The season of the witch is almost upon us, but some of us have been witches all along. When I was a teen, I wanted nothing more than to find the magical gateways into other worlds. That, and to make a feather levitate or a candle wick catch on fire with the power of my thoughts. There’s something so alluring about women and magic. When I set out to write the Brooklyn Brujas series, I wanted to give these magical stories to kids everywhere, but especially to the girl I was. What does magic look like when it’s summoned by a Latina from New York? I wrote the answers myself.
While there are decidedly few YA novels about witchcraft outside European traditions, there is now an anthology that highlights magical girls from different backgrounds. Contributing to Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft, out this week, was a dream come true. Featuring a starred lineup of talented authors, its fifteen stories center on girls who wield power for the first time, get revenge, cure heart-sickness, and so much more. They span centuries, genders, cultural backgrounds, and, best of all, tackle the patriarchy.
Sometimes witchcraft means more than a woman and the dark arts. It’s a cultural and societal way of marking a person as other, outcast, strange. Toil and Trouble isn’t the only book to reclaim and celebrate this otherness. Magical or contemporary, here are more recent witchy novels to keep you company through Halloween.
Undead Girl Gang, by Lily Anderson
Everyone needs this teen witch novel in their lives. Mila Flores is a Wiccan with the honest-to-goddess power of resurrection. She only happens to discover this after an alleged suicide pact involving her best friend and two popular girls Mila’s certain she never would’ve spoken to causes her to dust off her lip gloss and an ancient grimoire. When the trio rise from the dead, they have a case of memory loss and can’t point fingers at their actual killer. Mila has seven days to get some answers before her undead girl gang returns to the grave, and the killer on the loose strikes again.
Wicked Like Wildfire, by Lana Popović
The women in Iris and Malina’s family have the magical ability to manipulate beauty, something they call their “gleam.” But the sisters are under strict orders to keep their beautiful gifts a secret, even though they live in a secluded seaside town—and they’re also forbidden from falling in love.
A mysterious attack on their mother sets the girls on a path to discovering family secrets that could bring them closer together or break them apart. Perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Melissa de la Cruz, and concluding this month with Fierce Like a Fire Storm, so readers don’t have to wait for Iris and Malina’s grand finale.
The Wicked Deep, by Shea Ernshaw
For more eerie seaside towns, sink your teeth into The Wicked Deep. This instant bestseller follows Penny Talbot, a girl who sees what others in the town of Sparrow don’t. Everyone knows that each summer, a darkness descends on the town, claiming the bodies of three weak-hearted girls to lure boys into the harbor. But this time around, Penny is caught right in the middle of a centuries-old stew of magic, lies, and death.
Triple Moon (Summer on East End #1), by Melissa de la Cruz
For fans of the TV series Witches of East End comes a YA series set in the same universe. Melissa de la Cruz packs this witchy novel with secrets, romance, and family drama. After making some bad decisions at their old high school, twin witches Mardi and Molly Overbrook are sent to Long Island’s mist-shrouded East End. Being sentenced to live with their “aunt” Ingrid Beauchamp could be worse, especially since the younger Gardiner boys roll into town just after them. It’s a summer of learning not just how to control their magic but how to love.
The Hollow Girl, by Hillary Monahan
For those with a taste for the darker side of magic, there’s The Hollow Girl. After healer apprentice Bethan and her friend Martyn are brutally assaulted by five boys, she doesn’t immediately seek revenge: the leader of the pack is Silas, the son of her clan’s chieftain. Bethan gives the boys the option of admitting their crime, which left Martyn so close to death only a powerful spell could bring him back. The ingredients might be tricky to procure—an ear, hair, an eye, nose, and fingers. But when Silas and the other boys don’t want to come forward to confess their crime, Bethan knows just where she can find what she needs for her spell.
The Casquette Girls, by Alys Arden
This magical series set in New Orleans is perfect for fans of Buffy and Angel. Combining ancient legends and real history, Alys Arden brings the French Quarter and the mysterious Casquette Girls to life. Adele Le Moyne returns home to NOLA after a storm ravages the city, but things have changed. There’s a parish-wide curfew and mysterious new faces all around. A series of events leads her to uncover family secrets locked away, literally, for three hundred years, and her uncanny powers and the monsters bumping around the Quarter turn her world upside down. You’ll need the sequel, The Romeo Catchers, right away.
Summer of Salt, by Katrina Leno
A lyrical novel about a young witch waiting for her magic to appear. Georgina Fernweh’s eighteenth birthday is looming, but her power has yet to show itself. Every woman in her family has a gift and knack for potions, which reveals itself before they come of age. But this summer on her small island is stranger even than usual—full of storms and unexpected love. There’s a darkness, too, that Georgina is forced to learn the truth about if she is to uncover who she truly is.
Sea Witch, by Sarah Henning
For some under-the-sea witchery, pick up this debut novel by Sarah Henning. The Little Mermaid meets Dorothy Must Die in an imagining of the sea witch herself’s origin tale. Anna and Evie have caught the eyes of two charming princes, but they can’t both get their happily ever after. Anna has a secret, and can’t stay on two legs without the help of Evie’s magic—and magic, as we all know, comes with a price. In this instance, it isn’t one Evie bargained for.
When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore
Anna-Marie McLemore is the current queen of YA magical realism, writing lush, vibrant, and thoughtful books that often feature young girls with fantastical abilities. Miel is one of them. With roses that grow out of her wrists, she is considered an oddity. Sam, her best friendand an artist who places moons in the trees for Miel to find, is just as much of an outcast. As strange as Miel and Sam are, they know to stay away from the witchy Bonner sisters who live in town. The four sisters are convinced that the petals growing out of Miel’s skin have power, and will do anything to take it from her. This recipient of the Stonewall Honor was also longlisted for the National Book Award. A must-have to complete any magical collection.
Spellbook for the Lost and Found, by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Set against a gray Irish backdrop, this is a novel about secrets and lost teens. Olive and her best friend, Rose, have been losing things all summer, and some of them are more than trinkets. When a mysterious diary appears to Olive, she meets three strangers soon thereafter. Ivy, Hazel, and Rowan are squatting in an abandoned estate, and the trio have been losing things, too. The spellbook, however, changes everything for them. Each charm can bring back the things they’ve lost—even the things that were never meant to be found. Perfect for readers searching for a moody and haunting setting.