Ever since Bella bumped into Edward and Jacob, the world hasn’t been the same—especially within the hot and hair-raising pages of paranormal romance. Thanks, in part, to Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Saga,” tales about teen vampires, werewolves, and other sexy shapeshifters that have threatened to take over libraries and bookstores nationwide—and young readers just can’t seem to get enough of them.
They’re not the only ones. Movie adaptations of the “Twilight” series and television shows like “The Vampire Diaries,” based on L. J. Smith’s YA series of the same name, have created a feeding frenzy for all things preternatural even among parents. That’s why best-selling adult authors such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, James Patterson, Kelly Armstrong, and Kathy Reichs have leaped onto the paranormal bandwagon, much to the delight of their grown-up fans.
What is a paranormal romance? Basically, it’s a subgenre of the romance novel that contains elements of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. The setting can be contemporary or historical, pastoral or urban, and depicts an alternate world in which vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, demons, the fae, zombies, trolls, mermaids, and other astounding creatures are real. Sometimes humans are aware of these monsters in their midst; other times, they’re clueless. Or perhaps there aren’t any creepsters in the story. Instead psychic abilities, immortality, reincarnation, ghosts, and angels provide the narrative’s paranormal elements.
The following titles are mostly about vampires, who continue to lead paranormal romance’s popularity sweepstakes, and werewolves, who run a close second. (Sorry, Team Jacob.) I’ve also included some examples of the best of the rest—recommendations that run the gamut from angels to demons to, yes, zombies. If you’re dying to read one of them, you’d be wise to put an advance hold on it: odds are these books won’t be sitting on your library’s shelves for more than a nanosecond.
Not surprisingly, many of the new vampire titles are continuations of series. Rachel Caine, the award-winning author of the adult series “Weather Warden,” has added a 12th volume to her “Morganville Vampires” series. Black Dawn (NAL, 2012) is the latest installment of the adventures of Claire Danvers, a college student who has discovered that life can be quite a challenge when your roommates are a Goth, a vampire, and a vampire hunter (her boyfriend)—and the town you live in is run by vampires who aren’t always friendly toward humans.
The mother-daughter team of well-known adult author P. C. Cast and her daughter Kristen have added a 10th volume, Hidden (2012), to their international best-selling “House of Night” series featuring Zoey Redbird, who was 16 when she entered the House of Night, a school that prepares fledglings for their lives as vampires, provided they survive the change. Zoey not only survives but is so powerful that she becomes the leader of an ongoing struggle against the powers of darkness, led by a High Priestess at the school. These authors are also working on a “House of Night” spin-off series of novellas featuring the background of certain teachers at the school: Bryan Lankford, the House of Night’s formidable fencing instructor in Dragon’s Oath (2011); Lenobia, the House of Night’s powerful equestrian studies teacher and Zoey’s favorite professor in Lenobia’s Vow (2012); and Neferet, Zoey’s former patron and current nemesis in Neferet’s Curse (2013, all St. Martin’s Griffin).
For a lighthearted treatment of vampires, you can’t go wrong with Beth Fantaskey’s Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (2009). Imagine science-nerd Jessica’s shock when the exchange student living with her family tells her he’s a vampire prince and she’s a vampire princess, removed from Romania by her adoptive parents during the last purge. He also tells her that they were promised to each other at birth and as soon as she reaches her 18th birthday, he’ll turn her into a full-fledged vampire and whisk her away to the Carpathian Mountains, where they’ll get married and rule together. Jessica’s response is to stab Lucius—in the foot!—with a pitchfork. And so their courtship begins. In the sequel, Jessica Rules the Dark Side (2012, both Harcourt), she’s struggling with married life and the leadership responsibilities of a vampire princess, not to mention the fact that her husband has been accused of a murder.
Claudia Gray concluded her “Evernight” quartet, set in a private school that accepts both vampires and humans as students, with Afterlife (2011). After the school is destroyed, the main characters are out of the picture in the fifth “Evernight” entry, Balthazar (2012), which features a satisfying relationship between secondary characters, Sky Tierney, whose special power makes her a target for vampires, and Balthazar More, a rogue vampire who comes to her rescue. Titles in the series: #1 Evernight (2008), #2 Stargazer (2009), #3 Hourglass (2010), #4 Afterlife (2011), and #5 Balthazar (2012, all HarperTeen).
South African author Cat Hellisen’s debut young adult novel, When the Sea Is Rising Red (Farrar, 2012), addresses issues of racism and social justice against a backdrop of vampires, selkies, and magic. The protagonist, 16-year-old Felicita, flees an arranged marriage, choosing a life of poverty and struggle instead, until she comes to the attention of the rebellious Dash and the wealthy vampire Jannik, after which she has a much more difficult decision to make involving the fate of her city and its inhabitants.
Julie Kagawa, the best-selling author of “The Iron Fey” series, leaves fairies behind for vampires in her new series, “Blood of Eden,” beginning with book one, The Immortal Rules (Harlequin Teen, 2012). In this dystopian world, humans serve as cattle to vampires, and both species are threatened by mindless zombie-like rabids. After 17-year-old Allison is turned into a vampire and believes she no longer has a chance at a relationship with Zeke, she still insists on protecting the humans who are searching for an antidote to the plague that created the rabids.
Sherrilyn Kenyon is a #1 New York Times best-selling author famous for her adult “Dark-Hunter” series that features a sexy group of immortal vampire slayers who risk life and limb to save the humans in their charge. They’re assisted by squires, young humans who look out for them during the daylight hours. Nick Gautier, Kyrian of Thrace’s squire, has been featured in a number of novels in this series. The “Chronicles of Nick” series tells his back story and is written for a teenage audience. As a longtime fan of the adult series, it’s been fun to see how the author has reinvented this character, who was 14 when Kyrian saved his life in Infinity (2010) and introduced him to the dangerous world of the Dark-Hunters. After surviving a zombie attack, Nick struggles with school and girl problems while attempting to raise the dead in Invincible (2011), to date and learn how to drive in Infamous (2012, all St. Martin’s Griffin), and eventually to decide whether his fate will be that of a hero or a destroyer.
You have to love a girl who opens a vampire-themed restaurant, dates a werewolf, and hires a chef who turns out to be a vampire planning to make her his bride. But Quincie is a direct descendant of Quincey P. Morris from Texas who plunged his bowie knife into Dracula’s heart. That knife now hangs on Quincie’s wall, within easy reach should she need it to fend off a sudden vampire attack. Children and teen author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize (2007) is set in an Austin, TX, where vampires and werewolves are real, but Quincie is up to the challenge. Diabolical (2012), the fourth entry in this series, features Quincie and her werewolf boyfriend, Kiernan, helping the Angel introduced in Eternal (2009) on a quest that literally turns into a battle between the forces of heaven and hell. Titles in the series: #1 Tantalize (2007), #2 Eternal (2009), #3 Blessed (2011), and #4 Diabolical (2012, all Candlewick).
Lynn Viehl began her adult vampire-hunter series, the “Darkyn” (Signet), in 2005, the same year that J. R. Ward published the first of her “Black Dagger Brotherhood” (NAL) vampire novels. Both series have done extremely well, and Viehl has now branched out into another adult series, the “Kyndred” (Onyx), as well as the “Youngbloods” young adult trilogy, which is just as polished and fascinating as her adult novels. In After Midnight (2011), 15-year-old Catlyn and her two older brothers, who have their own horses, have bought a ranch in Florida. While riding one night, Catlyn meets Jesse Raven, her dark boy, and they fall in love. There’s just one problem: he’s a vampire and she’s a Van Helsing, charged with hunting vampires. In the second book of the trilogy, Dead of Night (2012, both Flux), they’ve managed to stay together, but her life is in danger because girls who look like her are disappearing.
OK, Team Jacob fans, now it’s your turn. Fifteen-year-old Bryn was raised by wolves, literally, after her parents were murdered in Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s Raised by Wolves (2010), the first book in a trilogy of the same name. Chase, a teenage boy attacked by the same wolf that killed her parents, is being kept in a cage when Bryn first sees him. Together, the boy who was turned into a werewolf against his will and the girl who was raised by werewolves defy pack law and set out to hunt the wolf responsible for the attacks. In Trial by Fire (2011) and Taken by Storm (2012, all EgmontUSA), Bryn has become a human alpha determined to protect her pack, no matter what the cost.
Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate” series, featuring Alexia Tarabotti, is a romance and a comedy of manners set in a Victorian London in which werewolves and vampires have been accepted by society. In Soulless: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves and Parasols (2009), the first book in the series and an Alex Award winner, Alexia meets Lord Maccon, the werewolf leader who not only winds up marrying her but also works with her to solve the mysteries that crop up in this and subsequent volumes. Her most recent adventure requires a trip to Egypt and a meeting with the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive in Timeless: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Mummies (2012). Other titles in the series: #2 Changeless: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Dirigibles (2010), #3 Blameless: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Unexpected Surprises (2010), and #4 Heartless: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves and Teapots (2011, all Orbit).
Andrea Cremer’s debut novel, Nightshade (2010), contains a sexy werewolf love triangle involving three teens—17-year-old Calla, an alpha female; Ren, the alpha male destined to be her mate; and Shay, a human boy. A group of witches, known as Keepers, are the masters of the werewolves in this world as well as a threat that Calla battles in the second and third volumes—Wolfsbane (2011) and Bloodrose (2012, all Philomel)—of this werewolf tour de force.
In addition to boys, romance, classes, and annoying roommates in her freshman year of college, Faith Reynolds is faced with the murder of young coeds and a battle between werewolves and vampires. The relationships and battles that began in Jennifer Knight’s Blood on the Moon (2011) continue in its sequel, Blood Crave (2012, both Running Press Kids).
Werewolves meet the Russian mob in Shannon Delany’s “13 to Life” series. Jessica’s junior year proves to be quite a challenge in volume one, 13 to Life: A Werewolf’s Tale (2010). She has to cope not only with the recent death of her mother, but also with her relationship with the school’s hot new student, Pietr Rusakova, a relationship that continues throughout the series. In the latest entry, Destiny and Deception (2012), the mafia threat has been replaced with the challenge of finding a cure for lycanthropy. Good luck with that! Other titles in the series: #2 Secrets and Shadows (2011) and #3 Bargains and Betrayals (2011, all St. Martin’s Griffin).
Sixteen-year-old Kylie Galen is sent to Shadow Falls Camp in Born at Midnight (2011), the first volume of C. C. Hunter’s “Shadow Falls” series. Once there, she discovers that it’s a training camp for vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, fairies, and witches. Which begs the question, what does that make her? She tries to find out in subsequent volumes while she’s trying to decide which boy she’ll wind up with—Lucas, a gorgeous werewolf, or Derek a sexy half Fae? Sequels: #2 Awake at Dawn (2011), #3 Taken at Dusk (2012), #4 Whispers at Moonrise (2012), and #5 Chosen at Midnight (2013, all St. Martin’s Griffin).
Ellen Schreiber, the best-selling author of the popular “Vampire Kisses” series, has gone over to the werewolf side in her latest series, “A Full Moon.” Seventeen-year-old Celeste, one of the popular, rich Eastsiders in the town of Legend’s Run, kisses Westsider Brandon under a full moon in the series opener, Once in a Full Moon (2010). Brandon is a werewolf, of course, so in the second volume, Magic of the Moonlight (2011), Celeste is looking for a cure. Their story continues in Full Moon Kisses (all HarperCollins), due out in December 2012.
In Firelight (2010), the first book of Sophie Jordan’s “Firelight” trilogy, Jacinda is a high school girl who’s a shapeshifting dragon. She’s the first firebreather to be born in centuries, which makes her the treasure of her “draki” pride—until she breaks the “no fly” rule and is seen by hunters. Even though one of them, young Will, lets her escape, the pride still plans to punish Jacinda. Determined not to let this happen, her mother moves the family to the desert, depriving Jacinda of the environment she needs to shift back into her dragon form. But Will, who to her surprise is a classmate, helps Jacinda keep her feeling of fire and flight alive… until the Alpha’s son, her intended draki mate, shows up to take her back to the pride. The plight of these star-crossed paranormal lovers continues in Vanish (2011) and Hidden (2012, all HarperCollins).
Lauren Kate’s popular “Fallen” series, which begins with a 2009 book of the same name, features fallen angels at a reform school in Savannah. Luce is there because her boyfriend died under mysterious circumstances. She plans to avoid other boys, but then she meets Daniel, who grabs her attention from the moment she first sees him. There’s something so familiar about him… as there should be, since they are lovers who keep finding and losing each other down through the ages. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the problem of the dark shadows that torment her and may have been responsible for her boyfriend’s death. Luce and Daniel’s relationship continues in subsequent volumes. Daniel faces some competition in Torment (2010) from Miles, the Nephilim, or angel-human hybrid, Luce meets at the California prep school Daniel takes her to. In book three, Passion (2011), Luce goes back in time to study her past reincarnations, hoping to find a clue that’ll break the curse keeping her separated from Daniel. In Rapture (2012), the final “Fallen” novel, they battle Lucifer and his forces in a last desperate attempt to find a way to stay together. Fallen in Love (2012, all Delacorte) offers four love stories featuring secondary characters from Luce and Daniel’s epic love story set against the background of what happens during a romantic Valentine’s Day in medieval England.
A small South Carolina town, still obsessed with the Civil War, is the setting for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures (2009), book one of a series of the same name. Ethan Wate, a high school sophomore, can’t wait to get out of Gatlin, until he meets a new student and realizes that she’s the girl he’s been dreaming about. Lena Duchannes and her family are Casters, or witches, with supernatural powers, so Lena has indeed been reaching out to Ethan in his dreams. She and her family also harbor a dark secret that won’t be revealed until her 16th birthday, unless Ethan can help her find a way to break the curse before then. Their relationship is tested in Beautiful Darkness (2010), when Lena begins to pull back from Ethan and the town itself is in danger from magical attacks that can only be stopped by a sacrifice that takes place in Beautiful Chaos (2011). In this Southern Gothic series’ stunning finale, Beautiful Redemption (2012, all Little, Brown), the young lovers must risk everything if they hope to ever be together again.
Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments”trilogy has morphed into a five-book series, with the addition of City of Fallen Angels (2011) and City of Lost Souls (2012). Clary was 15 in City of Bones (2007) when she first met the Shadowhunters, a group of teenage demonhunters, and joined them in their battle to protect the world from threatening monsters. The battle continues in the fifth book, with the added challenge of Jace’s kidnapping, leaving Clary distraught over the threat to his life. Other titles in the series: #2 City of Ashes (2008) and #3 City of Glass (2009, all S & S/Margaret K . McElderry Bks.).
Talk about angry ghosts bent on revenge. That’s exactly what 17-year-old Cas Lowood encounters when he goes after the blood-soaked ghost of a teenage girl in Kendare Blake’s debut novel, Anna Dressed in Blood (2011). What starts as a work of horror ends up a love story when Anna helps Cas take out the true ghostly villain. In the sequel, Girl of Nightmares (2012, both Tor Teen), Cas is determined to find a way to rescue Anna from the torment she’s been in since sacrificing herself on his behalf in the previous book.
Fans of Stephenie Meyer and Melissa Marr have a new author to follow with the advent of Carrie Jones’s “Need” series, but instead of vampires, werewolves, or the fae, it’s pixies that now hold center stage. Zara is a high school junior who has come to stay with her grandmother in a small Maine town. When a strange man begins stalking her, one who leaves behind trails of gold glitter, she learns that he’s a dangerous pixie king who’s looking for a queen to help him control his need for the blood of young human men, and he has decided that Zara will be his new queen. She already has a werewolf boyfriend and isn’t interested, but the situation changes after a Valkyrie takes Nick to Valhalla and evil pixies invade, threatening all that Zara holds dear. Other titles: #1 Need (2008), #2 Captivate (2010), #3 Entice (2010), and #4 Endure (2012, all Bloomsbury).
Thanks to Amanda Hocking, trolls are back in style. An indie-publishing sensation, her self-published troll trilogy has sold millions of copies around the world. Newly reissued, Hocking’s “Trylle Trilogy” recounts the adventures of Wendy Everly, who was six when her mother tried to kill her, claiming she was a monster, and 17 when she discovered that her mother might have been right. That’s the year Finn enters her life, a mysterious young man who explains that she’s a changeling, switched at birth. Finn has come to take her home, where she’ll become a Troll princess and face challenges she’s never dreamed of. Titles in the series: #1 Switched (2012), #2 Torn (2012), and #3 Ascend (2012, all St. Martin’s Griffin).
Now that zombies are increasing in popularity, they’re being called the new vampires. Let’s see, tall, dark, and sexy vampires on one side, moldering, putrefying, mindless zombies on the other. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no contest. On the other hand, AMC’s TV series “The Walking Dead” has proved that zombies have genuine entertainment value. The same can be said for the encounters with the walking dead that occur in Ilsa J. Bick’s “Ashes Trilogy,” in which zombies are created by an electromagnetic pulse, leaving the few remaining humans, including the teen protagonist, struggling to survive. Titles in the series: #1 Ashes (2011) and #2 Shadows (2012, both EgmontUSA).
Bonnie Kunzel is a popular presenter at library conferences and coauthor of The Teen-Centered Book Club: Readers into Leaders (Libraries Unlimited, 2006).