By Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Little, Brown, 336 pages, $21
Fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai goes missing from his boarding school after stumbling upon a crumbling house on the fringes of Barcelona. There, he meets Marina, and her father, a portrait painter; the book tells the story of his missing days and his time with Marina. Together, exploring a cemetery, they follow a mysterious woman who leads them to a chamber housing a grotesque collection of dolls and a creepy photo album. The mystery is born, and the two follow its twists and turns as they fall into a first flush of young love. Zafón's prose is as gorgeous as ever, and the dark, dreamy atmosphere of the city and the blossoming love between Marina and Oscar is as rich to read as chocolate ice cream is to eat, and can be read in a sitting if one feels a little ravenous.
By J.A. White, Katherine Tegen Books, 496 pages, $21
The story of young Kara Westfall is told in a deceptively simple style; both she and her mother were accused of witchcraft, and Kara was forced to watch her hang for her alleged crimes. She and her sickly brother are ostracized in her community as the children of the last known witch. Kara's innate witch-ness has not been present, though, until she finds the Thickety, a tangled part of the deep woods near her home where something awakens in her. She must try to harness her powers as well as use them for the right reasons despite other temptations. In the small, secluded town of De'Noran, Kara becomes someone to fear as well as someone who is suddenly potentially very useful, and must reckon with whether or not her mother, and she, are truly evil. Clever, charming, and surprisingly dark.
A Creature of Moonlight
By Rebecca Hahn, HMH Books for Young Readers, 224 pages, $22.99
Marni and her grandfather live quietly in a tiny home on the edge of the woods. Her mother has died and she never knew her father. The woods themselves are spreading, encroaching maliciously on the nearby town. Marni begins to hear voices calling her from deep within these woods. Discovering that she is the heiress to a kingdom and that her father is in fact a dragon, she is abruptly thrust into a life at court where she must negotiate her birthright, her unusual ancestry, and new, very dangerous enemies. More about character and coming of age than the high-fantasy elements reveal, it is a perfect read for those who enjoyed both Seraphina as well as Wuthering Heights.