In the dark ages, before today’s (over)abundance of streaming services, I got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer through the books that were available at my local Barnes & Noble. It was a more innocent time, a time in which I was beholden to whatever they happened to have in stock. I would check over and over again for the most intriguing titles from the list in the front of each book. Only after I’d acquired a significant library of Buffy novels did I start saving my money to buy the DVD sets so that I could start with the first season. Buffy was like my cool older sister. I even tried and failed to copy some of her best looks, which were by then a few years out of date. Unlike most things I was passionate about in middle school, I am still unashamedly a fan (noted abuser Joss Whedon aside).
One thing Buffy was not, however, is diverse. The show has rightly been critiqued for its treatment of what few characters of color appeared in the course of its seven season run. The population of Sunnydale simply did not look like the California town it was meant to be. It is fair to say that most of the people of color who appeared on the show were either villains (Mr. Trick), short-lived (Kendra, who was additionally made to speak with a bad Jamaican accent), or both. There’s also the very problematic figure of Sineya, the First Slayer, who was sometimes called “The Primitive.” The writing team for the original show, and for the early 2000s novels, was very white. The more recent additions to the Buffy canon include more diverse voices, which is a welcome and necessary change for both old-timers and for new fans just discovering the show. So many people were and are responsible for making Buffy what it was, the writers of these books included, so I feel all right about returning to this story over and over again.
Buffy and her friends taught me that there were all different kinds of strength and not all of them were a lone blonde woman with a stake or crossbow. There was strength in showing up when you were afraid and least wanted to. There was strength in telling people things that they didn’t necessarily want to hear (for example, maybe they shouldn’t be visiting the sketchy magic dealer). There was strength in walking away when staying was inhibiting someone else’s growth.
So, I guess there’s only one question for all of you Potential Slayers still out there: are you ready to be strong?
Books For Younger Readers
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A Picture Book Illustrated by Kim Smith
Buffy Summers is a little girl in this story, and she is convinced that there are monsters in her closet. Because she’s the Slayer, there are indeed monsters in her closet, but they just want to party! I loved seeing the cartoon versions of so many of the most well-known Buffy nemeses — including a little Judge and a few little Gentlemen. It had a great message about different ways we can be strong.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: New School Nightmare by Carolyn Nowak
Buffy Summers is a middle schooler at a new school. She’s also the Slayer. With her new friends, Sarafina and Alvaro, and her Watcher, she’s set to face a hoard of vampires invading her town. Can Buffy save her new town when she can barely keep on top of her own homework assignments?
Slayer by Kiersten White
This book reignited my love for the series when it came out in 2019. White, uh, slays the tone of the show and provides updates on some of our favorite characters, especially for those of us who didn’t read all of the comics. Artemis and Athena (Nina) are twins and the daughters of Buffy’s original Watcher, Merrick. Nina hates Buffy for her role in the twins’ father’s death, which brought them to the Watcher’s Academy. Nina tries to fly under the radar until the day it’s revealed that she is not only a Potential Slayer, she is the last Potential Slayer, because magic itself is broken. The sequel, Chosen, is also available.
In Every Generation by Kendare Blake (January 4, 2022)
Willow’s daughter Frankie Rosenberg is a witch as well as a Potential Slayer. She’s also, following an attack at the annual Slayer convention, possibly the last Slayer. As the first-ever Slayer-Witch, Frankie must learn to control a whole bunch of new powers while also finding out what happened to her Aunt Buffy and preventing the Hellmouth from opening again.
Buffy Season 8 by Joss Whedon and Brian K. Vaughn, and Georges Jeanty, Cliff Richards, and Jo Chen
Following the series finale and destruction of the Hellmouth, the Slayers begin to get organized. This series is officially canon and runs for several more “seasons.” If I told you some of the things that happened, you wouldn’t believe me. You really have to read these for yourself.
Willow by Mariko Tamaki, Jen Bartel, and Natacha Bustos
After the destruction of the Hellmouth, Willow departs for a new world that promises to ensure that she meets her own potential. This new world also promises that it knows what that potential is and that she will achieve it by any means necessary. Suddenly, the Hellmouth doesn’t sound that bad. This is a standalone four-issue series.
Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer by Casey Gilly and Joe Jaro (July 12, 2022)
You know who would really thrive under climate change? Vampires. In a world where vampires can daywalk unimpeded under a polluted sky, a 50-year-old Buffy Summers stumbles across a little girl who believes she is the last Slayer. Humans are largely treated like cattle by these new, empowered vampires, but a rebellion is brewing. A new Scooby gang is formed, led by a secret leader. Can they bring back the sun using both science and magic?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Jordie Bellaire, Matt Taylor, and Dan Mora
This reboot of the series brings Buffy into 2018. This series features the characters we’ve all grown to know and love with a few modern touches (they have iPhones now!) Buffy is again the teenage Slayer who is trying to escape her destiny. No matter the era, one thing will always remain the same: high school is hell.
There were a large number of Buffy novels published in the late 1990s and early 2000s and many of them are now available as Kindle books. This is by no means a complete list — just a few of my very favorites.
The Gatekeeper Trilogy by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder
The Gatehouse keeps interdimensional demons out of our world, but the Gatekeeper is dying. Buffy and the gang must find the leader of a group called the Sons of Entropy who are determined to open all of the portals and allow the demons to run rampant, with them as their kings. They also must use the Ghost Roads, which are only accessible to those touched by the supernatural, to locate the Gatekeeper’s son to take his place. The first book is Out of the Madhouse.
Sins of the Father by Christopher Golden
On a regular evening patrol, Buffy and her friends come across Buffy’s Los Angeles ally, Pike. He has arrived in Sunnydale on the run from a stone demon with a grudge. The sudden appearance of a face from her past complicates Buffy’s growing relationship with Angel. Meanwhile, vampire activity is on the rise and, for some reason, seems to be concentrated on Giles. Buffy senses a connection between old friend and whatever is watching her Watcher.
The Evil That Men Do by Nancy Holder
Buffy is investigating a straight-A student who is, seemingly randomly, the perpetrator of a school shooting. In response to the shooting, there is some unrest among the regular citizens of Sunnydale, who begin to turn on each other. Meanwhile, Buffy is also being hunted by Helen, a vampire from Roman times who has tortured and killed every Slayer she has come across in 1500 years.
The wonderful thing about novel and comic book continuations of beloved television shows is that the story doesn’t have to end if you don’t want it to. The more recent adaptations also will usher in a generation of new fans (there’s a version of Buffy now that’s the same age as I was when I was first watching the show!) As for me, I will read anything about the last Slayer, the last Potential Slayer, and the last last Potential Slayer Who is Also a Witch — I am here for all of it. I hope you’ll be there too.
And if you can’t get enough Buffy, try these books for people who love Buffy the Vampire Slayer!