article

11.18.09

The Next Twilight

From fallen angels to zombies, publishers and movie producers are on the hunt for the next big young adult series that will dominate the market. The Daily Beast’s Shannon Donnelly on the top six candidates.

The release of New Moon, the second installment in the movie adaptations of the Twilight book series, will no doubt send some readers to seek out the novels behind the phenomenon. But what will they do once they’ve torn through the four books in Stephenie Meyer’s series and find themselves craving more? Here are six young adult series that are likely candidates to replace Twilight as the next blockbuster novels for the ever hungry YA set.

Whether it’s fallen angels or sparkling vampires, New York Public Library’s teen collections specialist Megan Honig tells The Daily Beast, “Every time I go into a library and I ask teens what they like—and this was not true three or four years ago—everybody says paranormal. It doesn’t seem to be going away.”

“Every time I go into a library and I ask teens what they like—and this was not true three or four years ago—everybody says paranormal. It doesn’t seem to be going away.”

1. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

donnelly-next-twilight---vampire-academy
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. 336 pages. Razorbill. $8.99 ()

Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy is the obvious heir to the Twilight throne. Twilight critics who found heroine Bella’s personality to be on the weak side will find their antidote in Rose, the feisty, snarky, headstrong lead in this six-book series. As a Dhampir, a half-mortal/half-vampire warrior, Rose is sworn to protect the Moroi—mortal vampires who walk in the sun, feed without killing, and grow old and die—from the Strigoi, vampires of the traditional immortal-killing-machine variety. When Twilight was starting to heat up a few years ago, Razorbill editor Jessica Rothenberg went on the hunt for a new series with bite. “We went ahead and we read everything out there, and we felt like this was the best-written vampire series that we’d seen. We just felt like it was the perfect thing to be the next big thing, when Twilight was done. We wanted this to be the series teens are reaching for,” Rothenberg says. Sure enough, there are plenty of elements that make this series methadone for those in Twilight withdrawal, from Rose’s forbidden (and steamy!) romance with her mentor Dimitri to epic brawls with the baddie vamps. Readers are responding to the series with gusto— Vampire Academy has spent 15 weeks so far on The New York Times children’s series list, recently hitting as high as No. 2, just under Twilight. The fifth book in the series, Spirit Bound, is due out in May 2010, and the sixth and final book is slated for fall 2010. A six-book spinoff series will start in fall 2011.

2. Fallen by Lauren Kate

donnelly-next-twilight---fallen
Fallen by Lauren Kate. 464 pgs. Delacorte. $12.14. ()

Bloodsuckers are about to have some competition for the hearts of YA readers—and no, werewolves, this doesn’t mean your time has finally come. “Vampires are almost out, and fallen angels are in,” says Honig. Accordingly, Delacorte Press is rolling out its new commercial for Lauren Kate’s Fallen before select showings of New Moon. Call it the first shot in a supernatural war. Fallen, due out Dec. 8, follows a young girl, Luce (rhymes with “loose”), who falls for her reform-school classmate, the handsome and brooding Daniel Grigori. To reveal that Daniel is a fallen angel is hardly a spoiler, of course; if the book’s title didn’t tip you off, then the liberal references to hell, angels, and Paradise Lost would. While the unhurried pacing drags the first two-thirds of the book down slightly, it ends with enough action, intrigue, and, yes, romance to guarantee readers will come back for the next installment, Torment, due in October 2010, with two more books to follow. As if this isn’t enough to get vampires running scared, Simon & Schuster unleashed the first book in its own fallen angel trilogy, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, in October.

Video screenshot

3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

donnelly-next-twilight---the-hunger-games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 384 pgs. Scholastic Press. $10.79 ()

Not every YA series needs a supernatural bent to be a best seller. The first two books in the all-human Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, have been dominating The New York Times children’s chapter books list for 61 and 10 weeks, respectively. The Hunger Games, and its sequel, Catching Fire, imagines a dystopic future where, after a failed rebellion against the fascist Capitol by the 12 districts of the fictional country Panem, the government requires each district to send two children to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised event where the 24 tributes fight to the death. Collins knows how to write detailed and engaging characters, from the sharp and strong-willed Hunger Games participant Katniss Everdeen to the coterie of tributes and handlers who make up Katniss’ world.

Gallery: Hollywood’s Sexiest Werewolves

More stories, galleries, clips of New Moon
As far as how appropriate it is to have kids killing other kids in a YA novel, David Levithan, an editorial director at Scholastic and accomplished YA author himself ( Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Love Is the Higher Law), isn’t concerned that younger readers will misunderstand the novel’s ultimately peaceful message. “The ramifications of the violence are all explored, the violence is never gratuitous, never exploitative. It’s a very anti-violence book. [Collins is] using the violence to comment on it, not glory it,” he says. Lionsgate has already snapped up the movie rights to the series, and Collins is hard at work adapting the first book into a screenplay. In the meantime, the final book in the trilogy will be released in 2010.

4. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

donnelly-next-twilight---leviathan
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. 448 pgs. Simon Pulse. $10.79 ()

Author Scott Westerfeld has already tried his hand at a variety of YA genres, from the vampire novel Peeps to the futuristic sci-fi series Uglies. His newest series, Leviathan, is a steampunk reimagining of WWI Europe. War is brewing between people divided between two distinct schools of thought. One side, the Clankers, believe machinery will be the salvation of mankind. The other side, the Darwinists, power their world with living creatures that have evolved into fantastic creations, from carriages pulled by enormous half-wolf tigers to whales-turned-airships. The first book follows a pair of reluctant allies, young Clanker Prince Aleksandar, son of the recently slain Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and a young Darwinist, Deryn Sharp, who disguises herself as a boy to join the British Air Service. The meaty book, beautifully illustrated throughout by Keith Thompson, will appeal to fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy for its steampunk imaginings and exquisitely immersive worldbuilding. The next book in the series, Behemoth, will come out in October 2010.

Video screenshot

5. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

donnelly-next-twilight---the-forest-of-hands-teeth
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. 320 pgs. Delacorte. $11.55 ()

Zombies have already shambled into literature with recent surprise hits like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and World War Z. Now, the YA romance genre gets its own taste of the undead with The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Mary has grown up in a village ringed by a giant fence, which is the only thing protecting the living from the Unconsecrated, who roam the forest around them. When the zombies break through the fence and invade the village, Mary leads a ragtag group, including her fiancé, Harry, and the man she really loves, his brother Travis, through the forest in search of something she’s only heard of in stories—the ocean. Unrelentingly bleak and beautifully rendered, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a haunting debut from a promising author. Seven Star Pictures recently picked up the film rights, and a screenplay is already in the works. Readers will be able to devour the second book in the trilogy, The Dead-Tossed Waves, in March 2010.

6. The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

donnelly-next-twilight---the-vampire-diaries
The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith. 512 pgs. HarperTeen. $9.99 ()

Everything old is new again in YA genre lit. This Twilight craze is old hat to the generation that grew up reading L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries almost 20 years ago. Smith’s original four-book series centers on a love triangle between human Elena and two warring vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon. The series, initially planned as a trilogy until fan outcry convinced Smith to pen a fourth, was first published in 1991, but was brought back into print in in 1999 and again in 2007. Now, buoyed by the success of the CW’s Vampire Diaries television adaptation, Smith has stepped back into the world of Fell’s Church with a new trilogy. Vampire Diaries: The Return: Nightfall was published in February, and the next hits stores in March 2010. Zareen Jaffery, a senior editor at HarperTeen, says the Twilight craze alone was not responsible for Smith’s return. “There was—and it’s hard to talk about vampire books without being punny—there was an insatiable thirst for vampire books, and there are people who read these books when they were younger and really wanted more of these memorable characters,” she says.

Plus: Check out Book Beast, for more news on hot titles and authors and excerpts from the latest books.

Shannon Donnelly is a video editor at The Daily Beast. Previously, she interned at Gawker and Overlook Press, edited the 2007 edition of Inside New York, and graduated from Columbia University. You can read more of her writing here.