“Faeries had terrified her as long as she could remember, but none so much as Keenan. He was the king of the awful things that she’d fled from her whole life.”
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr puts the faeries of folklore in a modern urban setting without overly modernizing their nature – they are amoral, perilous, and nearly irresistible.
Aislinn is a normal teenager but for one thing: she has always been able to see faeries. It runs in her family, and her grandmother (now that her parents are gone) warns her constantly that she must not let them know or draw their attention. She does this well until the Summer King, Keenan, spots her and is instantly attracted. He is seeking his rightful queen among mortals, and so far all the girls he has chosen have not been strong enough. He begins to stalk her, to woo her, but she is scared and fends off his advances. She goes for help to her closest companion, Seth, who soon becomes more than a friend. She is also helped, illicitly, by the last girl who tried to be Keenan’s queen.
It may appear that Keenan is her adversary, but in fact there is a much greater threat, the Winter Queen named Beira. If Aislinn becomes queen, Beira will lose some of her strength, so she is determined to squash that possibility. The many dangerous faeries of the darker courts are also interested in her. Aislinn loses her safety when – trying to learn more about the faeries and what’s going on – she dances and drinks with them one night, forgets herself, and lets it slip that she can see them. It eventually becomes clear that she will not be able to run forever. And that she may indeed be exactly the mortal they’ve been waiting for.
Aislinn first confronts Keenan, and once her demands are met, they face Beira together and defeat her. Aislinn becomes more than she ever thought possible, but it is more of a burden than a glory.
(Marr continues the stories of these characters through several more novels. The next book in the series, Ink Exchange, deserves an honorable mention here as the protagonist, Aislinn’s friend Leslie, also follows a broadly Girls-Underground trajectory.)