4 Book Series for Harry Potter Readers as they Grow Up

To say I’m a die-hard Harry Potter fan would be a slight understatement. For anyone who has really latched on to the series will know they are more than just books. The Harry Potter books are packed full of life changing lessons everyone can benefit from and the characters are ones readers can easily relate too. Whether it’s the insecurities Ron feels, the need to prove oneself like Hermione, or Harry’s inability to catch a break in life — the characters are us. This is, perhaps, why young adults have found such a home between the pages. Books like these are ones that change lives — which makes it hard to move on to different stories when the time comes. So here is a list of books that have gotten me out of a Harry Potter Withdrawal rut. This list isn’t geared to one particular age range, but I don’t think a mature teenager would struggle with most of the books on this list.

1) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson — Mistborn: The Final Empire; Mistborn: The Well of Ascension; Mistborn: The Hero of Ages.

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The Mistborn series is definitely making its mark on the fantasy world. The first book, Mistborn: The Final Empire, was published in 2006, so the series as a whole is still relatively new. This book was suggested to me by a fellow Harry Potter fan and I was very skeptical at first. It just didn’t sound like something for me and I didn’t get that heart racing excitement when I read the introduction. But I gave it a try and that heart racing excitement quickly found me. The whole series is a mix of war, hardship, love, trust, betrayal, bad guys that are good guys, and good guys that aren’t as good as we’d known them to be, and, of course, magic. The way Sanderson introduces magic is very unique. He doesn’t simply throw the word magic into the novel and expect readers to figure it out. He actually dives deep into what this type of magic is. The complexity of his magic keeps growing and growing throughout the series until it is mind boggling awesome. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say I was very tempted to eat whatever metal I found.

Why is this a good series for teens and young adults?

There are several lessons to be learned throughout this series and various types of characters that teens/young adults can relate to. The main character, Vin, has had a very difficult life which has taught her to be withdrawn, shy, and very un-trusting of people in general. Through the series we get to join Vin in her complicated internal journey of learning to trust the people who actually deserve her trust. With her, we learn what it means to be a friend and what it means to let people be our friend (friendship is a two-way road). Vin also has a pretty good struggle with her self-identity that I think many young women can relate to. She is a strong warrior but also still attracted to the “feminine” things, such as dresses. But can someone be both an empire saving warrior and a dress twirling ball attendee? YES! Vin doesn’t just show young woman that we can indeed be both a warrior and feminine (those two words are NOT opposites, by the way), but she brings us through the struggle of accepting this, showing us the way to loving all that we women are capable of.

Final thoughts:

All in all, I think the Mistborn series is a really fun set that brings a new kind of thrill to the fantasy world. The characters are real and a lot of the struggles they face are tangible. There is some violence and gore, but I don’t think these are necessarily inappropriate concepts for younger teens, even preteens, to experience.

2) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin — A Game of Thrones; A Clash of Kings; A Storm of Swords; A Feast for Crows; A Dance with Dragons. Forthcoming: The Winds of Winter; A Dream of Spring.

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Also known as A Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire series is a FANTASTIC set of books. They are actually older than many think, the first one being published in 1996. This series is one that George R.R. Martin has been working on for a long time and it’s not even over yet. So far it consists of five books, all of which are pretty hefty. The depth of these books is awe-inspiring. There have been several times I distinctly remember having to put the book down and just process all that was happening. I also have had many sleepless nights trying to figure out what the heck is going to happen next and how Martin even came up with all of this. The way Martin writes his characters are in a way that makes them very real. He doesn’t just describe their physical being or their mental processes. When I’m reading these books I can feel Martin literally becoming the character I’m currently reading. So how did I get involved in the giant world of GOT? Well in college I had a friend who binge watched the HBO show. I tried watching it with him, but he watched episode after episode at a rate I couldn’t handle. The show actually turned me off from the pop-culture loving story, but I was part of a book club and my fellow readers insisted I try the first book. So I bit the bullet and gave it a try. It wasn’t long until I was wasting away (but was it wasting though!?) entire days just reading GOT.

Why is this a good series for teens and young adults?

There is no good and there is no evil. This was the heart breaking lesson I learned right from the get-go, and it’s a lesson many young adults really need to learn. It sounds obvious, but this is a concept many people struggle with. Someone can be a good person but still do some bad things. Reversely, just because someone does a good deed doesn’t mean they are a genuinely good person. The characters of this series are facing struggles that do not allow them the pleasure of simply being good or bad — they have to use critical thinking and make decisions they don’t want to make. Sound like real life yet? I often times find that I’m angry with myself for judging a character in a previous chapter, just to find out and understanding later on why they did what they did. This book series is good for teaching its readers not to judge a book by its cover, and a person’s tomorrow by deeds done today.

Final Thoughts:

This series is NOTHING like the show. There is sex, rape, murder, war, blood, bad language, and everything else most people consider bad. But, though this series is not a reflection of history, it can still be used as a bit of a history lesson. The middle ages were not a very pleasant time. There was a lot of war, which lead to a lot of pillaging, which lead to a lot of raping. And unfortunately this isn’t far removed from life as we know it today. We still have war, rape, discrimination, and even pillaging. These books show the realities of life nobody wants to admit are there. Life isn’t as simple as good vs. evil, and the past isn’t just done and gone. I would say that any teen who starts these books should really evaluate their level of maturity before beginning, and should maybe work their way up to this reading level.

3) Millennium by Stieg Larsson — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl Who Played with Fire; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

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This is another series that broke into pop-culture and turned into movies. Also known as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Millennium series is a set of three books that were originally written in Swedish. All three books follow the life of a young woman named Lisbeth and show the incredible amount of injustice she faces. Lisbeth is a character I don’t personally relate to, but she is so unique and amazing I really fell in love with her. I almost felt this bond of friendship with Lisbeth and yearned to protect her and others who are facing similar injustices. These books give a big call to action. I first started this series on a whim. I was about to start a mountain race and I realized the night before I had no music nor an audio book to listen to during my 10+ hour mountain trek by myself. So I quickly got on my audible account and looked at the top rated books where I found The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had heard the title before but never what it was about. The beginning was pretty slow, especially for a mountain race, but that quickly changed. I will warn readers that the first book is rough. The story went from political journalism, to sadistic raping, to biblical murdering. Events turned so quickly I actually thought I accidentally downloaded two different books. I’m happy I listened to this book, and that I was in the middle of mountains and had no way of getting a different book, because I probably wouldn’t have continued on with it otherwise. But it seriously is worth reading.

Why is this a good series for teens and young adults?

This series is a real eye opener. The issues Lisbeth, and other characters, face in all three books are serious issues that many people are unfortunately facing today. This series doesn’t have magic or dragons, and it doesn’t take place in a time far removed from today. It is a story about today written today, which makes it so much more powerful and the lessons so much more real. I think I liked it as a Harry Potter fan is because Lisbeth, like Harry, had to face really difficult situations in order to be the hero for others — except Lisbeth is not a wizard. So, in a way, Lisbeth is the muggle version of Harry in a series written for much more mature readers. Larsson is not scared to shine the bright lights on current issues.

Final Thoughts:

These books are not for the faint of heart. They are real and they are difficult to get through, but they are so worth it. Teens shouldn’t read these books — some of the events are simply too horrific. But everyone needs to understand the level of injustices people who are deemed “different” are facing. I would also recommend anyone who is thinking of starting this series to read Larsson’s background for the book. It explains a lot of questions I had while reading. Note — A fourth book was published in 2015, but by a different author. I haven’t read it and therefore haven’t included it in the review of the original three books.

4) Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini — Eragon; Eldest; Brisingr; Inheritance.

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I read this series after the Millennium series and it brought me back to a blissful state of innocence and peace. I actually started the first book, Eragon, when it just started gaining momentum (2003?), but there was something about it I didn’t like. When I started it again as an adult I was more accepting of it, but I realized I didn’t like the authors style of writing. Paolini uses so much detail he leaves little for the reader to make their own. He was very young when he first wrote Eragon, and his writing style does find a smoother tone as the books go on, but the story is fantastic and the main characters are relatable. After reading books like A Game of Thrones, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Inheritance Cycle seems very, very, mild. But sometimes a simple book with simple struggles is just what a person needs. The biggest complaint I’ve seen for these books is how it resembles The Lord of the Rings books. This I can see, and understand, but I really encourage readers to take these books for what they are and just enjoy the magic they hold. Paolini has a way of really grabbing readers and dragging them into the pages.

Why is this a good series for teens and young adults?

The Inheritance Cycle has exciting concepts like magic, and dragons, and swords that are sure to appeal to many teens. They have hardships many teens struggle with and stress over, like leaving home for the first time, doing things on their own for the first time, and figuring out how to fend for themselves in a mature way. These books, and the lessons the main character learns, are very relatable for young teens.

Final Thoughts:

My thoughts on this series aren’t very deep, they are just simply good. There are good life reminders throughout these books, and the story is enjoyable. It’s a good series to have on hand when you feel like you need a break from those really intense books.

Reading is a wonderful way to journey through worlds and times. We can be anyone we want to be in a book, and experience impossible experiences each turn of a page. Harry Potter was what made me fall in love with reading, and I encourage anyone who doesn’t deem themselves a “reader” to go find that book — the one that will turn them into a “reader”. But more importantly, I encourage you to read those books that are tough. I encourage you to read the books that will make you cry, laugh, scream, get angry, sad, happy, and hopeful. Those are the books that will change lives and change times.