I often hear that YA is a series-focused genre and am not sure if that’s true. Talking about writing serieseses is tricky for a number of reasons, one of which is because women are more often branded as AUTHOR-OF-THIS-POPULAR-SERIES and men are more likely to be branded as THIS-AUTHOR-WHO-IS-VALUABLE-IN-HIMSELF. Also, I love a series, and writing standalones—which I have done and am doing—is odd for me because I feel the urge to stretch the suffering out over many books! I’m a monster.
I mean, I don’t think THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is getting a sequel and it is the biggest YA book out there right now. Though if it did get a sequel would it be called THE FAULT IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEMS? Ahem I digress. But I do agree, though, that there are many YA standalones, especially fantasy, not getting all the attention they so richly deserve.
So here is a list of some especial standalone favourites of mine which I hope your friend will enjoy.
THE WAKING DARK by Robin Wasserman - YA Stephen King but twistier and darker and thoughtfuller. Random killings happen in a small town, the deeds done by people who don’t remember what they did or why. When they realise it is only the beginning, there are a tiny group of kids (including WEST, WEST FOR MAYOR, West who lost his secret boyfriend in the first attack) left unaffected to fight against the rising dark in their town, the years of unexpressed resentment, stifled ambition, embittered love for family or religion… all turning to boiling fury.
CHALICE by Robin McKinley. She’s written a lot of really excellent standalones (I also very much recommend SUNSHINE) but I really like this one because… the hero was set to become a Priest of Fire, which means BECOMING AN ELEMENT, when he unexpectedly came into his inheritance, and our heroine has to help him when they don’t know if he can ever be human again and he burns her when he touches her! I love monsters trying to be human and the humans who help them. Burns her when he touches her! Do not look at me.
UPROOTED by Naomi Novik. May be too late for your friend’s birthday as it comes out in 2015, but it is excellent, and has ladies saving ladies and ladies loving ladies and created monsters and defeated heroes and willing(ish) sacrifices and a very practical heroine and an oldschool fantasy feel, and fairytales and myths twisting around each other to form an entirely new story. I loved it is what I am trying to say without spoiling you too hard.
WINTER ROSE by Patricia McKillip. A lady saves a gentleman… who is in love with her sister… in a Beauty and the Beast meets Tam Lin style of tale with a twist. (Basically I like it when two or more stories are put in a melting pot and produce something new and beautiful and thoughtful.)
THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff. A changeling boy lives in a strange terrible town where children are taken on the reg, not quite human and not quite faerie but tethered by the love of his sister even as the world around him makes him ill…
THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by Holly Black. Also not out until 2015. What! I am a monster. Hazel, MY FAVOURITE, lives in another strange town (things I love: monsters with hearts of gold, monsters who love only one person, whiny invalids, angry ladies, WEIRD TOWNS). She and her brother have both been in love with a sleeping beauty prince all their lives, who tourists come and take pictures of and who nobody has ever woken… until now. With him wake all Hazel’s old dreams of being a warrior, someone who had adventures, and someone who mattered. With him also wakes a monster who Hazel, her brother with his cursed magical gift, and the changeling next door all have to face.
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater. Another thing I love: ponies. And then this book said unto me: MONSTER PONIES. A boy who loves his monster pony too much. A plucky girl riding her non-monster pony in the deathly monster pony races. A monster pony who loves his rider too much! Or does he? CAN MONSTER PONIES FEEL LOVE? It’s really a beautiful book. I’m sorry I said monster ponies so many times.
BLOOD & CHOCOLATE by Annette Curtis Klause. A werewolf lady meets a poetic dude who ABSOLUTELY cannot handle her.
WILD by Alex Mallory. Modern Tarzan meets a very modern Jane… and they unwittingly risk bringing about the apocalypse. Feral children, another thing I love, and while the hero Cade isn’t one there are some tantalising resemblances. Plus I love a lady who likes to explore her some natural wonders, if you know what I’m saying. (You do.)
NOBODY by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. What if your superpower and your curse was that you were never noticed or cared about by anybody? Obviously you would be very sad… or you would be a very sad TEEN ASSASSIN, who has just fallen wildly in love with his latest assigned target.
THE GOBLIN EMPEROR by Katherine Addison. So you’re an emperor who had to have an arranged marriage with a goblin and you guys unfortunately had a son but no big, you had other heirs, just hide the gross goblin guy. THEN all the heirs and also the emperor are assassinated. Goblin Emperor! Who is immediately assigned a bride, and falls for a femme fatale, and who has no idea a) how to run an empire and b) who killed his family…
THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers. Hiding in a high school with five other survivors and zombies thumping on the doors, our heroine discovers that… of course the worst thing about the zombie apocalypse are still other humans. Well, it is high school. And everyone is so terribly sad, for so many very legitimate reasons, including zombies. And the ending is not a zombie-cop-out ending. You zombie fans know what I mean.
I hope your friend has a very happy birthday and one of these books suits her. ;) I found them to be very fine.