If you're the type of reader who judges a book by its cover, rest assured: You won't be disappointed in these new YA romances! Each of the following novels are rooted in a well-known classic and each cover, whether it invokes a sweet, Gothic or haunted feeling, is an excellent indicator of the tale within.
Splintered by A.G. Howard
What it's about (condensed from publisher Amulet): Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers — precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now. When her mother's mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice's tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice's mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Why you should read it: Alyssa is one of the most unique protagonists I've come across in a while. In the beginning she comes off a little schizophrenic… and a lot dark and morbid (she kills bugs and turns their carcasses into art so they quit whispering at her). As the story progresses, however, it reveals a teen whose personality mirrors her fashion sense: resale skater-chic with touches of faerie flounce layered over a (naturally) platinum blonde emo girl who's never been kissed. Alyssa is trying to find out who she is, but because of what she's destined to accomplish (or fail), that journey will include much more than the typical coming-of-age story.
Jeb is a solid friend; a sk8r-boy hero with secrets of his own. Morpheus, on the other hand, is as (seemingly) changeable as his name implies (and a shoe-in fave for readers who are drawn to the "bad boy" vibe he puts out so very well.) Before it's all over, both young men will make sacrifices to ensure Alyssa's safety and the reader can't help but love them both. Splintered is dark, twisted, entirely riveting, and a truly romantic tale.
The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson
What it's about (condensed from publisher Zondervan): Sophie has long wished to get away from her stepmother's jealous anger and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be her chance at freedom — but can she trust another person to keep her safe?
Gabe defied his parents by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the orphan girl has stolen his heart. Though romance is impossible — she is his brother's future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else — he promises he will keep her safe, no matter what.
When the pair is forced to run to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help — but their feelings for each other have grown. Can they protect Sophie while also safeguarding their hearts?
Why you should read it: I adore how Melanie Dickerson reinvents a popular tale and makes it accessible even to readers who don't care for the magical elements typically found within classic fairy tales. In The Healer's Apprentice she retold Sleeping Beauty. The Merchant's Daughter brought readers a fresh vision of Beauty and the Beast. With the new release of The Fairest Beauty, Dickerson builds a believable world — and ups the romance factor! — of Snow White and imbues each character with a deepening faith that informs their necessary growth. With a steady heartbeat of romance pumping throughout the story, this is my favorite Dickerson tale yet!
Broken by A.E. Rought
What it's about (condensed from publisher Strange Chemistry): Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein where a young couple's undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.
A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere.
When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely…familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's. The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks.
Why you should read it: As expected, Broken shares some themes and plot threads with Shelley's classic, but its modern setting, romantic twists and teen angst give it a fresh spin that I, a certifiable Mary Shelley Groupie, found entirely enticing. Using every tool from characterization to ambient light and noise, Rought has created a fully rounded depiction of the aching void of teen grief and the renewal of hope discovered when romance is both new … and familiarly true.
One little warning: if you're looking for a shining example of virginal temperance in a heroine, Emma isn't really your girl; but she is true and passionate with a remarkable depth that allows her to love deeply, regardless of the risk. Broken is a darkly rendered romance that is at once poignant and beautiful.
A writer, performer and accomplished partaker of dark chocolate, Serena Chase lives in Iowa with her husband and two daughters. Her reviews can also be found at the blog Edgy Inspirational Romance.