Thursday, July 21, 2016

Teen series that appeal to adults

So many librarians and adult patrons have expressed their love for a couple of teen series (most of them having discovered them either through a recommendation from a teen librarian or via their teenage son or daughter!) that I thought I would feature them here, so that those looking for a satisfying read for the end of summer might be tempted to look them up.

The first series is The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. There are three books so far, and a fourth is expected out in November.

The Naturals is about an FBI division that uses gifted teenagers to profile and catch serial killers. Each of the teens in the program has some kind of "power," but it's not paranormal or supernatural; these teens are just super-sensitive and perceptive beyond the norm, mostly as a result of childhood trauma. The main character, Cassie, is a natural at profiling: When she meets and interacts with people, she picks up on the small details that help her understand their personalities and predict how they might behave. The other teens have their own gifts--one is a genius with statistics and numbers, another can read people's emotions by minutely observing their facial expressions, and one can infallibly tell if someone is lying. All these gifts are put to use by a couple of FBI agents keen to solve some cold cases; but inevitably (you knew it was coming) the cases go live, the teens are in a volatile situation, and they're working together against time to catch a killer.

The series has more depth than you would expect, because in addition to the current cases on which the teens are working, each of them has an interesting back story that is revealed gradually throughout the three books. The relationships among them are likewise engaging, and while there is some romantic involvement, there's none of the dreaded "insta-love" that can ruin a teen novel!

The three books are: The Naturals, Killer Instinct, and All In. The fourth book will be called Bad Blood. Be aware that there is graphic imagery, as there is in any book involving serial killers, so if you're squeamish about that, this may not be the series for you! But if you like murder mysteries, profilers, and FBI stories, check it out.

In a complete departure from this series for mature teens about gritty real-life issues, the other series I'd like to feature is the Lockwood & Co. novels by British author Jonathan Stroud. This series is a delightful fantasy based on the premise that ghosts have risen from the grave to haunt the citizens of England. They call it "the Problem," and it has caused a radical change in lifestyle for subjects of the British crown--no going out at night, extreme caution around graveyards, and surprise visitations in unlike places by otherworldly denizens. The key to solving "the Problem" is the abilities manifested by children and teens; only those under a certain age are able to see, hear, or somehow sense the "Visitors." So while all the adults are locked up snug in their beds, roving Psychic Investigation teams of children and teenagers armed with salt bombs, lavender, and iron filings (all things anathema to ghosts, shades, spirits, poltergeists, and other miscellaneous specters) are out cleansing the city of danger.

Lucy Carlyle, fresh from a ghost-hunting debacle (not her fault) in the country, arrives in London hoping for a job at one of the big agencies. Instead, she ends up accepting a position with Lockwood & Co., the company consisting of Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and now Lucy. They're small but ambitious, they think outside the box and, despite many mishaps, they all have confidence that someday they'll make it big and receive the recognition they deserve.

The first book, The Screaming Staircase, establishes the back story a bit, and then the series continues with the ghost-fighting adventures of the agency in The Whispering Skull and The Hollow Boy. I found all the characters whimsical and fun, the mysteries interesting, the haunting scenarios honestly a bit frightening, and the world-building believable. I think readers from sixth grade onward would enjoy these books, but while appealing to the young, they are sophisticated enough in their humor and emotional content to hook anyone.


The fourth book, The Creeping Shadow, is due out in September, so the library has it on order, and it's the perfect amount of time for you to read the other three in preparation!

Consider enjoying some teen fiction--not just for teens!

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