The best YA faerie novels

Who am I?

Tales of magic have captivated me since I was a small child, and I started writing fantasy stories in high school. But it was only when I discovered the YA faerie subgenre several years ago that I truly found my niche. As my book recommendations will demonstrate, there’s a delicious connection between faerie magic and teenage angst, and it’s the tension that arises that makes for fantastic worldbuilding and storytelling. I hope that you enjoy my top books in the genre and find a new favorite for yourself!


I wrote...

The Favor Faeries

By Jackie Dana,

Book cover of The Favor Faeries

What is my book about?

The Favor Faeries is my YA fantasy novel series. Everyone knows about the Favor Faeries, mysterious beings that grant small wishes in exchange for trinkets and snacks. But most people claim the faeries are a hoax or a fraud, and the authorities even passed laws making it illegal to seek them out. Teenagers, however, are never particularly good at following the rules, especially when they want something only magic can make happen.

Rather than traditional book publication platforms, I’m serializing the novels on my Substack newsletter Story Cauldron. Each week my paid subscribers receive new chapters as well as related photos, artwork, and behind-the-scenes details sent directly to their email, and they can also be read on the website. As the books conclude, paid members also have the option to download the text in full before it gets published elsewhere.

The books I picked & why

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The Darkest Part of the Forest

By Holly Black,

Book cover of The Darkest Part of the Forest

Why this book?

If you're getting started with modern faerie stories, Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest is the ideal rabbit hole in which to fall. The story opens with a horned boy in a glass coffin, in a contemporary world where the existence of faeries is taken for granted. You’ll love Hazel, a modern teenager who carries a sword and has a brother whose best friend is a changeling. Black’s Faerie world pops with color, complex characters, and high adventure. While her faeries may seem human, beware of their magic and mischief. They might not be monsters, but they are monstrous. Learn the rules, and you might survive to live another day.


Wicked Lovely

By Melissa Marr,

Book cover of Wicked Lovely

Why this book?

What would you do if you could see faeries—and one of them is hell-bent on making you his queen, even though you already have a boyfriend and don’t want any part of faerie? That’s where Melissa Marr drops us off in her first book in a series, sending us on a journey through expansive faerie intrigue and power struggles—contrasted with teenagers who are just trying to get through a normal day at school. In Marr’s books, the magic is in the conflicts that spark between humans who are just trying to have a normal life and faeries who won’t take no for an answer. While these books may not answer any deep philosophical questions, they’re definitely are fun to read.


Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

By Maggie Stiefvater,

Book cover of Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

Why this book?

In the first of two books, Stiefvater introduces us to Deirdre, an accomplished teen musician who has just met the mysterious Luke—who just happens to be a faerie that none of her friends or family can see. Oh, and he’s also an assassin. Caught between a mundane life of music recitals, school, and her family on one side, and the dangerous world of faerie on the other, what’s a girl to do? As a nerd and a loner growing up, what I wouldn’t have given for a secret faerie friend who dragged me into a world of magic and danger! Although Stiefvater has gone on to write more complex novels, her faerie duology will always have a place in my heart.


Between Two Thorns

By Emma Newman,

Book cover of Between Two Thorns

Why this book?

Prepare to have your world turned upside down in this peculiar take on the faerie novel. We meet Cathy as a resident of modern England but learn she’s actually an escapee from “The Nether,” a faerie mirror world that’s stuck in the 19th century. As a historian, I absolutely love how Newman moves characters between the worlds—without time travel! And just imagine being in the shoes of a young woman forced to straddle the freedoms that come with modern life with a life with an arranged marriage. And above all, she must appeal to the whims of the faerie lord who controls her family’s fortunes. Come for the premise, but stick around for her deep world-building and richly-drawn characters (I mean, who doesn’t love a talking gargoyle?)


Never-Contented Things

By Sarah Porter,

Book cover of Never-Contented Things

Why this book?

One thing you’ll discover as you read YA tales about the fae is that bored faeries are always causing trouble. In Porter’s novel, they tempt Ksenia’s foster brother and best friend away from her and then put her through a progression of nightmares as she tries to wrest him out of their clutches. There’s so much darkness in this book but it never quite tips into horror. It’s more of that incessant creepiness of the Twilight Zone, with scenes that keep ratcheting up the tension and impossible situations. This isn’t your average faerie tale with romance and hijinks—not by a long shot. But because of all that, it’s an absolute delight to read.


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