By Laura Etzkorn
Nothing screams summer like a great YA title that makes you question the very fabric of your being, amiright!?
Dark fiction pulls you into the story in an unexplainable way. The more twists, the more unfortunate circumstances, the more you want to keep reading way past midnight (or maybe you just can’t sleep).
YA can get darker than some of your favorite horror movies, and I’m happy to provide a sampling of some personal favs:
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
opens in a new window Imagine a world where, on your sixteenth birthday, you undergo an operation to make all of your imperfections disappear. You’re re-labeled as a Pretty and move into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have fun. Tally is counting down the days, unable to contain her excitement. Until she meets Shay, who isn’t so sure that the life of the Pretties is for her. When Shay runs away, Tally is exposed to a whole new side of the Pretties – and it’s not so pretty after all.
TL;DR: An operation turns you from an ugly duckling to a ~beautiful swan,~ but they may also take your soul.
Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre
opens in a new window Liv Burnham and Morgan Frost know everything about each other, as best friends often do. They’re even dating brothers Clay and Nathan. One hot summer night, Liv, Morgan, Clay, and Nathan are on the way home from a party when Clay’s convertible is suddenly involved in a high-impact crash. Liv wakes up in the hospital, confused as to why she’s suddenly being called Morgan…till she realizes that she’s in Morgan’s body. To find herself again, Liv is going to have to live as Morgan and dig through Morgan’s deepest secrets – secrets Liv never could have imagined.
TL;DR: Best friends body swap after one dies, revealing a shockingly dark double life and LOTS of problems to decode.
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
opens in a new window Mounting pressure from her home life and the influence of her estranged father cause gifted high school junior Kristina Snow to discover the highly addictive drug crystal meth. And with crank comes Bree, her alter ego who is willing to do everything Kristina never would. Kristina convinces herself that all will be well as long as she keeps Bree – and her newfound habits – concealed. But what happens when two become one, and Kristina becomes all but lost forever?
TL;DR: A “perfect” high school junior is exposed to crystal meth thanks to her father, turning her world upside down and exposing a side of her she never knew existed. Tragedy ensues.
The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett
opens in a new window When Grant Tavish goes on a rite-of-passage cave excursion, he has no intention of coming back. He would rather die than face the fact that he’s about to get away with murder. That is, until he stumbles upon a group of teens who are lost. He decides to help them find an exit before ending it all for himself, but then they realize that they aren’t alone in the darkness of the caverns…
TL;DR: A prep-school senior is about to get away with murder and decides to end his life in a cavern, but veers off track when he realizes he isn’t alone down there.
Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky
opens in a new window Theo Mackey lit the match that caused a fire to destroy his home and kill his mom. His father went on a path of self-destruction soon after, leaving Theo with his grandfather. Luckily, Theo’s got a great group of friends, straight As, and is captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team. Soon, he’ll be off to college with a scholarship and will never have to look back. Then, Theo’s assigned a history project that forces him to dig into his family’s past and old memories come rushing back, causing him to question everything he thinks he knows. Can he trust anyone, even himself?
TL;DR: Swim team star can’t remember killing his family, till he’s forced to dig into their past and finds out more than he bargained for.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
opens in a new window Mara Dyer has woken up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. She’s lost her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister in a traumatizing accident that she can’t remember and, to make things worse, her family has decided to move to a new state in order to give Mara a fresh start. Then, the hallucinations start, blurring the lines between nightmares and reality, and Mara is left to piece together what is and what is not reality.
TL;DR: Life can always, always, always get stranger than you ever could have imagined.