The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (2013)

Action-palockwoodcked, legitimately scary, and distinctly British.

Recommended grade level: 5 and up

Pages:   390 (for ISBN 9781423164913)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror, mystery

Tone/Style: scary, dark

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: ghosts, psychic powers, agencies

Themes: young people vs. adults, self-reliance, guilt

Summary: There is an epidemic of ghosts in Britain. Their touch brings death, and only children have the power to fight them.

Lucy Carlyle, a young psychic investigator, joins London’s smallest agency, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood and his ever-hungry assistant  George Cubbins. Together the trio must investigate some of the spookiest and deadliest spectral hauntings in the city, armed only with the tools of the ghost-hunting trade (magnesium flares, iron filings, chains and salt bombs), their courage and a thermos of tea.

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The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (2014)

iron trialThis dark story about three kids in a magic school will appeal to those looking for Harry Potter readalikes.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages:  295 (for ISBN 978054552225)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, adventure

Tone/Style: dark, mysterious, magical

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: dark magic, magic schools

Themes: destiny, evil, friendship

Summary: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him — a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come… Continue reading

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (2016)

heartlessA dark, imaginative, and romantic Alice in Wonderland prequel.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   453 (for ISBN 9781250044655)

Genre(s) and keywords: romance, fantasy, retellings

Tone/Style: dark, romantic

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: Alice in Wonderland, magic, baking, royalty, nobility, unwanted marriages, Victorian, illicit romance, fairy tales (Alice in Wonderland isn’t quite a fairy tale, but it appeals to the same crowd so I’m sticking the tag in here.)

Themes: romantic love, societal roles, duty, falls from grace

Summary: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (2015)

redThis popular book hits all the right notes for dystopian fans.

Recommended grade level: 7+

Pages:   383 (for ISBN 9780062310637)

Genre(s) and keywords: dystopian, science fiction, some romance

Tone/Style: dark, twisty

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The Finisher by David Baldacci (2014)

THE-FINISHER-cover-277x415Fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian elements combine in this thick, tantalizing adventure with a kick-butt heroine.

Recommended grade level: 6-10

Pages: 497 (for ISBN 9780545652209)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, dystopian, mystery

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