So I was thinking that if I was going to bash Twilight to my greater blog listening area, I should post some books that I thought of as alternatives. These aren’t in any particular order, and are chosen for very different reasons.
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley (I’m going to call this a little closer to PG-13 than Twilight, in case anyone cares), is, I think, the most obvious offering. Interested in the vampire/human dynamic? Want a story that leaves you hoping, but unsure of the relationships formed and broken? Want a real conflict, real struggle and a strong plot with lots to unravel? This is the book for you. The weaknesses of this book lie in McKinley’s struggle, nearly the opposite of Meyer’s, to remember to clue us in about certain elements – sometimes you have to go back and reread in order to figure out what’s going on. I always think that McKinley’s books are remarkable, but that they would be incredible if we had the insight she obviously has into her characters and their backstories. Sunshine is about Rae (Sunshine) who is abducted and imprisoned with a starving vampire Constantine, who is being left to die of starvation and sun exposure. Rae’s latent magical powers save them, but where do they go from there?
More realistic love more your thing? Try I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, which I still think is the most realistic love story I’ve ever read. Not everyone has a love story that resolves quickly into marriage and happily ever after, and I like the support of that in this story of Cassie and her quirky family. Her sister Rose muddles into love and ends up deeply hurting people who love her and whom she loves. Meanwhile, Cassie struggles with choices between someone who loves and adores her and waiting for someone whom she loves in return. In terms of early love, this book is insightful and sweet, if a bit sad. (Well, not that sad. Love isn’t simple for everyone, that doesn’t make it less precious.)
If it’s the first love and the growing up you want, try Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen. It’s about Annabel, who has experienced an high-school popularity fall-from-grace, and who falls into a friendship with a social outcast named Owen. Owen and Annabel’s friendship grows slowly into a relationship, and this is one YA novel that discusses issues that are pertinent for teenagers who are not living it up on the Upper East Side. Annabel’s sister is struggling with an eating disorder and there is some good discussion of body image and realism. Both teenagers have loving, supportive families and their relationship has a place within the family structure, instead of supplanting it. I thought it was charming.
Need a little more fantasy? I would absolutely suggest The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope. I found this when I was working at the public library during high school, while re-shelving, and I loved it from the get-go. If I’m correct, this is one of the few books I recommended to Rachel before she recommended it to me. This is a favorite re-telling of Tam Lin, where Kate lives during the reign of Queen Mary and is exiled to an old country manor. She gets embroiled in some strange goings-on with the fairie folk (druids) who still live and worship in the area, and ends up putting her life in danger to save the young master of the manor and a little girl. It’s more complicated than that, really, but it’s good. You should trust me. (When I was at my sister’s recently, I was sad because the copy I gave her wasn’t on her shelf, and I thought she’d abandoned it. I found it later, in the upstairs bedroom bookshelf, closer to where she actually does most of her reading.)
Keep in mind that I’m not much into vampire stories, though, so if that’s exactly what you’re looking for, you should probably ask around in the comments. I’m sure some other folks could give you other suggestions.