Combine clones, top-secret organizations, government coverups, more clones, weird cults, mad science, family relationships, and even more clones, and you get the brilliance that is BBC America’s Orphan Black. The show opens on Sarah Manning, just returned home after running away from motherhood, drugs, and other troubles. When she witnesses a woman who looks exactly like her committing suicide, she’s thrust into a world of danger—and the world of the Clone Club, an ever-expanding group of distinct women who share Sarah’s face (and DNA).
In her role(s) as the clones, Tatiana Maslany is virtuosic, giving each a distinct body language and personality, and anyone who loves the show has a favorite or two. Here are 10 YA recommendations based on your favorite clone (though you should definitely read them all). Much like the show, each book should come with a warning: high likelihood of extreme emotional involvement, and a powerful desire for more.
If Sarah Manning is your fave, try The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and The Mystery of Hollow Places, by Rebecca Podos
Spunky, rebellious, and protective Sarah is at the heart of the Orphan Black mystery. She’s fighting to survive her strange new world and to keep her daughter safe. Cassie of The Naturals is similarly trying to navigate a dangerous situation. Her talent for profiling people leads to recruitment by a top-secret government project that works with gifted teens to solve cold cases. When Cassie and her new sort-of friends sneakily try looking into an active case, she suddenly becomes the target of a dangerous criminal. On a more personal note, Imogene Scott, heroine of Podos’s The Mystery of Hollow Places, exhibits a loneliness and sadness similar to Sarah’s. After Imogene’s father mysteriously abandons her (as her mother did when Imogene was a child), she must use all her strength and wits to track him down—and to reopen the question of where her mother went all those years ago.
If you want a sestra like Helena, check out The Unquiet, by Mikaela Everett and Ruined, by Amy Tinteras
Ruthless, unpredictable Helena provides some of the show’s most interesting dynamics. Raised by a horrific church and psychologically abused by a father figure, Helena’s perspective is that of a perpetual outsider looking in. In The Unquiet, there are two Earths, and Lirael spends her childhood watching the other version of herself on Earth One, waiting for the day she will kill her match and take over her life. Lirael has nothing personal against the other version of her, but the training facility she was raised in has prepared her for the takeover her entire life. Once Lirael is in the new world, however, she finds hate and following orders may not be all there is to live for, as Helena learns in Orphan Black. Ruined, a deeply romantic fantasy, uses a similar outsider narrative, but with a much more personal motive for vengeance. Protagonist Emelina is as desperate for justice as she is to save her sister. Like Helena, her relationship with her sister is far from picture perfect, but loyalty wins out.
If science geek Cosima is your jam, check out The Accident Season, by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, and The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie
Cosima loves hard science, but there’s a spiritual and creative side to her that meshes perfectly with her vocation. The Accident Season offers a Cosima-like blend of magical inclination and realism, centering on Cara, whose family faces an intense series of accidents every October. Add in a group of teenagers having a little reckless fun with each other and the world around them? Cosima would totally approve. If part of why you love Cosima is for her excellent romantic subplots, The Abyss Surrounds Us, a sci-fi pirate adventure, is for you. Swoony flirting, genetically engineered creations…sound familiar?
If you just want to do some PTA crafting with Alison, pick up Hit, by Delilah Dawson, and Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston
Alison’s prim and proper appearance doesn’t hold her back from figuring out the best way to wrap up a dead body when the occasion calls for it. Similarly, Patsy in Hit (and sequel, Strike) isn’t a huge fan of violence, but she does what she must to protect her family when a bank comes to collect their debt and offers a deadly deal in exchange for their lives. Those who admire Alison’s loyalty and fierce desire to protect will love Patsy for the same reasons. If Alison’s social side is your preference, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the perfect pick. Hermione is a cheerleader with kickass friends, and she needs them more than ever after she’s drugged and raped. Hermione’s strength is similar to Alison’s, and both stories value female relationships.
If Rachel somehow doesn’t terrify you, try And I Darken, by Kiersten White and Wink Poppy Midnight, by April Genevieve Tucholke
Aside from Helena, Rachel is the most antagonistic of the clones. However, as skewed as her motives and ethics may be, she is still human. She remembers her parents with so much love, and she’s not without affection for others. If you’re a fan of that kind of moral complexity, try And I Darken and Wink Poppy Midnight. White’s book features Lada, a princess taken from her cold home and raised to be ruthless in a distant royal court, who will do whatever it takes to survive and thrive, just like Rachel. Tucholke’s latest has the three elements all stories need: a hero, a villain, and a secret, preferably kept by a cunning liar. You won’t know who’s the good guy and who’s the villain until the very end.