After the frankly unbelievable plot of the past 12 months in real life, it’s hard not to wonder if we’re going to have to rethink the definition of fantasy fiction. When reality has had you suspending your disbelief for an extended amount of time, you have to choose your fantasy fiction carefully to get the same level of escapism, enjoyment and excitement that you might have done before – but there are books out there that fit the bill perfectly.

Buk, Robin Bennett

Perfectly blending adventure and fantasy with reality and humour, Buk is a fresh novel offering a shot of escapism wrapped inside an intriguing fairytale.

Inspired by Alice in Wonderland (which you can read more about in a couple of weeks), Buk tells the tale of 13-year-old Nancy. While she struggles with her complicated family at the start of a long, hot summer, things take an unexpected turn when she meets Buk, an ethereal boy who shows her worlds that should only appear in fairytales.

This is the perfect YA choice for 2021 teens, providing a perfect mix of adventure and nostalgia – and importantly, it’s only little at 150 pages. For oversaturated young adults overwhelmed with the pressures of the past year, this compact mystery adventure is just the right amount of reading.

Alien Rain, Ruth Morgan

Ruth Morgan’s fresh take on the alien civilisation/invasion story will have you gripped from the first page to the last. Raised in a Martian city, Bree is honoured to be chosen for a mission to earth; but when she arrives, Bree uncovers mystery after mystery and is forced to question every allegiance she’s ever known.

Well-placed in our times with its themes of depleting natural resources and the destruction caused by ever more advanced and terrifying weapons, Alien Rain feels scarily close to home; not just a great book, but a warning too.  This space-travelling, dystopian, post-apocalyptic thriller will grip any teen and completely absorbs you the whole way through.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

Not a groundbreaking recommendation, but this book (and series) remains a top seller for a reason. Otherworldly, intriguing, exciting and with some brilliant worldbuilding, it’s a challenge to put this book down at the end of a chapter. Inspired by author Ransom Riggs’ collection of mysterious vintage photographs, whose inclusion within the tale give it an unsettlingly close feeling, the story follows Jacob Portman. As he uncovers the mystery of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – amongst a growing unease that something is off, and that time itself may be slipping out of place, Jacob realises his life is meant to be far from ordinary.

The Territory, Sarah Govett

The first in a dystopian series, the territory is a book for the 2020s which reads like a cross between The Carbon Diaries and Netflix’s The 3%. Dealing with a flooded Britain post-environmental-catastrophe, only those who pass a test at 15 are allowed to remain on the scarce unflooded land – a system made all the more unfair by the fact that the rich in the population are able to upload information through a device in their necks. All this with a well-realised romantic dilemma thrown in makes for tense and exciting reading. Any fans of Lauren Oliver, Suzanne Collins or Saci Lloyd will love this series.

Whether you need a short escapist fairytale, an absorbing post-apocalyptic thriller or a creepy mystery, there’s something on this list for you.

Buk will be re-released on June 15th 2021 with a stunning new cover design – if you can wait that long to read it.
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