An Ode to the Series, Contemporary YA Style

I’m not a huge fan of series books. The biggest reason is that when I read a book that’s part of a series, I want to read the entire series at once. I don’t want to have to wait. So, when I do read a series, usually it’s after the final book is out so I can marathon them. 

But I’ve been thinking about series books in contemporary YA a lot lately, both because it’s relevant to the book I’m writing and because I seem to not hold the same stigma about the books than those which are more genre fiction series. I think my memory for contemporary stories and series might be stronger than that for genre because it’s a world I can remember a lot more of since it’s the real world. 

Series books come in two flavors: there are series where the books are contingent upon one another and then there are series which are much more about being companions to one another, set in the same world and sometimes using the same characters, but they aren’t dependent upon one another to be read. Below is a list of some of the contemporary series titles I can come up with. I’ve limited myself to books in the last handful of years, and I’m not including books that have a singular sequel or companion (so books like Ron Koertge’s “Shakespeare” companions didn’t count). I want at least three books in the series. Descriptions come from WorldCat, and I’ve linked to relevant reviews. 

Can you think of any others? What are your thoughts on contemporary YA series more generally? I’d love to hear. 

The Dairy Queen series by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (reviewed here in 2009)

The Dairy Queen
After spending her summer running the family farm and training the quarterback for her school’s rival football team, sixteen-year-old D.J. decides to go out for the sport herself, not anticipating the reactions of those around her.

The Off Season
High school junior D.J. staggers under the weight of caring for her badly injured brother, her responsibilities on the dairy farm, a changing relationship with her friend Brian, and her own athletic aspirations.

Front and Center
During her junior year basketball season, D.J. faces the dual challenges of college recruiting and romance.

The Stupid Fast series by Geoff Herbach. How much do I adore this series? And how many fantastic similarities are there between it and the Murdock series? Many. Like the Wisconsin setting. The athletic backdrop. The family challenges. The great voice of the main character. 

Stupid Fast 
Just before his sixteenth birthday, Felton Reinstein has a sudden growth spurt that turns him from a small, jumpy, picked-on boy with the nickname of “Squirrel Nut” to a powerful athlete, leading to new friends, his first love, and the courage to confront his family’s past and current problems. Reviewed here

Nothing Special
Continues the story of Wisconsin teenager and high school football player Felton Reinstein, how he relates to his friends Gus and Aleah and what he does when his little brother Andrew runs away on his way to orchestra camp. Reviewed here

I’m With Stupid (May 2013)
It’s nerd-turned-jock Felton Reinstein’s last year before college, and the choices he makes now will affect the rest of his life. That’s a lot of pressure. Before leaving home forever, Felton will have to figure out just who he is, even if, sometimes, it sucks to be him. 

The Summer series by Jenny Han — I’ve read this entire series and dug the romance and more specifically, the way that Belly navigates two good choices and yet doesn’t lose sight of herself in the process. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty 
Belly spends the summer she turns sixteen at the beach just like every other summer of her life, but this time things are very different. Reviewed here in 2009.

It’s Not Summer Without You 
Teenaged Isobel “Belly” Conklin, whose life revolves around spending the summer at her mother’s best friend’s beach house, reflects on the tragic events of the past year that changed her life forever.

We’ll Always Have Summer 
The summer after her first year of college, Isobel “Belly” Conklin is faced with a choice between Jeremiah and Conrad Fisher, brothers she has always loved, when Jeremiah proposes marriage and Conrad confesses that he still loves her.

The Swim the Fly series by Don Calame — I haven’t read this series, but it’s one that has been popular at the libraries I’ve worked at, especially with the boys. I had one specifically ask for the final book in the series before it came out because he wanted to read it so bad.

Swim the Fly 
Fifteen-year-old Matt and his two best friends Sean and Coop, the least athletic swimmers on the local swim team, find their much anticipated summer vacation bringing them nothing but trouble with unsucessful schemes to see a live naked girl and with Matt, eager to impress the swim team’s “hot” new girl, agreeing to swim the 100-yard butterfly.

Beat the Band
Paired with the infamous “Hot Dog” Helen for a health class presentation on safe sex, tenth-grader Coop tries to salvage his social status by entering his musically challenged rock group in the “Battle of the Bands” competition.

Call the Shots
Coop is cooking up another sure-misfire scheme (big surprise), and this time the comedy plays out from Sean’s point of view. What’s the new master plan? Making a cheapo horror movie guaranteed to make Coop, Sean, and Matt filthy rich! It’s a terrible idea, and Sean knows it. But he actually is desperate for cash — and for a way to wipe that big fat L off his girlfriend-less forehead. But when he agrees to write ascript about the attack of zombie-vampire humanzees, he has no idea just how powerful a chick magnet this movie will be. Suddenly Sean is juggling not one but three interested ladies. Will any of them wind up as Sean’s true leading lady? Will Sean stop being a doormat and finally start calling the shots?

The Violet series by Melissa Walker — these have been sitting on my book shelf for so long. I’ve read the first one, Violet on the Runway, and I’ve passed along the series to many a reader before, looking for a story of a model and the modeling world. In a non Tyra Banks way. 

Violet on the Runway
Seventeen-year-old Violet Greenfield of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, believes herself too tall and skinny until a top modeling agent gives her the royal treatment in New York City, and Vi suddenly finds herself facing fame, popularity, and the jealousy of her best friends.

Violet by Design
Despite her intentions to give up runway modeling, eighteen-year-old Violet is lured back by the promise of travel to Brazil, possibly Spain and France, and, after seeing her best friends off to college, embarks on an, often exciting, often painful, international adventure.

Violet in Private
Enrolled at Vassar College, Violet Greenfield, an insecure nineteen-year-old supermodel, accepts an internship with “Teen Fashionista” magazine and finds herself falling in love with her best friend, Roger.

The Carter series by Brent Crawford — I’ve only read the first book, Carter Finally Gets It and it wasn’t my thing. But I totally see the audience. I have a feeling many of the readers who love the Calame series will enjoy this one, too.

Carter Finally Gets It
Awkward freshman Will Carter endures many painful moments during his first year of high school before realizing that nothing good comes easily, focus is everything, and the payoff is usually incredible.

Carter’s Big Break
Fourteen-year-old Will Carter’s summer gets off to a bad start when his girlfriend leaves him, but then he is cast opposite a major star, Hilary Idaho, in a small movie being filmed in his town and things start looking up.

Carter’s Unfocused, One-Track Mind 
Fifteen-year-old WIll Carter’s sophomore year at Merrian High presents new problems, from the return of Scary Terry to friends-with-benefits negotiations with Abby, but when Abby considers transferring to a New York arts school Carter’s world is turned upside-down.

The Naughty List series by Suzanne Young — I’ve read the first two. This is a fun series, perfect for fans who like a little mystery mixed up with a lot of humor. And a lot of girl-boy tension. 

The Naughty List
Head cheerleader Tessa runs the ultra-secret SOS, or Society of Smitten Kittens, that spies on her fellow-students’ cheating boyfriends, until her own boyfriend is implicated. Reviewed here in 2010

So Many Boys
Head cheerleader Tessa works to stop an imposter who threatens to expose the secret identities of SOS, the Society of Smitten Kittens, while also facing ongoing problems with her boyfriend, Aiden.

A Good Boy is Hard to Find
I believe this book was released as a digital-only publication. I may be wrong, but I can’t find the description in WorldCat. You can find out more on the Amazon page

The Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally — I haven’t read any of these, but I’ve been interested in doing it. In addition to these four books, there are a couple others coming, too

Catching Jordan
What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though. She leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there’s a new guy in town who threatens her starting position…suddenly she’s hoping he’ll see her as more than just a teammate.

Stealing Parker
Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her. Now Parker wants a new life.

Things I Can’t Forget (March 2013)
Seeking God’s forgiveness for a past sin, eighteen-year-old Kate finds summer employment at a church camp, where she is tempted to have a fling with co-counselor Matt.

Racing Savannah (December 2013)
No description on WorldCat yet, but you can read about it over at Goodreads.

Obviously, this isn’t a complete list. What are some other contemporary YA series you can think of? I don’t want mysteries (in the style of Ally Carter, for example) nor genre fiction.  

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  1. says

    There's ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR and ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins. ISLA isn't coming out until late summer/early fall this year, though. They're companion books, not a series, though. :)

    I have a couple of the Violet books in my shelves. I need to pull them down and start reading them, they seem interesting and I like Melissa Walker.

  2. TerryD says

    Sharon Draper has two series that might be considered "contemporary" – the "Tears of a Tiger" trilogy and the "Battle of Jericho" series. Wonder what you might make of Brent Hartinger's "Geography Club" series, which began ten years ago but "The Elephant of Surprise" comes out next month. And then there's Ellen Hopkins "Crank" books, which I don't really think of in the same category as the books you've mentioned – or that I mentioned above – as they are so dark.

  3. Anonymous says

    The Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart is perfection. The first two Jessica Darling books are too (and the only ones that can be called YA).

  4. Anonymous says

    Also, it bothers me that one title in the Hundred Oaks series doesn't follow the same format as the rest: (Verb)ing (Name). This is probably my borderline OCD, though, and doesn't bother anyone else. :]

  5. says

    I'm glad someone mentioned the Ruby Oliver books! Love those.

    There are also the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, although those were a lot better when Alice was in the middle-grade years. The YA high school ones turn into a litany of Teen Issues.

  6. says

    There's the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty, which are my favorite books in YA. And though I think they're technically middle grade, The Mother Daughter Book Club series is thoroughly delightful and totally contemporary.

    • says

      I think the Mother Daughter Book Club series is one of those fine-line ones that can go either way. And I agree re: Jessica Darling. I love those books.

    • says

      The Heasley titles technically don't count since they're companions (I'm going for three or more). The Perkins and Kenneally titles do.

      I'm pretty familiar with Keplinger's work, but none of them are series titles.

  7. says

    Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield books are a great set of companion books: The Year of Secret Assignments, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, and The Ghosts of Ashbury High. Barry Lyga's Brookdale books are all set in the same high school: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Boy Toy, Hero-Type, and Goth Girl Rising.

  8. says

    If I Stay/Where She Went by Gayle Forman.
    Pushing the Limits series by Katie McGarry.
    Perfect Chemistry/Rules of Attraction/Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles.
    Leaving Paradise/Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles.
    13 Little Blue Envelopes/The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson.
    The Boys Next Door/Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols.

    Those are some that I can think of right now :)

  9. says

    Ellen Emerson White's President's Daughter series (there's 4 of them & they make my all-time favorites list).

    Elisa Ludwig's Pretty Crooked series (only the 1st one is out right now)

    Hmmm, I feel like I'm forgetting an obvious one. I'll keep thinking

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