend Haroun & the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie but he's written a 2nd one of those recently. It took him 20 years to write the 2nd one though, and the 1st is a totally complete story. The 2nd one is about Haroun's brother instead, and is ok, but the original Haroun is the one I go back to and re-read, and recommend to people. So I'd consider it a stand-alone, and it's beautiful.

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  29. I really liked Shiver, Linger and Forever (a trilogy), also by Maggie Stiefvater
    Although if you don't want romance then maybe not
    Lots of wolves

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  30. "Black Unicorn" by Tanith Lee. I just re-read it yesterday. One of the best animal characters ever, and Girl Power.

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  31. I don't know that it's specifically YA, but the kindle book "The Steadfasting" by D. A. Boulter was definitely accessible for young adults and a really fun read. I'm having a hard time thinking of other YA authors, classic or current that have stand-alone work, but if I remember something I'll add it!

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  32. "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline.

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  33. I just read _Terra_ by Mitch Benn (hubby gave it to me for my birthday!) and really enjoyed it. The protagonist is an 11-year-old (human) girl who was abducted by aliens and is now living on another planet, the only human there. I don't think it was necessarily marketed as a young adult novel but I would hardly put it outside the realm of young adult reading. You might catch different things reading it as an adult but the fact that the majority of the characters are the equivalent of 11-year-olds going to a real school for the first time makes it feel familiar to those entering high school or even approaching university, and thinking about how alien it all is and how it is to feel completely out of place. Only 272 pages and fairly satirical in a lovely understated British way. I loved it. Apparently there will be 2 more books coming but I agree with reviews that said it is a wonderful stand-alone novel.

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  34. It's been a while since I read it but I loved "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle". Maybe not quite a YA book, but still amazing. It is completely stand alone and a Newberry Honor book. I highly recommend you read the synopsis or a snippit of the book on amazon, I think you'll love it!

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    1. That is one of my all time favorite books. I haven't re-read it in years, but I still go back to it as one of the books that got me into my profession (history/museums).

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  35. You might enjoy 'The Rise of Ransom City' by Felix Gilman. I guess i would describe it as an alternate reality steampunk-western? I'm not sure that's completely accurate, but I am sure that the book was slightly strange and very beautiful.

    Another recommendation for you is 'Tigerheart' by Peter David. It's sort of take on the Peter Pan story? The language is gorgeous, the story is compelling, and it did cause me to shed a few tears. But it's well worth the read, I loved this book.

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  36. Thorn of Glass. Part of a series, but has a definite conclusion. She's an assassin. Didn't expect to like it as much as I did. Hooked me in the first couple of pages. Excellent. Also like Shannon Hale. NOT her adult stuff (painfully bad), but the YA stuff is excellent! Graphic novels by her are good too. Do you like light books? The Mrs. Pollifax series (1-15 of them???) are cute. (100-150 pages?) Grandma turned CIA agent. Don't have to read them in order. The author makes it believable. (or as believable as a 70+ aged person could be as an undercover agent.) hahaha. Like I said, light reading. Not fantasy, but not heavy mysteries either.

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    1. I love Mrs. Pollifax, I started reading those when I was 12, in the Reader's Digest Condensed anthologies. Light reading is true, the spy stuff is tame, funny moments, and some tension (at least to a 12 year old). And they do kinda connect, but like Harry Potter, they reference previous adventures, but those aren't necessary to enjoy the story.

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  37. This review is giving me "The Fault In Our Stars" flashbacks when they are discussing "An Imperial Affliction". :-)

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  38. "Vessel" by Sarah Beth Durst is a great stand-alone fantasy YA. Strong female protagonist, well-rounded cast, cool desert setting, reminiscent of Tamora Pierce's work

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  39. Robin McKinley has a new one out that's great: "Shadows". It starts out in one place and ends up being something altogether different than what the first page makes you think.

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  40. I have loved everything Neil Gaiman has done. He is never too scary or gross, you fall in complete love with all his characters, and you are left wanting more, but not because the story is undone, but because you are immersed in such a beautiful world you just don't want to leave. Anansi Boys, American Gods, InterWorld, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, and the latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane....all great!

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    1. Yes! Seconding anything by Neil Gaiman, especially The Graveyard Book, Stardust, and one of my all-time favorite books ever, Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett).

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  41. I WILL send you a copy of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray if I have to.
    It is such a fantastic book for girls to read and it's hysterical too. Don't let the cover or the length dissuade you, it is worth the read, believe me. Plus, I think the message of Beauty Queens is perfectly in line with your beliefs. PLEASE read it!!! plz

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    1. I second "Beauty Queens"! It's not fantasy/sci fi, but a HILARIOUS tongue-in-cheek take on beauty standards, feminism, relationships, and so much more. It looks like fluff but it has a very positive and empowering feminist message, wrapped up in clever satire. READ IT.

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  42. I really loved "Dueled" by Elsie Chapman. It's a world where everyone has an Alternate- someone genetically identical to themselves- and you have to eliminate your Alt- or they eliminate you. It's a unique, quick read.

    I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy of "Dangerous" by Shannon Hale. (I think it comes out next month.) It's nothing like any of her other books, so if you've read any of her other ones, don't expect this to be like them. I don't even know how to describe it, but it might be the best book I read in 2013. A close second to The 5th Wave, which is really great, but ends with major cliffhangers.

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  43. Nameless, A Tale of Beauty and Madness by Lili St. Crow.
    I took it out of the library, read it, returned it and went a bought it.

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  44. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress. It looks like it might turn into a series, but if it does it would be an episodic one- the first book stands on its own. And it is about a steampunk trio of Girl Assistants- a magician's assistant, an inventor's assistant, and a swordmaster's...assistant (she's way better than him) who kick ass, make out with cute boys, and solve murders.

    Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson- Girl wakes up in mental hospital thinking she's killed someone with her mind. Girl can see sounds and taste lies. Her story is excellent. And there is a sequel called Quicksilver, but I haven't read it- and you don't need to as the first book is a complete story.

    Plain Kate by Erin Bow- this is a true standalone. It will break your heart, and it is beautiful. And there's no romance in it at all! It's about a woodcarver's daughter who has such a gift that people sometimes think she might be a witch- and it's very dangerous to be a witch, especially when things start to go wrong and people are looking for someone to blame...

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  45. I just finished "All Our Yesterdays" by Cristin Terrill and couldn't put it down.
    If you don't mind scary, Carrie Ryan's "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" zombie series was great, and each book stands alone.
    I also loved the "Wool" series by Hugh Howey.
    One of my all-time faves is an out-of-print book by Marion Zimmer Bradley called Darkover Landfall. There's a whole series of Darkover books that don't need to be read in order.
    Many of my favourite reads are Epbot recommendations, so thanks for sharing your reviews!!

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  46. julie kagawa has a series called "the iron fey" a lil romance but not terrible, elves and other fun stuff..each story wraps mostly into itself..though they do pull in elements from previous stories, so recommend reading them in order. i downloaded them thru my library app and read them all as soon as they were available.

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  47. Since you did like it, despite it being the first in a series, maybe try The Scorpio Races, also by Maggie Stiefvater?

    For other authors, I recently read and LOVED The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black - a fun spin on all the annoying vampire books around. Going back in time quite a bit, have you ever read Skellig by David Almond? It's AMAZING. Here's the description from goodreads: "Unhappy about his baby sister's illness and the chaos of moving into a dilapidated old house, Michael retreats to the garage and finds a mysterious stranger who is something like a bird and something like an angel..."

    Finally, while not technically YA, I would recommend (read: shout from the rooftops to any and everyone) Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (who is now working on the Ms. Marvel comics). It's a fantastic Middle Eastern fairy tale-esque story that somehow manages to combine hackers, the Thousand and One Nights, djinns, and so much more!

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    1. I'll add another vote for The Scorpio Races. I thought it was a really good stand-alone. It has the added bonus of being a horse book, with a folklore twist.

      I'll also add votes for Neil Gaiman's novels, especially The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, and Stardust.

      I recently read another book that I'm quite sure was written to be a stand-alone, but got so much excellent feedback two more books will follow it. The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu is more sci-fi/cloak and dagger stuff with a great sense of humour. You can just read that by itself and pretend the other books don't exist as it wraps up quite neatly, but if you want to continue with the characters, The Deaths of Tao is next (but this is a real "middle book" that does not end so neatly) and the third book is in the works.

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  48. Last year I read and adored vN, by Madeleine Ashby. It's a book about a young android woman who accidentally does something horrible and goes on the run. If that sounds boring, it's really, REALLY not, but I can't say the most interesting things about it without it spoiling some of the best moments. Amy, the main character, is one of the most interesting female leads I've read in a long time. Plus, there are lots of references to Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica, I Robot, etc. There is a sequel to the book, but the story in the book stands on its own just fine.

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  49. I'll echo the "Elantris" fans. I really enjoyed that one. I saw that someone else had suggested "Seraphina" by Rachel Hartman. It was a great book, but it is book #1 in a series. Have you ever read "The Wednesday Wars" by Gary D. Schmidt? Not a fantasy, but a book that leaves you smiling and satisfied! His companion book, "Okay for Now" was also a really awesome book.

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  50. I highly recommend VESSEL by Sarah Beth Durst for a great stand-alone YA fantasy. Some people find she crammed a little too much into one volume, but I loved it!

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  51. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. It's a tad heartbreaking, but beautiful.

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  52. The Dragons of Wendal by Maria E. Schneider is a terrific standalone YA fantasy.
    You've probably read it already but Kenneth Oppel's Airborn is the first in a series but the story (at least in the first two) has a definite ending at each book. And it is steampunk, in case that helps.
    And if YA mystery is ok then The Tell Tale Con by Aimee Gilchrist is fabulous YA with realistic teens without all the manufactured drama and angst.
    Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger is a terrific YA steampunk and is mightily enhanced in audio by a fabulous voice actress named Moira. Again, a series but the first two at least come to a complete end to that portion of the story.
    The Dragonback series by Timothy Zahn is a series with one overarching plot but each book has a smaller and fully complete plot if you like YA scifi.
    Katya's World is another first book in a YA scifi but it has a complete story, no cliffhangers or incomplete endings.

    I could probably list a dozen more but I'm going to go make a list of those mentioned above that I haven't read yet and increase my to read list over on goodreads!

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  53. Ok, reading some of the other recommendations made me think of two more, both series and both have a full, several book plot arc but each ends at a complete stopping point.
    The Last Knight by Hilari Bell is the most interesting 'knight errant' type of fantasy I've read. Excellent characters with an interesting story line. Each book works on its own even though they can be all combined for the full story.
    also Elizabeth Bunce's Star Crossed is a YA that, based on the title and cover, like it might be some romantic teen drivel in a fantasy world but is way better with only minor hints at romance without any of the annoying drooling, angst and ogling I find too often in both YA and PNR these days.

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  54. Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier. They're both stand alone novels, but the main characters are sisters so there's a couple neat moments where family members and familiar characters briefly pop up in Cybele's Secret. The other thing I really love about them is they move away from your traditional settings. The first is set in Transylvania and the second in Turkey. Very familiar aspects of folk stories in both, but changed just enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

    Juliet Marillier is one of my all time favourite authors, her stories are always well written and suck you right in (except the first book of her Sevenwaters Series - 6 books, but they're all out and TOTALLY worth the read). She writes these beautifully inspiring stories centred around incredibly brave, loyal, smart women. I can't get enough of them. Do yourself a favour, and pick one of her books up off the shelf.

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    1. Yes! Seconded! She is an amazing writer! I've not yet read her YA stuff but find her seven waters books easy reads that draw you in. And while it is a long series each book finishes it own story so no cliffhangers! Also her book "Hearts Blood" is a great stand alone! A retelling of beauty and the beast

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  56. Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. Silence and Touch by Michelle Sagara.

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  57. Scorpio Races, also by Maggie Stiefvater is a very awesome stand alone. Here's my post about it.

    I also made the Raven Boys pizza!

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  58. I admit, all of my recommendations are the first in series, BUT they work perfectly well as a stand-alone books. In "Splintered" by A.G. Howard, Alyssa, the great granddaughter of Alice Liddell goes back down the rabbit hole to pass a series of tests to fix Alice's mistakes and break her family curse. Alyssa is kind of punk-ish, the story is fast-paced, a little dark, and there's romance.

    "Reckless" by Cornelia Funke. Two brothers go through a magic mirror into a dark world of fairy tales. There are witches, giants, ogres, fairies, and a girl who can change into a fox. When a curse is placed on Will turning him into a Goyl--a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone, Jacob must go on a quest to break it.

    "The girl of fire and thorns" by Rae Carson. Description stolen from my library catalog: "Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can't see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king--a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic,are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn't die young. Most of the chosen do."

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  59. Ok, this may not be strictly, YA, but it's a FANTASTIC stand-alone book that I first read as a teenager: The Raven Ring by Patricia C. Wrede. She wrote the Dealing with Dragons books, but this one is different (set in a different world) and it's still one of my favorites. :)

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  60. The Harp of the Grey Rose by Charles de Lint. He is an amazing storyteller and this is a beautiful piece of fantasy! He has written series as well, but this is a stand-alone book. I highly recommend it!

    As a side note, I don't recommend the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. While she writes a great story over all, the main character falls prey to the oh-so-common YA trap: she is annoyingly oblivious to all that is around her and bemoans her unrequited feelings-even when they are requited. That is all I will say on the matter.

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  61. Anything by Charles De Lint - each book is it's own story (complete!) though the characters often repeat in other books. I'm in awe of him!!

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  62. Well, my #1 recommendation would be So Yesterday by The Great Scott Westerfeld. And while the Oz books might not be strictly YA, they're still great quick reads. Don't get stuck on just the first one though-- Baum ended up writing 13 more books that each really shine with new characters and ideas.

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  63. Alright, I'm not sure I would classify it as YA Fiction, and I honestly can't remember if it ended on a cliff-hanger, because I bought the next two books in the series as soon as I finished the first one, and read them all in one amazing blur of Loki awesomeness...

    Anyway, it's the I Bring the Fire series by C. Gockel. The best part? The first book is free on Kindle!
    http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Fire-Part-Wolves-Story-ebook/dp/B008UUIGB2/

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  64. I put these recommendations on your last book review post, but I'll put them here again: two great standalone books are Doll Bones and Tithe, both by Holly Black. Doll Bones is a super quick read and definitely on the young end of YA. It's not quite sci-fi or fantasy, but it has this creepy ghost-storyish undercurrent. Tithe is definitely fantasy (modern day faerie story) and dark as all get out, but amazing. And, okay, it technically has a sequel, but everything is completely resolved at the end of Tithe! You can pretend the sequel doesn't even exist and still have a completely satisfying reading experience.

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  65. I'd probably have to say Santa Olivia by Jaqueline Carey. There is a second book, but this one does fine standing by itself. Carey's stories are always so immersive, I simply will read anything she puts out. Also, try Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay. Not my favorite book of his, but it's the only one I would classify as YA.

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  66. I dont know if you've ever read Australian author Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy (or if I've commented about it before!), but it is legitimately my favourite series and I read it at least once a year. I know you want non-series books, but to be honest the first book (Sabriel) could pretty much be a stand-alone, with the second and third books set about 15-20 years later. But it's not a long series, and the third book (Abhorsen) has one of the best last-minute reveals ever!

    Nix is really rather good at writing female main characters. I read Lirael, the middle book, when I was about 12 and really identified with the title character, though I'm probably more of a Sabriel now :)

    If you like Nix, make sure you also check out his other series! Keys to the Kingdom is amazingly inventive, and while The Seventh Tower is definitely for younger readers I still love revisiting it.

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    1. Ooh, I love Lirael!

      Another book by an Australian author that I adore is The Starthorn Tree by Kate Forsyth. There's a prophecy, a classic quest for a "princess" to save a "prince," charming characters, humour, friendship, and adventure. Forsyth uses dialect a bit which I know annoys a lot of readers, but I don't mind how it was used in this book.

      A sequel was published in 2010, but I read The Starthorn Tree when it originally came out in 2002 and sort of wish it had been left as a stand alone novel because then I could have kept pretending the character I love lived happily ever after (forever).

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    2. +1 for Old Kingdom. An amusing sidenote: in the Supernatural fandom, "Sabriel" has become the ship name for Sam/Gabriel. I get so sick of thinking people are talking about my badass girl...
      -Paragrin

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  67. OH! Also, you need to read ANYTHING by Diana Wynne Jones, she's pretty much the queen of YA fantasy. ESPECIALLY the Chrestomanci books, start with Charmed Life and The Lives Of Christopher Chant. Each is pretty much a standalone novel, Jones never really wrote direct sequels, more companion novels. And if you haven't read Howls Moving Castle and its companions, do that too :)

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  68. It took me forever to think of one that fit the qualifications, but if you read down this far then I recommend Hunting by Andrea K. Host (found through BookBub). It's a recent book that's definitely YA in tone, Fantasy genre set in a really interesting world (no cliffhangers in plot but you'll want to know a lot more about the background). Plus it has a kick-ass female as the main character. It's a true stand-alone, with no plans for sequels as far as I know. If you love it, also check out Touchstone, which is an amazing and very immersive Sci-Fi series.

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    1. (Touchstone is by the same author if that wasn't obvious).

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    2. Oh, I second the Touchstone series, though it *does* have romance in it. It's a four-book trilogy (lol)... the books are Stray, Lab Rat One, Cassandra, and (my favorite just because of the title) Gratuitous Epilogue. Another book by Andrea K Host that I recently finished and thoroughly enjoyed is "and all the stars".

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  69. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. Technically, it's 2 books published as one, but I think that counts.

    Also, if you haven't read The Hero & the Crown and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, go read them now. I'll wait. Good, right?! Again, technically a series of 2, but you don't need to read one to understand the other -- they're set in completely different times with totally different casts of characters.

    Also, hoping that you're reading this, as a fellow lover of fantasy, I have to bring up The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan. It's one of the best series I've read in quite some time and it's not nearly as dense as others. Amazing!

    Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson -- this one's a tear-jerker, but fantastic!

    On the series note, there's a great series by Louise Rennison (Confessions of Georgia Nicholson). Totally cliffhanger-free and full of absolute frivolity. Particularly awesome if you enjoy humor from across the pond. The first book is called Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. What's not to love?

    I also really enjoyed The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares. A novel completely separate from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

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  70. The Hobbit. Yup. I'm old school like that.

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  71. For a YA book that also stands alone, I would recommend The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. I like all her stuff but this one came to mind as fitting your guidelines for suggestions the best. I love how her characters interact with the world as it is in new ways. By the way I am well over fantasy series, and I am very much over ones that are vastly long tomes that don't even have any sort of closure at the end of each book. Mostly I won't even bother with starting fantasy/scifi series now, unless they come very well-recommended.

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  72. Lois McMaster Bujold, in both her Chalion (fantasy) series and her Vorkosigan (SF) series only ever has stand alone stories. You may want to read them in order so you understand what is going on, but she won't leave you in the middle of a story. Also, I love both series.
    Terry Pratchett also has no cliff hangers, and David Brin as well (I think). And they're my favourite authors :-)
    Rachel

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    1. Massively seconding Vorkosigan, haven't read more than the first Chalion. God I love Miles. There's some romance in the first two (you want to read Barrayar right after Shards of Honor, even though it was published later) because they're about Miles's parents. Those two are pretty much one story, I don't remember how much resolution there is, but she published SoH right before The Warrior's Apprentice, so there must be some. The most epic moments are in Barrayar, though. (Shopping trip, that is all.) And then it starts when Miles is 17 in tWA. There's romance in the background through the first few (well, several), then it comes into middlish in Komarr, then forefront in A Civil Campaign. And in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. There is other plot the romance interweaves and interacts with, and it ends up being completely plot-critical. It's not either the complete central focus or just thrown in there. And it's all generally awesome.
      -Paragrin

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  73. I recently read "The False Princess" by Eilis O'Neil. It was a very old school, stand alone story that made me feel like I was 13 and it was summer, in the best way possible. I also just finished "For Darkness Shows The Stars" by Diana Peterfreund. It was a stand alone, but I want more!!

    And I absolutely agree, I want more stand alones! I HATE that everything now days has to be a trilogy. Just write a good story!

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  74. YOUNG. WIZARDS. SERIES. My go-to YA recommendation. The first book, So You Want To Be A Wizard, reads very well as a standalone. And includes a girl and her best guy friend who don't fall in love. Because they are like twelve. And there are eight more books. And more on the way.

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    1. I loved this book and had forgotten all about it! Also you are definitely right that it works as a standalone - my library only had the first one so that's all I've read and it was a great story on its own.

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    2. They do eventually... But it's slowly and realistically developed and not the plot focus. Except in A Wizard of Mars. But it's still awesome. And she keeps things! Little things, like Nita makes a charm bracelet in book five and it just stays there in the background. +quite a lot for these.
      -Paragrin

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  75. Pretty much any YA book by Shannon Hale. She's one of my favorite authors. The Goose Girl is really great, and also the three following books that give you more of the story without cliff hangers. They're great. Also, Princess Academy, and its sequel Palace of Stone. And Book Of A Thousand Days. They're all great:)

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  76. Ransom Rigg's book "Hollow City" is out now it's the second book in the "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" . When I saw it in walmart just before i went on a road trip, it took every ounce of will power to not buy it and read it on the 12 hour ride to GA from AR. I loved Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. It left a bit of a hanger but i also felt like it wrapped up nicely as well.

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  77. The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna. In this world, Eva is an Other, created to be an exact clone of Amarra. She looks the same, she is instructed in the same subjects and is given all the details of Amarra's life so that, were anything to happen to Amarra, Eva could take her place. When Amarra stops reading a book on page 263, so does Eva. One day, Amarra dies. Eva needs to become her, but she faces challenges - Others are illegal in Amarra's home country, Amarra's family and friends don't know how to treat her, and most dangerously, Eva doesn't want to be Amarra.

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  78. I would recommend "Krabat" by Otfried Preu├čler (it's available in English, I checked on Amazon.com).
    It's wonderfully creepy, uncanny, spooky...
    And it contains the whole story, no cliffhangers here.

    My next recommendation would have been everything by Neil Gaiman, but someone else already mentioned it.

    Off topic: I was slightly amused by the author's name. "Stiefvater" means "stepfather" in German, quite an unusual name, that.

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  79. Seconds to:
    Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- totally creepy and sinister without too much gore.
    Wildwood Dancing and Cybelle's Secret by Juliette Marillier- SO beautifully done! WD has more of a fairytale feel to it, but I loved both.
    Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is awesome and has no problem acting as a stand-alone.
    The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater- my favorite by this author!
    The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale- excellent!

    Also:
    Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta has a nicely rounded out ending.
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley- I absolutely love Flavia, the 11 year old girl who narrates the book. So funny and endearing.
    Poison Study by Maria V Snyder- I don't remember this one leaving anything big hanging at the end, and the 2nd and 3rd books in the series weren't quite as good anyway.

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  80. Peter S Beagle has some great YA/Adult but still suitable for YA books:

    The Last Unicorn (The last unicorn in the world sets out to find what happened to the rest of her kind. Got a very fairytale feel to it)

    The Unicorn Sonata (Normal girl finds magical world)

    Tamsin (Normal girl meets 200 year old ghost)

    Spook (A short story in one of his anthologies - not YA, but still a PG rating. A ghost and a human battle for the right to live in an apartment. The weapons? Bad poetry.)

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  81. I highly recommend Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. I read this one when I worked in the high school library and it was recommended by a student. I've always been of the opinion that if I was going to recommend books, I'd also follow the kids' recommendations (walk the walk, talk the talk, in other words). I SO wasn't disappointed! Vampires, psychic powers, post apocalypse. I read it three times. Also? The author has no interest in doing a sequel, and people have been beggin for one, which is a nice surprise.

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    1. +10 to Sunshine, though I'm not sure it totally counts as YA (and Robin McKinley seems to think it shouldn't). One of my favorite books pretty much ever.

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  82. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is amazing. It is all about a girl's first year of college and all that entails but also the value of fandom (she is a fanfiction writer of a book series that is an obvious homage to Harry Potter). What sold of me on this book were the truly fantastic characters, while the geeky references were an added bonus.

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  83. An older one that I've loved for years is "The Diamond in the Window". All about Thoreau

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  84. The Madeleine L'Engle books (the O'Keefe family series) are a series, but the stories wrap up neatly at the end of each book.

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    1. Also, I can't remember the title, but there is one with the protagonist being a Time Detective named Thursday Next, she goes around solving nursery rhyme murders...if anyone can remember the title, please remind me of it, I want to read them again!

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    2. The Thursday Next Chronicles by Jasper Fforde, starting with 'The Eyre Affair'. He also has the Nursery Crime series, which is 'The Big Over Easy' and 'The Fourth Bear'. He also wrote the one off 'Shades of Grey' (not to be confused with a completely different book with a similar title!) although he said he'd like to write another book set in the same universe. (All highly recommended by the way)

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  85. Not a lot of sci-fi on here, so here's one: Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear. Pandorum meets Orphan Black. Main character wakes up on a ship with fragmented memories, mixed in with dreams, and has to find out what is going on and what he is supposed to do. Also, The Hound and the Falcon (I know, it's actually 3 books, but I read it in the all together version) by Judith Tarr. The Myth series by Robert Asprin, each one is independent, and full of great fun stories. Now, I have to go back through this post and make my hand cramp writing down all the recommendations!

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  86. I have to chime in on the recommendations for the Scorpio Races. It is standalone and really, really good. As others have mentioned, there's romance but that really isn't the crux of the book. It's been about two years since I read it and the imagery is still with me, it's so vivid and interesting.

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  87. That exact thing happened to me with "A Discovery of Witches", which is like 500 pages long. I wanted to hurl the book off a cliff. Subsequently, they've added a note to the cover that it's the first of a series. I haven't read the next one, however, because I am still so POed that I got bamboozled into reading 500 pages of unresolved story.

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    1. oooh and, i forgot, I'm on Team Gaiman, too.

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  88. Stand alone book? "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead. Won the Newberry Medal a few years ago for a VERY good reason. Very original...bit sci-fi/fantasy without fitting perfectly in that genre. Deals with the possibility of time travel and independence and friendship and it stuck with me again and again. I use it as a read-aloud in my classroom.

    And I know it's a series (sorry!) but R.T. Kaelin's self-published "Progeny" and "Prophecy" are AMAZING! Worth the read...and he has short stories available to fill in all the background characters. :)

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  89. I downloaded this book from your recommendation, and HOLY CRAP it was sooo good AND a very fast read. I don't like the sound of the next book, but I downloaded it anyway and it really humanizes him so you won't hate him so much.

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  90. Stand alone's:

    "The Coldest Girl in Cold Town" by Holly Black <- MUST READ. It's amazing. (a vampire book with a really amazing twist on vampires that doesn't involve sparkling or sappy romance. Definitely fierce. Plus, Holly Black is one of my writing idols. )

    "Cruel Beauty" by Rosamond Hodge ( a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that's dark and very well written)

    "Eleanor and Park" by Rainbow Rowell (romance, but it takes a really awesome stance on body image as the main girl is plus size and not obssessed with losing weight)

    "Vessel" by Sarah Beth Durst (fantasyish where a girl is chosen as the vessel of a God then rejected. Really great)

    READ THE DREAM THIEVES YOU WON'T REGRET IT. I feel your pain feeling as if the ending just falls off, but the second book really helps to wrap things up. And believe me, the character you dislike WILL be one you adore. I was the same when in the first book and now I adore him. The second one really makes him relate-able.

    Perhaps my biggest frustration with YA is that there are SO many series. Not to be ungrateful that I can have an amazing story that spans four times as long when there's multiple books, but sometimes I like to just have something wrap up. And sometimes you can tell an author is writing multiples because of contract and the story gets stretched far beyond where it should have gone in the first place.

    I've reviewed more than a few good YA books if you're interested on my blog (lastexitinohio.blogspot.com) if you're ever looking for good stuff. I'm pretty picky about my YA, so check it out if you get the chance.

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  91. Ronan was my least favorite character, too, but I'm reading The Dream Thieves anyway because I loved The Raven Boys so much that I couldn't give up on the series. And, as it turns out, I still don't like Ronan, but I really don't mind reading about him. He has a lot more depth in the 2nd book, and it makes for a very enjoyable read. I wasn't sure what to expect from The Dream Thieves, but so far I'm pleasantly surprised by it.

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  92. I finally thought of some good, single book YA for you: Carrie Vaughn's Steel and Voices of Dragons.

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  93. Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising" sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree. I read them out of order so I was kind of "meh" about "Over Sea" when I got to it, but it is not needed for the best book, "The Dark Is Rising". Still, I recommend reading them all (and forgetting the TV show if you saw it...). In fact, I read them at least once a year, and have been so for a couple of decades.

    "When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
    Three from the circle, three from the track;
    Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
    Five will return, and one go alone."

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  94. You should check out "The Near Witch" by Victoria Schwab (it's such a great story and the writing is really lyrical.)

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  95. Definitely give Dream Thieves a chance. I know, I know - who wants *another* series to keep up with? And yes, there is another book beyond DT - which sucks when you realize that as you get to the end of it. I liked the book more than Raven Boys though. It really gave you insight into the boys' lives and personalities and it made wish that I could do the things that they do.

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  96. Hi, I'm newish here, but I've read several of your blog posts today, including many of your book reviews; glad to see you liked THE STEPSISTER SCHEME by Jim C. Hines, and would like to throw in my addition to the comments I saw there that he's good, good people.

    I also give giving recommendations, so I'm also going to chime in with everyone who said you should read Mercedes Lackey's 550 KINGDOMS series, if you haven't already. It starts with THE FAIRY GODMOTHER. I also always recommend absolutely anything by Karen Miller, though her books may be a bit dark for you, they're still fabulous. What might be more your cup of tea would be her line of books written as K.E. Mills, which starts with THE ACCIDENTAL SORCERER. Much lighter in tone (for various values of light, as the series goes on... but it never approaches the level of darkness she gets in her Miller books, like EMPRESS or THE INNOCENT MAGE).

    I'm bookmarking your blog for future reading. :)

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  97. I know what you mean about the ending! I was so shocked! The major questions that were left unanswered and the just so abrupt ending almost drove me insane! That was until my sister (who had also been reading the book) told my that there was, in fact, another three books! So I dived into the second one and finished it in days, then realised that the fourth book hadn't even been published...
    Soooooo, now i'm waiting for that one to come out and in the mean time I have been reading other books. I know this is off topic but one that I read was divergent. its very good, the first book, but I must admit the second is very emotionally.... testing shall we say? the third one was going alright however when my best friend told me who dies in the 50th chapter, this made me so upset that I have had to stop reading the book. I warn you now if your not one for tragedies, DO NOT START READING. but anyway back to the raven boys, its a very good series and had me captivated from the beginning, much like Maggie's other series, Shiver. she is a good author and all the books I have read by her have been very well written.

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