Ever felt like branching out, but you didn’t know where to start? Like, you’re really into Contemporary, but you want to try some speculative YA as well – should you start with the classics, or pick up one of the more futuristic dystopias that cropped up after Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games made a splash?
While I am far from being the expert on YA Sci-Fi, it’s always nice to have a place to start. So today, I’m going to give you a quick run-down of the speculative/futuristic/dystopian YA’s I think everyone should check out.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This one’s an especially good start, because it’s so many things at once – a futuristic take on the age-old Cinderella fairy tale, with the stakes upped exponentially. With fresh characters and a plot that manages to throw quite a few curveballs at you, while sticking to the original’s formula, this is definitely a book worth reading.
Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson
For the most part, this book is more of a psychological thriller – the sci-fi aspect doesn’t come in until about the last third. Don’t be deterred, though, as this is a well-crafted story that had me furiously turning the page (or, rather, clicking on my computer, since it was an ARC) to know what would happen next. While the sequel comes out in January, the book also works really well as a standalone, so don’t worry about evil cliffies.
Speaking of evil cliffies…
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
I think this book splits fans into two camps: Those that haven’t heard it, and those that have read it and are still picking their hearts off the floor. I’m a little hesitant to classify it as YA, as YA has become such a fluid term these days, but this is a story that does more than kill four hours for you – it makes you think. I can’t spoil it for you, but don’t be deterred by its format – in the end, it’s worth the ride.
The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve
While “The Mortal Engines” and its three sequels can be classified as steampunk/post apocalyptic/dystopian/Shakespeare-after-the-last-war, this is a series I cannot miss in a sci-fi must-read list. I just can’t. Philip Reeve is just the kind of author who takes whatever idea he makes and spins it into gold. He will win your trust, break your heart, have you cry tears of joy, dread the ending and come back for more. You can’t miss this.
And since we’re talking dystopias…
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Here is where I would put the more techno-oriented dystopias – books like “Bumped” by Megan McCafferty, “Exodus” by Julie Bertagna, “Legend” by Marie Lu, even or “Delirium” by Lauren Oliver. Dystopias are tricky to place, mostly because of how their premises rely on a near-impossible feat (“What if love was a disease?”, “What if a virus made people over 18 infertile?”, etc.), but those are powerful tales.
Why do I pick “Unwind“ as their representative? Because it fulfills its role as a dystopia so well – it presents us with a future that’s absolutely chilling and fully imaginable. Even if you never pick another genre fiction book in YA, you have to read this one. You simply have to. Because reasons.
And, to round things off, a classic:
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
The closest thing to “hard” sci-fi on this list, “The Left Hand of Darkness” is a story that takes the “Pocahontas” storyline (aka, a misguided privileged man ends up in a tribe of “savages” that show him the way), and uses it to explore sexual identity. What this book has over “Pocahontas” or “Avatar”, however, is that it never preaches to you. It goes: “Here’s the premise, here are the viewpoints, it’s up to you to make up your mind about it.” There are a lot of “classic” sci-fis out there, but this is one that is especially poignant.
So that's my list. If you have any reccs, or there is a sci-fi YA topic you'd really like discussed this week, let us know.
Images courtesy of Goodreads.