Jonathan Stroud wrote the Bartimaeus series, which I liked a great deal, particularly Book Three, Ptolemy's Gate. His new series, Lockwood & Co., is totally different and yet similar because, once again, we are in a very intense and detailed alternative England. Though there isn't a character as amazing as Bartimaeus in these books, they're still very good.
The Lockwood World
In the Bartimaeus universe, a demon world is controlled by human magicians, at least to the extent that they are able to drag various kinds of demons into the human world to do their bidding. These magicians are in positions of power in government.
In the Lockwood universe, a ghost world is totally uncontrolled. The dead turn up not to do the bidding of the living but to torment and even destroy them. Instead of powerful magicians we have children with powers.
Children are able to see the spirits. Depending on their powers/gifts, children may be able to hear spirits, see them, "feel" a presence. Children and teenagers are tasked with protecting adults from the spirit scourge. That is, until the children age out and become adults who need protecting, themselves.
This is a universe in which we have cars, telephones, and doughnuts, but no computers or cellphones.
The Lockwood Characters
Anthony Lockwood, the teenage head of Lockwood & Co., a small, "select" group of ghost fighters, is charismatic, brilliant, and heroic. Note the English cover of The Hollow Boy to your right. Note that Lockwood appears on all the English covers.
He is not, however, the main character in this series. That would be Lucy, one of his agents. She is extremely gifted, spook-wise, and just a little bit sympathetic to the plight of at least some of the dead who are hanging around where they're not wanted. We readers can see that she is a little bit attracted to Lockwood, too.
The third member of this Scooby Gang is particularly interesting because he's the stereotypical tech nerd for the group. Except, remember, I said there is virtually no tech here. Still, he performs the tech nerd function, because he is always running off to archives to do research on their cases.
Oh, wait. There's another character. A Bartimaeus-like character. He's pretty minor, and I'm not sure what's going to happen with him down the line.
The Lockwood Structure
Each book has it's own story-line/adventure with a violent climax that often has an "all-is-lost" moment. At the same time, each book has a modest cliff-hanger, or at least a lead-in to the next volume, making them part of an overall story encompassing all the books. And, like I said, something's going on with that Bartimaeus-like thing that isn't limited to one book.
And What About The Lockwood Darkness?
These are really dark books. Death is a daily threat for everyone, and there doesn't appear to be any hope of a Heaven waiting for those who don't make it to tomorrow. There's no talk of school for children. They go to work young and at horrible, dangerous jobs. If they don't die first, they'll grow up and lose their ability to see and deal with ghosts. What will become of them then?
A lot of YA fantasy is dark. The Bartimaeus books certainly are. So is Skullduggery Pleasant. The Daughter of Smoke & Bones series is pretty grim, particularly for a romance. And, now that I think of it, I believe all those books have a violent climax, too, with some characters at risk or even lost altogether.
Well, conventional wisdom claims that young (and not so young) readers can safely explore disturbing or even frightening subjects in fantasy because none of this stuff can really happen. The dead don't come back. There are no demons controlled by high-ranking politicians. (Yeah. I know. There's a joke there.) Skeletons don't wear fedoras and drive fancy cars.
Not only can readers explore disturbing stuff in fantasy because it doesn't happen, it's okay to enjoy it. If these things could really happen, it would be so wrong.
Another Lockwood & Co book comes out this fall. If you wait for that, you'll have four books to binge on.
That would be fun. Maybe you could do it in October, for Halloween.