I love steampunk -- when it's done right. And what do I mean by that? Well, I mean that it's actually set in the age of steam. I'm good if there's a bit of paranormal involved. Or clockwork. But if it's all magic, then it's not steampunk, as far as I'm concerned. Plus, the book should not be set before 1800 nor after 1900 (although Scott Westerfeld's steampunk WWI series is so good, I'll make an exception for it.).
So, if you like steampunk, I have some suggestions for you, both for things you should read and things you shouldn't bother to pick up.
Steampunk for Adults:
1. All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen.
This is my favorite steampunk book ever. It is NOT a series (for a change!). It mixes 12th Night with Victoriana and steam in a wonderful way. It has no direct sex, but many mentions of it are made. I think it would be suitable for mature teens, but I wouldn't put it in my classroom for fear of repercussions.
2. The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.
This is too spicy for school, but it's pretty tame for adults. (This is no 50 shades of steam.) This series has paranormal in it, too -- and it's hilarious.
3. Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson.
Alice gets an action/adventure, guy-friendly makeover with this tale. And it's a bit violent, but most teens should be fine with it.
4. The Hounds of Autumn by Heather Blackwood
This is rather a steampunk, female Hound of the Baskervilles. I liked it very much. It has one or two adult references.
5. Prudence by Gail Carriger (sequel to come)
This is set some 20 years after the Parasol Protectorate. It would be suitable for most teens, but there are hints that book 2 (Imprudence) may be spicier.
6. Doktor Glass by Thomas Brennan
Not bad. Adult characters, violence, and plot
Steampunk for YA:
1. The Etiquette and Espionage series by Gail Carriger
These are prequels to The Parasol Protectorate -- and they're hilarious
2. The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
WWI steampunk with 2 protagonists. Masterful and a good way to get boys to accept a book with a female protagonist. Again, there is that hint of 12th Night.
3. Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
Mostly action/adventure. Mildly steampunk. Good book
4. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
Steampunk Charlie's Angels. Pretty good, although it tries a little too hard to be multi-cultural and feels stilted
5. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Not bad. Desert island survival stuff
6. This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel (has sequels)
This is sort of steampunk and sort of alchemy. It's really set too early to be steampunk, as it reimagines what Viktor Frankenstein's early life might have been like.
7. The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer
The steampunk is great; the plot and character development are filled with holes and inconsistencies.
8. The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Sort of steampunk, mostly not.
9. The Fever Crumb series by Philip Reeve
Steampunk, but dark and depressing
10. The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
Heavy on the magic, mild on the steampunk. Plot predictable.
11. A Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina
Meh. She tried for Oliver Twist in reverse. The steampunk is pretty good, but the plot feels contrived.
Don't bother with these:
1. The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
This was so poorly-written I could barely get through it. Garbage.
2. The Iryn Worm Affair by Lillith Saintcrow
Awkward plot. Too much magic.
3. The Golden Compass series by Phillip Pullman
The first one wasn't bad, but then he tried to write a kids' version of CS Lewis' creepy outer-space mythology, only in reverse. The three books build up to what should be a totally apocalyptic battle between God and the forces of evil -- and then it just peters out into nothing. It is the LAMEST battle ever. Seriously, the crap that Stephenie Meyer wrote into Breaking Dawn (yeah, I trudged through that slime) is more gripping.
Also, I cannot really tell why people say this series is steampunk.
4. Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
I tried for a week to get into the first one of these -- and I could not. I could not figure out what was going on, and I could not care two bits about the characters.
I have no clue why these books are selling so well.