I read weird books. Books that most people–even people who love to read–have never heard of and really should have. There are two trilogies in particular that I really think ought to be much more well-known than they are, and yes, they are YA series. I don’t care; they’re still excellent books.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
This is a cool and slightly disturbing retelling of Alice in Wonderland. Beddor’s heroine, Alyss Heart, is the princess of the fantastical world of Wonderland, where imagination is power. However, her evil aunt, Redd, is bent on stealing the throne of Wonderland and establishing Black Imagination over the queendom. She murders Alyss’ parents, and tries to kill Alyss, but the princess escapes through a portal into our world.
Beddor’s world is rich and vibrant, and his adaption of classic Wonderland themes (chessmen, playing cards, the Mad Hatter) is clever and well-done. It’s so well-done, in fact, that it makes you wonder if maybe Lewis Carroll got it wrong. In some ways, it is very much in keeping with Tim Burton’s 2010 movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, although Beddor’s take is even more original than Burton’s. The three books in the series (The Looking Glass Wars, Seeing Redd, and ArchEnemy) are fairly quick reads, but satisfying nonetheless.
Abarat Trilogy by Clive Barker
This series is just incredible. Clive Barker’s imagination is extraordinary and just a little bit twisted and creepy–deliciously so. I discovered the first book of the trilogy, Abarat, around the age of ten or twelve, and I have been hooked since the word go. Barker’s story follows the adventures of sixteen-year-old Candy Quackenbush, who lives in Chickentown, Minnesota, the most boring town in the world. After a series of chance encounters, she finds herself in the Abarat, an archipelago where each island corresponds to an hour of the day. There, she meets strange creatures and stranger magic, and a dangerous plot that will threaten this entire world. She also learns some surprising things about herself.
I am currenting reading the third book in the series, Absolute Midnight, and I simply cannot put it down. In addition to Barker’s magnificent story, he has spent years painting hundred of illustrations with which to illuminate the text. He is a brilliant artist, if unconventional, and his paintings are glorious and disturbing at the same time. The illustrations are the reason you should buy the hardcover versions of the books–yes, they are more expensive, but you lose the full impact of the art in paperback. This series is insane, but in the best way possible, and you will gleefully follow the insanity to the last.
So there you have it. Two bizarre (in varying degrees) series that are worth every minute stayed up until three in the morning when you have an 8 a.m. class. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I don’t regret it.