Sunnydale Project: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Read-Alikes
I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer during my sophomore year of college, a year or so before the show went off the air. The war in Iraq had just started, my family was in the throes of pre-divorce drama, and my long-term boyfriend - now my husband - was living in another city half a state away. It felt like the whole world was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.
Then along came Buffy. Buffy wasn’t perfect. She cracked jokes when she was supposed to be training to hunt vampires, and sometimes her secret identity got her into trouble with her parents and teachers, not to mention cultists and bloodsucking immortal demons. But Buffy had a purpose. She fought pointy-toothed evil and won, though sometimes at a cost. She had an amazing group of friends, and they fought evil, too, even though most of them didn’t have superpowers. The show could turn on a dime between genuinely creepy (the Gentlemen), hilarious (kitten Poker), and tragic (Buffy’s mom’s death). Sometimes it was all of those things at once. Yet my belief in the universe Joss Whedon created never wavered. Real life is like that too, sometimes. It’s a drama and a comedy tumbled together.
So, if you’re like me, you’re always on the prowl for something that reminds you of Buffy in some way. Maybe it’s the whip-smart dialogue, the bone-deep shudders, the doomed romance, the heartening sight of friends banding together to fight evil, or the sorrow that comes with death and regret. Maybe – if you’re lucky- it’s all of those things.
Today, you’re in luck. I present to you 13 titles that capture some part of the Buffy spirit. The show might be over, but we will read on.
1) Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish MacBride
Eighteen year-old Sam is working at a fast-food restaurant in Seattle when he discovers his long-hidden true identity – he is a necromancer. Not only that, he and his new friends might be the only people who can stop an evil necromancer on the loose in the city, a necromancer who wants to recruit Sam and use him for his own nefarious ends. With plenty of paranormal activity, Whedon-esque dialogue, and a reluctant hero leading a ragtag group of friends in the fight against evil, this novel is a perfect match for Buffy fans.
2) Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White
From the moment readers meet pink-loving Evie, you know she and Buffy would get on like a house on fire, whether they were naming their favorite weapons, trying on dresses, or kicking evil’s butt. Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and she is not impressed by vampire posturing. She does, however, long for a normal life and maybe even a nice guy to go with her to prom. Too bad her destiny always gets in the way. Rejoice, readers: this is also the first book in a series.
3) Hex Hall, by Rachel Hawkins
After an unfortunate incident at prom reveals Sophie’s identity as a witch to the non-magical world, her single mother has no choice but to pack her off to Hex Hall, a reform school for troubled witches, wizards, and other creatures. There, Sophie makes enemies (a trio of Mean Girls worthy of Cordelia) friends (vampire roommate and fellow outcast Jenna), and tries to stop a series of attacks on her fellow students. But could Jenna be the attacker, or is something more sinister going on? Why are Sophie’s powers so different from her classmates’? And why do the hottest warlocks always have to be jerks? Sophie’s snarky voice is the perfect counterpoint to the creepy goings-on, and fans will be glad to know this book is the first in a series.
4) White Cat, by Holly Black
Rather than alcohol being banned during Prohibition, in Black’s world, it’s magic that’s against the law. Skip forward to the present day. Cassel is the only non-magical member of his family of curse-working con artists and underworld henchmen. He also might be a murderer. At least, he remembers killing his best friend Lila all those years ago. But when he starts sleepwalking and dreaming about a white cat – a cat that somehow reminds him of Lila – he starts to wonder if things are really what they seem. This first entry in the Curseworkers series shares its tone with some of the more serious Buffy episodes, though there are plenty of creepy-funny moments sprinkled in. Lovers of Buffy’s darker shades and Anya fans will fly through this series.
5) Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce
Sisters Scarlet and Rosie March are werewolf hunters. But these are no Zen Oz-werewolves; these are bloodthirsty monsters that stalk young women throughout the city of Atlanta. The sisters struggle with guilt, obligation, their own dark pasts, and, of course, axes as the werewolves run rampant. The final fiery showdown is worthy of one of Buffy’s fights with the Big Bad, and so is the combination of sibling rivalry and affection.
6) Devilish, by Maureen Johnson
Buffy aficionados know better than anyone that demons can bring some high comedy. That is definitely the case in the story of outsider Jane and her best friend Allison, who attend a Catholic girls’ school. When Allison suddenly becomes popular overnight and starts ignoring Jane in favor of the (definitely demonic) Lanalee, Jane knows that she has to save her friend and her friend’s soul. What she doesn’t yet know is how high the stakes are and what the deadly Poodle Prom has in store. Devilish has Maureen Johnson’s characteristic quirk and wit, this time with supernatural elements. Those who enjoy it should look into her new Shades of London series, as well.
7) Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund
Buffy always turned our assumptions about good and evil on their heads, and Peterfreund does the same here with unicorns. There is some truth to the old legends – only virgins can capture the creatures – but these unicorns are no harbingers of sweetness and innocence. They are venomous beasts who have no problem chowing down on humans with their razor-sharp teeth. When one of them attacks Astrid’s boyfriend, she finds herself shipped off to Italy to become part of a secret society that trains girls to become unicorn hunters. Is this sounding awesome yet? What are you waiting for? Go find a copy. Run like killer unicorns are chasing you!
8) House of Ivy & Sorrow, by Natalie Whipple
This one’s for the Scoobies. For young witch Josephine Hemlock, magic is about family and sacrifice. Haunted by a curse that killed her mother, Jo struggles to keep both her friends and family safe from the evil that has descended on her quaint, sleepy town. But can she protect everyone and stay alive? Can she afford to accept her friends’ help, even if it puts them in danger? If you enjoy this stand-alone, you’ll want to check out Whipple’s other fun, well-crafted novels.
9) Vampire Knight, by Matsuri Hino
Novels aren’t the only medium carrying on the Buffy spirit. This manga series follows Yuki Cross, adopted daughter of the headmaster at Cross Academy, where she also works as a guardian. Why does her boarding school need pistol-toting guardians? Because it is populated by both a “Day Class” of humans and a “Night Class” of vampires. Yuki was almost killed by a vampire when she was a child, so she knows better than anyone that when the two classes cross paths, there’s bound to be trouble. The only question is, can she and the other school guardians stop it?
10) Prophecy of the Sisters, by Michelle Zink
This first book in a series by the same name takes sibling rivalry to the next level with the tale of twins Lia and Alice, one good and one completely, irrevocably evil. After the death of their father, the girls discover their part in a prophecy that could bring about the end of the world. One sister has the power to unleash evil upon the world, and another has the power to seal the entrance to the underworld for good – but who is who?
11) The Archived, by Victoria Schwab
In Schwab’s world, the dead and their memories become Histories, stored in the Archive and watched over by Keepers and Librarians. Mackenzie Bishop has always wanted to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and become a Keeper, guiding confused and violent Histories back to their resting place. Since the death of her younger brother, though, things have become more complicated, especially when Mac discovers someone has been erasing the memories from Histories and her new home might be the sight of a long-ago murder. The gorgeous prose and singularly unsettling setting should please lovers of all things creepy.
12) Chime, by Franny Billingsley
Briony is haunted by secrets and guilt. She’s a witch, and, after all, witches deserve death in her turn-of-the-century English town of Swampsea. But with the help of Elderic, one of the few locals who doesn’t shun the swamp, and the love her sister Rose, Briony begins to unravel the mystery of her family’s past and her stepmother’s death, something she has always thought was her fault. Rich, quirky writing and a beautifully dark atmosphere set this stand-alone novel apart.
13) Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
If you were a fan of the way Buffy explored the sometime-blurry line between good and evil, you’ll love this first book in Laini Taylor’s dark fantasy trilogy. Karou has grown up in Prague, spending her days as an art student, but going home to an avuncular, tooth-collecting Chimera named Brimstone each evening. Karou doesn’t know why Brimstone needs human teeth or how she ended up with hamsas tattooed on her palms, but when she starts finding handprints seared into doors all over the city and is nearly killed by a beautiful, deadly angel named Akiva, the mysteries of her everyday life begin to connect with her long-forgotten past.