Three young-adult novels that made a splash in 2012 are back for another helping. But now that so many YA books are spawning trilogies, septologies and sequels, how do these second installments keep your interest? By throwing their protagonists for loops, and revealing some dark truths about their respective worlds.
Spoilers for the first books and minor sequel spoilers ahead:
Fractured, Teri Terry's follow-up to Slated doesn't, unfortunately, explore the relationship between the mind-wiped Kyla and her adopted mother as much as I'd hoped.
Rather, Kyla meets a new and seemingly interested cute boy, Cameron. But he can't take the place of Ben, who at the end of the last book tried to cut his monitoring device off and was last seen being piled into an ambulance after collapsing and stopping breathing.
But it's not just new the new boy complicating Kyla's life: she's been contacted by Free UK, the terrorist organization/freedom fighters that she was with when she was caught before book 1. She also seems to be making headway in learning more about the memory wiping process from her increasingly intrigued and sympathetic neurologist. But the more Kyla learns – about memory wiping, about her history, about what may have happened to Ben, even about her mother's political family – the less her world makes sense, and the fewer people she can trust.
While the first book was much more about world building and Kyla's emotional state, this book is far more action oriented. Kyla's naïveté is harder to believe this time around, with some betrayals feeling seriously telegraphed, but by the end, she's finally figured out how to quit being a pawn and take decisive action. It seems that the final book in this trilogy will have to focus even more on action and the wider political consequences of Kyla's decisions.
Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal, was a bolt from the blue; a comedic joyride through teen pregnancy, alien invasions and the high-school politics of bitchy cheerleaders, ex-boyfriends and loyal best friends. But, as they say, motherhood changes everything. At the end of book 1, Elvie Nara, supposedly impossibly, gave birth to a baby girl alien hybrid.
In A Stranger Thing, Elvie, her hyper-planning father, her best friend Ducky and her hot alien ex-boyfriend Cole are all exiled with baby Olivia to Antarctica. There, Elvie learns that pretty much everything she knew – from her family history to basic alien genetics to Romantic era English poets to how she was going to bond with her baby – was wrong. Really wrong. And when Elvie is betrayed, it is just as shocking to the reader as it is to her.
Even in Antarctica, Elvie's not about to sit around and, after finding a qualified sitter, she takes off to learn more about the conspiracy aboard the crashed spaceliner/school for pregnant teens she spent most of book one on. A Stranger Thing is not quite as laugh out loud funny as Mothership, what with a baby being such serious and huge responsibility. Elvie doesn't seem in the joking mood and she's lost the friends and foils who made her quips possible – but the book ups the absurdity.
If you liked the film Orca, does this book have a killer whale for you. The book also has more action and danger than the first book. And it ends with Elvie in an even worse situation than stuck in an alien prison near Cape Crozier with a week-old baby and not enough diapers.
Jonathan L. Howard's Katya's War keeps the Heinlein-esque adventure feel from Katya's World, while narrowly focusing almost entirely on the run-up to and aftermath of a single mission Katya undertakes.
At the end of World, Katya learned that the pirate Haviland Kane wasn't quite as evil as she thought, since he, with her help, saved the planet Russalka from an abandoned Terran warship's killer AI. But the fallout from their actions is an all out war between the Feds and the Yagizban separatists.
As the captain of her own mini-sub, Katya just wants to keep her head down, but Kane isn't done with her yet. One nice thing is that Kane isn't interested in playing games: he willingly shows Katya the things he needs her to see, instead of hemming and hawing for no real reason except to make the plot more shocking. Katya has grown into her captainhood, though her previous adventures and losses have made her both more cynical about the world and more open minded about some people. She's also developed a risk-taking streak that serves her well, but seems coupled to a perhaps dangerous fatalism. Which, given the monumental change wrought at the end of Katya's War, may or may not be a good thing.
One of the most beloved sequels of all time is Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Like these three books, it's about trust, betrayal and the difficulty of learning home truths. Expanding and darkening a world at the same time requires giving up the fairy-tale simplicity of good guys and bad guys for the complexity of history and the fallibility of human beings.
These young adult novels are all strong second entries in their series. They're not interested in merely retelling the stories of their predecessors with higher stakes, but of really complicating the lives and worlds of their protagonists. Also, they prove that you can trust no one. Except maybe war criminal pirates.