Like YA? Like fantasy and/or science fiction? This is a list for you. These books totally swept me away while reading. I may also have stayed up late to finish a chapter. Or two. Or, um, the book. (What, you’ve never done that?) Hope you find something new and wonderful to read here!
The way my life is organized these days, it’s tough for me to write longer reviews now. So for some of these books, I’ll be including the blurb and just a quick comment. Not reviewing a book myself does not mean it’s less valuable. It just means by the time I read it, I didn’t have time to sit down and review it in detail!
Before we jump in:
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A dark but ultimately hopeful YA novella about suicidal gay trans Jewish boy Avi and how his life changes when he meets sunny, optimistic gay trans classmate Ian. Avi is deeply unhappy, prickly, often cruel as a way to protect himself, but he also desperately needs the completely different world Ian offers him access to, with warmth and family acceptance and love. Not a spoiler: having these things offered to you doesn’t mean you can immediately reach out and take them.
Loved the magical (and other) realism, definitely looking forward to reading more of Lamb’s work in the future.
Diversity note: Lamb is gay, trans, and Jewish.
I haven’t had a chance to write a full-on review for this, but I had so much fun reading it. Fewer giant robots than I expected, but I adored the main characted, and as an anime-watcher I felt like I was slipping into a familiar and pleasant groove. Cannot wait for the sequel!
Here’s the deal: “After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State. When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war. With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans.”
Diversity note: Oh is Korean-American.
Such a sweet book. It’s a slow burn falling-in-love story between two high school seniors, gay Nate and bisexual James, with the twist that Nate can see ghosts, including the ghost of James’s dead brother.
Neither of them are in a particularly great place, what with Nate’s outsider status and and James’s grief for his brother, and neither have any particularly outstanding relationship skills, so it’s a bit of a bumpy ride. But overall fairly low-angst, comforting, with main characters you can get behind and compelling secondary characters, some of whom are even alive
I felt really good about the bi rep in this one, too!
I found this absolutely gripping. What it’s about: “One stormy Irish summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something much bigger, something she won’t talk about, and Olive thinks her best friend is slipping away. Then seductive diary pages written by a girl named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing estate. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tight to painful secrets. When they discover the spellbook, it changes everything.”
Queer rep in this, yay!
Do not resurrect your best friend. Seriously, do not! It can’t possibly end well! However, this book does the trick I love of showing a teenager making a bad decision, but by the time she does, you’re so deep into her perspective and heart that you cringe FOR her instead of being annoyed AT her. Mila Flores is a fat Mexican-American Wiccan high school student who’s just lost her best friend, Riley. The death is ruled a suicide, but Mila thinks it’s a murder. Of course the only solution is magic.
I loved Mila’s prickliness and her loyalty, and I loved how she grows and opens her damaged heart over the course of this book. The secondary characters are great, too, this is just all-around wonderful.
Diversity note: Anderson is Afrolatina.
An intriguing story with a science fiction premise that’s a little hand-wavey about the details, but has such a strong heroine that I didn’t mind. Eva is a clone, an “Echo,” created and raised as a kind of human insurance policy against the death of wealthy Indian girl Amarra. When Amarra is killed in a car accident, Eva is summoned to replace her in a grief-stricken family and at school among classmates who must be convinced Eva’s the real Amarra.
There’s an exploration of grief, identity and ethics as well as a minor romantic sub-plot with a dude, but overall it’s the story of Eva trying to survive and become truly free. Really enjoyed it.
Diversity note: Mandanna was born in India.
Low-tech dystopia, found family, all of this is yay. The situation: “In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the ‘recruiters’ who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing ‘factories.'”
Dimaline is a Canadian Métis writer.
I describe Shadowshaper as “City-based fantasy about a young artist who discovers her family’s hidden magical heritage.”
The book’s tagline is better: “Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.” This book is about power. Who wants power? What will they do, or not to, to get it? What happens when people become powerful?
If you need more of my thoughts, you can read my post about Shadowshaper. If you’re familiar with my blog, you know it’s rare that I devote an entire post to just one book, so that’s saying a lot!
Diversity note: Older is Latino.
Go read the summary on either Goodreads or Amazon and then come back. I’ll wait.
You’re back? Okay, how can you NOT want to read this book? Action! Adventure! Zombies! By an African-American woman author, and race and gender are integral to the plot! There is a queer main character! I’m even glad it’s a series, even though I have to wait for the next book, because that means there’s more to come! I love zombies, I adore Jane, and I had such a good time reading this book.
That said, it’s good to take to heart this criticism by Debbie Reese, literature professor and Native American literary activist, on Native reactions to the Native representation and allusions in this book: Thread on Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation.
Diversity note: Ireland is African-American.
And that’s my roundup of young adult fantasy and science fiction stories I love and recommend. If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!