Sometimes, you just need to escape into a book with an ethereal otherworldly feeling, without necessarily actually entering an alternate world. I get that. Here are 8 books for those moments.
The Dreaming Place – Charles de Lint
I love Charles de Lint. Kind of a lot. In seventh grade, when everything felt like it was on a rapidly descending roller coaster of pain, I discovered his novels, and I escaped into them. The Dreaming Place was the earliest published Newford story. There are twins, cousins, magic, incredible rage, and an otherworldly being. It’s not very long, but it’s beautifully crafted. I remember reading this book on the subway and feeling like I was in an entirely different world, like I had traveled for hours that day, and couldn’t shake myself back into the real world.. It really sucks you in and doesn’t want to let you go.
Everything I’ve read by Francesca Lia Block has had the same ethereal, otherworldly, magical feeling. I started reading her books in sixth grade, and in middle school I wore her work like armor against the world. The Hanged Man is probably my favorite, even edging out the Weetzie Bat books. But we’ll talk about them in a second. The Hanged Man tells the story of Laurel, reeling from the death of her father, trying to be perfect, and wrestling with some incredible internal pains. The Hanged Man deals with heavy material, but keeps the world feeling like light gossamer wings, summer nights, and fairy dust.
Weetzie Bat is both a book and a series. The original Weetzie Bat book, published in 1989, introduces the titular Weetzie. When the story starts she’s about 16, but she grows during the book and the series. If you’re lucky you’ll find Dangerous Angels, the collection of the first five books together, and you can read them straight through. Everything about this series is unreal, including Weetzie Bat’s name. The series takes her from high school girl to mother, and it touches on everything you could want it to. None of the books are terribly long, but they all reach inside adolescent girls’ heads, and toss out life lessons with glitter and feathers.
Bones of Faerie – Janni Lee Simmer
This is a weird one, I’ll warn you now, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from reading it. Set after a cataclysmic war between humans and faeries, this book delves into families, isolation, post-war politics, and secrets. It’s weird and wonderful, and it feels like a different world. It mixes fantasy and post-apocalyptic dystopia.
Sea Change – Aimee Friedman
This book is incredible. Now that that’s out of the way, I can talk about it properly. It chronicles the time that Miranda Merchant spends clearing out her grandmother’s house with her mother, on tiny Selkie Island where her mother grew up. She meets this boy, Leo, who has a secret, and there’s a secret in her family history, and there is magic. It’s definitely magical realism, but the magic is so strong. This book will leave you wanting more, but unfortunately it’s a standalone.
Wondrous Strange – Leslie Livingston
Wondrous Strange is a fabulous book about faeries, theater, and living in New York City. Leslie Livingston weaves myth and lore into this novel perfectly. It’s definitely modern, and it’s less ethereal than many of the books on this list, but it still fits the bill. Everything about this novel is magical. Kelley is trying to make it as an actress when she meets this changeling boy who works as a faerie guard, and she’s introduced to this incredible world. There’s even a scene at Tavern on the Green with the two worlds coexisting. (As a kid I wanted my wedding there, but it’s no longer possible). It’s essentially the opposite of Melissa Marr’s faerie books, but in so many ways it reminds me of them. There are two more books in the series, so when you finish the first, grab the second!
Coraline – Neil Gaiman
You’re probably familiar with the movie version, which is great, but the book is even better. The whole world of Coraline is like stepping into a fairytale. It blends magic, mystery, and beauty. There’s a magic cat, a pair of old spinsters who used to be circus performers, a flea circus, and a boy named Wyborne, plus ghosts, alternate worlds, and rainy countryside. How can you not want to read it?
In celebration of Teen Read Week, I’ll be posting about books all week long! Young Adult lit is a vastly underrated genre by a lot of adults, but for many of us it’s still a great place to find your next read.
Today’s YA Recommendation is Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.