I’m a lifelong devotee of speculative fiction, and I spent my childhood reading broadly across that category—fantasy, science fiction, horror. But my favorite books that I read as I grew up always had one major thing in common, regardless of genre: multiple narrators. There’s something deeply compelling about seeing the way different people look at the same situation, showing over and over again that there is more than one side to every story. In YA spec, many authors make use of this storytelling device as a way to bring a cast of characters who seem completely at odds together. When executed well, this broadens world-building and creates depth and tension in character relationships and plot.
Here are five multi-pov speculative YA novels that do a fantastic job of creating characters who seem completely different at first glance, but have more in common than you might think.
The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
Kunal is a soldier who is eternally loyal to his kingdom. Esha is a rebel and an assassin, working in the shadows to undermine the regime that Kunal has spent his entire life trying to protect. But when they meet under fateful circumstances and end up caught in a game of cat and mouse, outwitting one another while struggling to handle the attraction growing between them, both main characters must grapple with the truth about their respective histories and beliefs.
At the start of this dazzling debut novel, Kunal and Esha’s values and ideologies could not be more different. They’re both utterly convinced they’re right—but they’re both convinced of completely opposing things. Teerdhala does a great job of showing the subtle changes in both characters’ narrations as they change one another.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
There is something evil on the island of Sawkill Rock. Something that’s been taking girls for generations, but nobody’s really done anything about it—until now. Marion, Zoe, and Val, all girls, all furious, all grieving something, have very different reasons to care about these disappearances. And they all have very good reasons to distrust one another. Marion is the new girl in town, unfamiliar with the reality of life on Sawkill Rock. Val is the queen bee, rich and seemingly flawless, guarding a sea of dark secrets beneath her perfect smile. But Zoe sees right through her—she sees right through everyone, in fact, except the one person in her life who’s hiding the most from her.
By giving all three of the girls POVs, Legrand creates a rich tapestry of clashing loyalties and deep, nuanced character work. It’s very easy to understand their distrust and their fear. But Zoe, Val, and Marion won’t be able to solve this problem without working together, regardless of their personal biases, and the cost of that is felt keenly through all of their narration as the story progresses.
Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
New Reynes, the City of Sin, is no place for a lady. But lady-in-training Enne Salta has come here anyway, in search of her missing mother. The only lead she has on her whereabouts is a name: Levi Glaisyer.New Reynes, the City of Sin, is the perfect place for Levi, a street lord with grand plans. But he also has a big problem: an accounting scheme that’s about to go under, taking his reputation and possibly his life with it. Helping Enne Salta (aka, taking her reward money) is his best chance to fix his scheme before everything goes pear-shaped. But when both Enne and Levi are forced into the orbit of a ruthless mafia donna and her own city-changing plans, they start to realize that Levi is far more vulnerable than he first seems—and Enne is far more dangerous.
Foody does a masterful job of showing these characters’ opposing journeys through their alternating POVs, not to mention their steadily building romantic chemistry. Enne and Levi’s reluctant alliance will change their lives forever, and watching this happen through both of their POVs is deeply satisfying.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
1920s New York City brims with possibility, progress, and magic in Bray’s tour de force of a series opener. People developing magical abilities—the titular Diviners—must band together to stop a serial killer that’s captivated the attention of the city. But the killer has his own magic, and that makes him a whole lot harder to catch.
There are a whole bevy of POV characters in this historical-paranormal mashup, but some favorites include Evie, a reckless, brash young flapper whose psychic abilities have only served to get her deeper into trouble; Sam, a young con man, and Theta, a singer with a troubled past and a power that she can’t control. These characters all have varying degrees of control and belief in their abilities, but they have no choice but to use them if they want to keep their city safe.
Before the final book in this quartet, King of Crows, drops in early 2020, there’s still plenty of time to catch up on the first three books. This cast of characters is wide-ranging and well fleshed out across the melting pot that is 1920s New York, but with a speculative twist.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
The city of Weep is aptly named, for it is a place that was ruled by brutal gods for generations until, at last, a rebellion was able to kill them all and liberate the city. But they have a long way to go before healing from their collective trauma, and the solution to it lies in the last place the city ever would have suspected.
Sarai is a child of the gods who survived the massacre. She visits the people of Weep in their dreams, yet cannot visit them in real life lest she be killed just like her mother was. She hates the city for what they have done, but hates her dead parent for her cruelty, too. Yet she has no idea how to find a different and better path for herself. Lazlo is an outsider who has come to Weep to try and help them remove the great citadel of the gods, the last stronghold of their power and a permanent reminder of the city’s troubles.
Both of these POV characters struggle with the lives they’ve been born into. They don’t fit into the roles they feel obligated to play, roles that would have them at odds with one another. And as the two of them connect—in dreams, of course, where else—they both grow to realize that healing, forgiveness, and recovery are only possible if they can be brave enough to change in the ways they’ve always wanted to.
What are some of your favorite multi-POV novels, and why?
Born in New York City but raised in Japan and Hong Kong, Christine Lynn Herman subscribes to the firm philosophy that home is where her books are. She returned to the United States to study at the University of Rochester, where she received the Dean’s Prize in fiction and an Honors English degree. Currently, Christine and her books reside in a Brooklyn apartment, along with her partner, many plants, and their extremely spoiled cat. Her debut YA novel, The Devouring Gray, released from Disney-Hyperion on April 2, 2019, with a sequel to come the following year. She is represented by Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @christineexists or at her website.