List Love: A Dozen Young Adult Series

list loveI miss Harry Potter. Sure I read them again and again, but I miss the excitement of something new. I read so many classics and literary fiction pieces Young Adult science-fiction and fantasy is a great break. After reading an 800 page Victorian novel for three weeks it is refreshing to get lost in an adventure and finish it relatively quickly. I’ve had trouble finding a YA series I enjoy that can match Harry Potter and I’ve pretty much accepted that no one will top Harry, but maybe I could find more young adult series that have great characters, an intriguing plot, and plenty of “world-building.” I loved Pullman’s His Dark Materials and The Hunger Games was pretty good for the most part. I get

I get super annoyed when I start a series (young adult or not) and the first few books are strong and then it starts to suck. I’m not going to list series, but don’t drag me in with a terrific first book and then phone it in on the rest.

Here is where I need your help. I have about a dozen young adult and juvenile series that I would like to try. Let me know if you’ve read any of them and what you think. I really want to know if it is well-written, has an exciting plot cast with characters of some depth, and has world-building (the more details the better). Also, let me know if the series is consistently strong. I plan on starting a series this summer.

Here are the contenders:
YAseries1Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness / A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket / The Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy
YAseries2The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart / Lewis Barnavelt series by John Bellairs / The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
The Grisha by Leigh Bardugo / Theodosia Throckmorton by R. L. LaFevers / Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor / Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan / Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld


  1. I read the Mysterious Benedict books with my kids and we really enjoyed them, but I don’t know if I would include “world-building” in my assessment of them. I haven’t read Riordan myself, but two of my kids have and loved them. That said, and I’m breaking the rules, the most recent books I’ve read lately that had amazing “world-building” were Samantha Shannons’ The Bone Season and The Mime Order. I heard about the first one from Karen over at Cornflower Books (I’ll put a link to her review), and just this post sold me on trying the first one. The second one came out this past January, and it was one that I went out and bought and read almost immediately. Nothing will ever be Harry Potter (I’m completely with you there!), but these at least take a direction that I’m not aware of other recent books taking. And I’m not normally a fan of this kind of fiction. Like you, I’m a little more of a classics girl, but I’ve really enjoyed these. (And I think there are supposed to be 7 in the series when she gets done…that’s the downside…waiting on the next one.) Here’s the link:

  2. The Shadow and Bone series is amazing! I seriously loved it. I’ve read all of the Percy Jackson series and Rick Riordan’s follow up series, the Heroes of Olympus as well … they were good but not great. Fun quick reads. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is on my TBR list. The Chaos walking series was also good. I’m halfway through the Lunar Chronicles and love that one too. I am going to check out some of the other ones on your list, thanks for posting!

  3. Okay, here are my comments on the ones I’ve read:

    I found the first Chaos Walking book excessively annoying and tiring, and never read on, no regrets. Leminy Snicket, I read the first four, and they were all pretty much copies of each other, and I got bored. I’ve heard Tim Curry does the audio, though, which is mildly tempting. My son loves the Benedict books but I haven’t read them so can’t comment. The Bellairs book was okay but I was never tempted to read more. Cinder – the first book – feels a little superfluous near the end (for me) but further volumes actually improve it, and each book gets a little stronger/better. Fourth book still forthcoming. Shadow and Bone was amazing, the sequel was only slightly less amazing, and the finisher was amazing right up until the climax, which felt cliched and weak and extremely disappointing, ruining the series for me. I still adore Shadow and Bone, though. The Laini Taylor series is amazing through and through, though I didn’t like the audio so moved to print on it. It finished very strong. The Percy Jackson books were so-so. Unlike Harry Potter, where each book grows with Harry in maturity, these pretty much are all targeted to 12-year-olds, so Percy sounds 12 even when he’s 16. Leviathan was pretty good, not my favorite of his but strong.

    Now I’m off to check out the few I’ve never heard of…

    1. Oh hallelujah, Amanda is the only other person I know that found the first Chaos Walking annoying…I was beginning to think I was the only one. I have blocked most of the story, except I will never be able to forget “Poo, Todd.” I gave up after the first book, too. However, everyone else loves this series. Like, seriously loves. Shadow and Bone is good, although I haven’t read the last one and not sure I ever will since one and two are starting to fade from memory. And Laini Taylor’s series I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED, except Amanda and I differ on book 3…I wasn’t so crazy about that one. But books 1 and 2 were so fabulous I would still say it’s a must read. In fact, if you’re looking for world-building and strong characters I’d say Bardugo and Taylor are the way to go. Also Kristen Cashore’s Graceling is worth a shout out, because Katsa is one of my favorite teenage heroines ever.

  4. I loved the Chaos Walking series. I have heard really good things about anything and everything Laini Taylor, although I could not finish DoSaB (it was toward the end of a pregnancy). Cinder was meh for me. If you want some good fantasy, I’d try Megan Whalen Turner (Queen’s Thief series), Kristen Cashore’s Graceline Realm, or Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles.

    Nothing can top Harry… nothing. 🙂

  5. Awesome comments, so far. Here are my thoughts:

    A Series of Unfortunate Events, for me, is TL/DR. My daughter read the whole thing, though. The last book came out when she was around 14, and she bought it on release day and was really excited.

    Lewis Barnavelt is good, MG, but I think you might have a hard time finding all of the books. I am not sure they are all in print. It is older, so lacks the complexity of modern YA series.

    Shadow and Bone – I’ve read the whole series. I really loved it, and thought Bardugo did a great job – it has an imperial Russia theme to it, the world-building is solid and enjoyable. This is a thumbs up from me.

    Temeraire is not YA, but it is great. More AU than fantasy, I’ve read the first four or five books and loved them. I then got series fatigue and never went back. However, I highly recommend.

    DOSAB is gorgeously written, but the ending is wrenching. I haven’t read the last two, but one of my friends loves the whole series. I definitely intend to read at some point. It is set in Prague, which is a selling point for me because Prague is so beautiful.

    Percy Jackson is great, more MG than YA. I think it is the closest to Harry Potter of anything you have up there. Riordan is sly, and quick witted, and more sarcastic than Rowling, but it is really good.

    I can’t give you anything on the other ones. Best of luck!

  6. Chaos Walking held me totally rapt from start to finish. It’s intense! I’d say it hits all your requirements, at least IMO.

    I read part of the first Wildwood book and got booooored so I never finished it.

    Leviathan is a little less intense, but I thought the world was particularly interesting.

    Percy Jackson is certainly fun, but not as deep or gripping as the others (which comes from the age target, I’d guess). Decently written, but definitely more about the story and the mythology than anything else.

    And as for Temeraire…I’m a HUGE fan of the audiobooks, which are read by Simon Vance. I don’t know if I’d have stuck with the series as long as I have (I’ve listened to the whole thing) if I’d been reading. There are definitely places where the story meanders a bit. I love the main characters, though, and Novik really does go into detail about dragon cultures the world over, which I thought was neat.

    I’ll be curious to see what you choose!

  7. The only ones I’ve tried from these was the 1st Patrick Ness book – and didn’t love it. Although I have not read it, The Forest of Hands and Teeth (think that’s the title) and its sequels looks intriguing and is on my TBR list. Have you read Red Rising by Pierce Brown? Fantastic! It made me think of Harry Potter, Lord of the Flies, & the Hunger Games. I have Golden Son, the sequel, and will be starting it soon so can’t comment on it yet.

  8. I love The Lunar Chronicles books. I’m reading a series now that isn’t on your list but I’m blown away by the world building. It is The Others by Anne Bishop. The first book is Written in Red. It is paranormal so I’m not sure if your into that.

      1. LOL…Bishop’s The Others is hilarious because the wolves pretty much view the humans as meat. Hilarious might not be the right word, but I do find myself wanting just an eensy bit of smushy kissy because the wolves are cutely clueless about human emotion. And the main character is cutely clueless about life, for a very sad reason. It’s paranormal, but not YA, and it’s really hard to explain because her characters are struggling with so many things. Dark, but you still want to laugh at their reactions to things. And cheer them on. Also, there is blood. It’s kind of the whole point of it all. The best comparison I can come up with is Octavia Butler, even though their stories are completely different. It’s just a totally unexpected take on paranormal. All that to say…you really should give Written in Red a try. I wish I had it, cause I’d send it to you. I do have the third book, though, and you’re welcome to it if you fall in love with the first. (Yes, I’m not above bribery.)

  9. I was reading your post and it was like reading myself! I mean, I loved so much Harry Potter and haven’t found a series that match that feeling. I read The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials and found them great, but HP is special. I’d also recommend the Inheritance Cycle, although I still need to read the last book. I started reading Percy Jackson and loved the first book, it’s more MG, but it was good…but I don’t know why I didn’t continue reading. Maybe I need more motivation!

    I’ll definitely be reading the other comments, I need recommendations too 🙂

    1. Adding the Inheritance Cycle to my TBR pile! I couldn’t decide if I wanted to read it. I heard that the first and second books are strong, but that the last book was a disappointment. Let me know what you think when you read the last one!

  10. Both the Riordan and Stewart books seem to fulfil your criteria, though I wouldn’t suggest Lemony Snicket — not because that’s a badly written series, but because it relies almost completely on sadness and gloominess and that can get depressing after a while. 🙂

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