If you’ve ever read my blog before, then you probably know I am a YA contemporary trash. It’s my whole brand and I hardly ever read anything else but that. However, that doesn’t mean I am opposed to fantasy. I even enjoy it occasionally, especially when it’s fantasy happening in our world.
So, I decided to compile a list of my favorite YA contemporary fantasies that will hopefully give you Halloween vibes as the date approaches. (
I feel like Halloween is slowly turning it into my favorite time of the year and? Who could’ve predicted that).
UNDEAD GIRL GANG
Undead Girl Gang will follow Mila, a fat Mexican-American girl whose best-friend has recently died. Everyone in the town has ruled out her death as a suicide, but Mila believes she was actually murdered. So, she decides to do what any other reasonable person would do: to perform a spell to bring her best friend back from the dad so she can figure out what happened. In the process, she ends up accidentally bringing back two other girls and of course crazy shenenigans will ensue.
I did not ~love~ this book, but I would say it was a pretty solid read. The fantasy here is obviously not a huge part of the book, at all. It is the reason why the plot starts, but there’s much more of a mystery element throughout it, as the girls try to figure out who could’ve murdered them.
I found that some of the story beats and aesthetic were overall very similar to Heathers, so if you like the musical/movie, perhaps you’ll enjoy this one too! While I felt like more could’ve been given to the development of the female relationships, I really enjoyed how they were wrapped up, though, and I liked Mila a lot as a protagonist.
THE WICKED DEEP
I read this book around Halloween of 2018 and it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made! I remember that the weather was perfect for a read like this, as it complimented the atmosphere wonderfully.
The Wicked Deep is set in a sea-side town where every summer, the spirits of three sisters come back to haunt the city, by drowning boys in the harbor like they were once drowned. The dynamic changes once this new-comer, Bo, shows up in the town, unaware of the danger he’s putting himself into.
This book doesn’t necessarily have the most pristine character/relationship development but is SO atmospheric. The present story is intercalated with chapters that tell the past of the three sisters, who were accused of whichcraft and killed, and we also get to follow their perspective, that is remarkably eerie and spooky.
If you’re experiencing fall right now, I’d highly recommend this one, as it has the absolute perfect vibes for this time of year.
Trigger warnings: misgendering, depictions of gender dysphoria, death of a parent
Not that I feel like you need *any* more reasons to read this book, as so many people have screamed about it and it was in the New York Best-Seller’s List, but… I shall provide anyway.
Our main character, Yadriel, wants to prove himself to his family as a brujo after coming out as trans. In order to do that, he decides to set free the ghost of his murdered cousin, but ends up summoning the spirit of the hyperactive, local badboy, Julian Diaz.
This book is a delight, honestly. It has the perfect balance of spooky vibes – with the whole talk of ghosts, rituals and Lady Death – and hilarious-ness, as Julian is super funny and the banter between the characters is fantastic.
I feel like if you’re into the spooky aesthetic, but is still looking for a read with great overall themes (loved so much how this book shows Yadriel growing to understand how he doesn’t have to compromise or settle all the time and that he deserves to be recognized for who he is) and A+ character and relationship development, you can not go wrong with this one.
THE DEVOURING GRAY
I feel like, out of all the titles in this list, The Devouring Gray is probably the most full-on fantasy, though for a lot of fantasy readers, this one fell short, so maybe it was just more than what I’m used to, really.
In this small town, the Founding Families are the ones with magical abilities who have the duty to protect the citizens from the Grey – this magical forest where resides The Beast. Our protagonist, Violet, has just moved in to this town and has been showing signs of magical skills, but she’s not part of a founding family. So our protagonists team up to uncover this mystery.
Things to note that make this book super fun:
- A NUMBER of bi characters, which we love to see!
- The two biggest romance plotlines deliver just the perfect amount of angst to keep you interested.
- Small town drama – new girl? outcast?
- One of our protagonists, Harper, is an amputee, and also an absolute badass.
- Creepy atmosphere and magic related to tarot cards, rituals, etc.
- Great exploration of grief and trauma.
This one really surprised me, as I’d mostly read mediocre reviews, and I can not see it, honestly. This book was a lot of fun, imo.
THE WICKER KING
Ok, we’ll end this one with a contemporary with just ~sprinkles~ of fantasy. This is not a fantasy book, in the slightest, but I feel like it shares a similar atmosphere that feels perfect for this time of year.
Here, we follow best friends, Jack and August, who are trying to figure things out after Jack starts experiencing hallucinations. This is where the fantasy gets intertwined, as the world Jack starts seeing becomes more and more real as time goes on, along with the darkness of the story.
It definitely has similar eerie and overall kinda tragic vibes. I keep telling myself I should not recommend this book across the board, because the relationship is definitely not the healthiest and I can definitely see how it would really bother some readers, but I also love it so much I just want more people to read it, lol.
If you have any recommendations of contemporary fantasies, please, let me know! I actually really like this genre and I want to read more of it, especially by authors of color!