by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
The end of 2022 / beginning of 2023 has been a time for me to revisit series books that I hadn't finished. I stumbled back onto a couple of them by accident in the fall, but then I loved the experience so much that I've been making a conscious effort to return to some series that I've left hanging (or that continued in the time since I started them).
One of the first things I learned in my early series reading was that some series start out great but lost momentum, so one of the marks of an outstanding series for me is one where the whole series holds up (or, better yet, becomes stronger over time!). That's true of all of the series I'm sharing here (at least in my opinion!). I love series in all genres, so I've shared a few different options here.
YA Lit Series Books
Tracy Deonn's Legendborn series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I recently finished Bloodmarked, and oh my goodness, I was spellbound by that series. (I've been nursing a bit of a book hangover since I finished book 2, and nothing I've read since has grabbed my attention in the same way!) Legendborn focuses on Bree Mathews, who is a teen attending an early college education experience at UNC. After her arrival on campus, she discovers an entire underground network operating alongside the world that "Onceborn" people experience. Because of her determination to discover the truth about what happened when her mother died, she delves into this underground network and begins to learn the truth about Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as well as the history and reality of root magic. The story that spools out from there is powerful, captivating, and propulsive. I was even more sucked into book 2, and I cannot wait for book 3!
Benjamin Alire Sáenz's Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - This duology is phenomenal, and this is a rare situation where I think I might have loved book two even more than book 1 (and I adored book 1!). This focuses on Aristotle Mendoza, a teenager finding his way in the world. I wrote a review of book 1 recently; check it out for more.
Brigid Kemmerer's Cursebreakers Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org) - I’m just now coming back to this series after a long time away, and I’m already immediately immersed in the world of Emberfall and Harper’s unexpected involvement in it. If you love Gray, you might be excited to know that he is the focus of book 2. This one is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast, and Jen talked about this one in episode 177 where we shared recommendations for fairy tale retellings. Check it out!
Maureen Johnson's Truly Devious Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I’ve rarely been captivated by mysteries, but this series really opened the door to a new genre for me. With its alternating timelines and compelling characters, I couldn't stop reading (and then listening to!) the original trilogy, and I also loved the companion novel, A Box in the Woods. Check out Jen's review of this series!
Elizabeth Lim's Six Crimson Cranes Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - This series, which focuses on Princess Shiori, is a delightful and compelling story full of East Asian folklore and myths. Between dragons, curses, and magical paper cranes, this story is full of surprises. I'm currently reading The Dragon's Promise, and I'm loving it as well. I did think this was going to be a duology, but according to GoodReads, there will be a third book in the series.
Fiction and Romance Series Books
Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - We did the first book in this series a LONG time ago as our book club pick (for episode 71), and I loved it when we read it but didn't think much about continuing the series. I circled back to the series recently, and I finished both book 2 and book 3 very quickly! This is definitely one where I loved the series more as it progressed, and I felt like Simsion explored increasingly complex topics once we got to know Don Tillman and his friends and family in book 1. This would be a great pick for the 2023 Reading Challenge for anyone who wants to visit Australia!
Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I absolutely love this series, which can be read in any order or as stand-alone books. These are steamy open door romances with complex characters at their center, and I love seeing the way that the characters work their way through personal issues and the relationship component of their lives. The Bride Test is the first one of these I read, and while I loved them all, I think that one is still my favorite! We talked about The Heart Principle as our book club pick on episode 218.
Talia Hibbert's The Brown Sisters series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - Talia Hibbert is one of the first authors who really piqued my interest in romance. The Brown sisters—Chloe, Dani, and Eve—each have their own journeys and adventures, but I also love the sibling relationship at the core of these books. These can be read in any order or as standalone books. Hibbert's books are steamy open door romances (think sauna-level steam) with lots of fascinating characters and profanity, all of which I love!
Alice Oseman's Heartstopper Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org) - I have raved about this one lately, and we talked about the pilot episode of the screen adaptation on Patreon, but in case you missed it, this is a phenomenal series that centers on two teenagers, Nick and Charlie, who are getting to know each other while also navigating their own personal issues. I love the secondary characters in this series as well, and I especially appreciate the way that Oseman addresses mental health and romance with compassion and nuance (and specifically the interwoven idea that comes up several times in the series showing that love does not "cure" mental illness). Love this series so much!
Sophie Escabasse's Witches of Brooklyn Series (Boxed Set of 3 Books: Bookshop.org) - My daughters love this series, and so do I! Effie comes to live with her quirky elderly aunts in Brooklyn and discovers that they are not at all who they seem to be. She quickly begins to learn about the witches who secretly protect the city and the larger world while also discovering more about herself. There are three books in this series so far, and we've loved them all.
YA Lit Series Books that Ignited My Love of Series
As some of you know, when I moved to Virginia, I met Jen, and she and some of the other teachers in the English department at our high school worked hard to cultivate a community that celebrated and loved young adult lit. Honestly, even though I was a high school English teacher for years prior to our move to Virginia, I had read relatively little YA lit before that time. (It's hard to believe now!) These are a few of the very first YA lit series that I tried, and they have stayed with me all this time as favorites that opened the door to a whole new world of books.
Marie Lu's Legend (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I was captivated by this phenomenal series, and it is strong all the way through the trilogy. (I also loved Rebel, the fourth book that came out about ten years later.) This is a futuristic dystopian society with alternating perspectives. I've thoroughly enjoyed everything I have read by Lu, but this series continues to be my favorite.
Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - This series might have been the very first one I really dove into when I got to Virginia. A student shared it with me, and I remember that she brought me all three of the books and said, "Trust me. You'll want them all right away." She was totally right. With fantastic world building, a complex plot, and even a realistic love triangle, this one was perfect for me.
Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org) - I have read many of Bardugo's books, and so far, this duology is my favorite. Book one involves an elaborate heist that I found absolutely captivating, and book 2 (Crooked Kingdom) was just as spellbinding. I love the main characters in this series, and I find them complex and richly drawn in a way that really worked for me. Also, I'm a huge fan of duologies (although I see on GoodReads that there are potential plans for a third book in the future), so that was a win, too.
Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles Series (Book 1: Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - With outstanding world building, a complicated dystopian society, and perfect little teacup animals (that are as disturbingly manufactured as they are adorable), I loved this series and the Belles at its center. This one is the perfect blend of dystopian and fantasy, and I was enthralled. Check out my review of book 2, The Everlasting Rose.
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