As a teenager in the late ‘00s, I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the worst possible time, just a year after the show ended for good. I had spent a week of strep throat related confinement watching the FX channel’s morning offerings of back-to-back Buffy episodes. I soon begged my parents for the newly released DVD box sets and that summer I binged as only the pre-Netflix TV obsessed did, six episodes a time on five DVD disks. I flew through seven seasons and the three of Angel too quickly, and I was insatiable for more Buffy related content before the last episodes. I turned to fanfiction and fandom, then flourishing on dedicated archives and Livejournal. But as I shared the computer with my family and my access to fanfiction was contained to what I could print out at school, I couldn’t scratch the itch with online writing and message boards. I turned to my new favorite genre of books: the tie-in novel.
It was basically published fanfiction, edited and written by someone who was actually paid to tell more stories about Buffy and the Scooby gang. I tore through my library’s Buffy novels and discovered that some of them were as well-written if not better than my favorite Buffy episodes.
As Buffy comes up on its 23rd anniversary, I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite novels and recommend them to any other Buffy fans in need of a little slayer and Scooby gang nostalgia.
Season 4 Buffy isn’t settling into college as well as she would like and she’s finding it harder to juggle slayer duties with her college responsibilities. When mysterious tattooed vamps come to Sunnydale, Buffy is given a chance to see how a very wrong decision affects her future and is thrust into a horrific post-apocalyptic world where she’s been missing for years and her entire world has turned upside down. Buffy must work with what remains of her nearly unrecognizable future Scooby Gang to save the world (again) and get back to her own time.
Written by the two greatest Buffy tie-in novelists, this book read like my favorite fanficiton published in book form. It features some of my favorite tropes; protective and competent scooby gang, time travel, and enough twist and turns that I devoured this beast (it’s four novels in one) in a few school days. This was one of the first instances that a teacher didn’t yell at me for reading under my desk because they were impressed with how big it was.
Set hundreds of years in the future, this graphic novel features a young thief with no family and future who discovers her destiny and connection to the slayer line. More of a spin-off than an actual tie-in, we don’t see any characters from Buffy or Angel. However, the story stands on its own and is as inventive and as endearing. Whedon’s flaws are hard to overlook, but I like to think that this work stands on its own and hopefully can be revisited as a worthy edition in the Buffyverse.
After the open ending season 7 finale, The Queen of the Slayers fills the gaps of what might be next. It felt like a very wonderful send off from a fan of the show who knew exactly what we might want (including a gorgeous scene with Buffy, Spike and Angel that I still think about, even though those ships have sailed for me).
The title pretty much explains the concept. Remember Doyle in early Angel seasons? Well his full-blooded demon father’s vendetta against any mixed-race demons spills out into the real world when he seeks to eradicate half-bloods, including the peaceful island haven off the coast of Los Angeles. Buffy and Angel team up to try to save as many on the island as they can and stop Doyle’s genocidal father.
This Buffy and Angel crossover was so good that a fan could easily overlook the continuity issues within it. Read for the entertaining, if a bit emotional, story and leave any misgivings about where it fits in canon behind.
This anthology gives fans glimpses into the short lives of previous slayers through history and enlightening readers on the mythos surrounding the line of female warriors. Culturally rich and fascinating, this series of books provided necessary background into slayer lore and scholarship that gave an added depth to watching Buffy and enjoying the other tie-in novels.
I might as well dedicate this list to everything Nancy Holder wrote for the Buffyverse. She has just such a rich understanding of the Buffy canon and always managed to combine it with the tropes that fans loved. Her books read like the best of fanfiction. She always managed to follow a continuity that made for easy reading. One of her original character and Buffy’s predecessor, India Cohen quickly became a brief but well-written favorite. I loved her story and I fell hard for her star-crossed romance between her and her watcher, Kit. This book also featured slayers being badass together against a threat that felt real and daunting.
In this tie-in set in season three, a frail older man presides over a mansion holding gateways to different worlds. Near death, his grip on the gatehouse is slipping, causing the walls between worlds to thin and demons hordes to flood Sunnydale. This is one of my favorite books in the Buffyverse because it really felt like an extension of my favorite season—season 3 and featured all of the Scooby Gang and an intense world-building that felt like it could have existed inside of canon. Nancy Holder and Christopher Golden should have just been hired to write for the show, to be honest.
Set after season 7 of Buffy and season 5 of Angel, these graphic novels take readers to places that the show never did. The creative team behind the graphic novels was also the same behind some of the best that the show had to offer, such as Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard, A mix of fascinating, weird, and hilarious, I recommend these books after binging Buffy in its entirety, which is definitely doable and not at all too much Buffy for any one person.
A reboot of Buffy in comic book form, my love of all things Buffy revived instantly when I saw the gorgeous cover. I highly recommend this to new and well-established Buffy fans. Pair with a rewatch of season 1 and you’re all set to jump back into the Slayerverse.
Have you ever wondered what Buffy might have looked like if she started slaying in middle school and on a totally different Hellmouth? If you’re answer was no but now you can’t help be a bit curious: Carolyn Nowak’s middle-grade Buffy tie-in is super fun and features a fierce, adorable alternate reality Buffy, where she ended up in Ohio, instead of Sunnydale and had a different watcher and Scooby Gang to support her. If you have any younger teens and tweens that you’re hoping to share Buffy with, I think this is a great place to start!