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?)
The way my life is organized these days, it’s tough for me to write reviews. Some of the books below have them, some do not, but I love them all. Hope you find something new and wonderful to read here!
Before we jump in:
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“Being the kid abducted by old Ms. Easton when he was four permanently set Cole’s status to freak. At seventeen, his exit plan is simple: make it through the last few weeks of high school with his grades up and his head down.
When he pushes through the front door of the school and finds himself eighty kilometers away holding the door of a museum he was just thinking about, Cole faces facts: he’s either more deluded than old Ms. Easton, or he just teleported.
Now every door is an accident waiting to happen―especially when Cole thinks about Malik, who, it turns out, has a glass door on his shower. When he starts seeing the same creepy people over his shoulder, no matter how far he’s gone, crushes become the least of his worries. They want him to stop, and they’ll go to any length to make it happen. Cole is running out of luck, excuses, and places to hide. Time for a new exit plan.”
Diversity note: Burgoine is gay.
I absolutely adored this book. Screamingly funny in parts, extremely scary where it should be, and I just wanted to wrap Auggie in a blanket and give him cookies.
“The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town. Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it.
An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.”
Diversity note: Roehrig is gay.
“Seventeen-year-old Clara is ready to fight back. Fight back against her abusive father, fight back against the only life she’s ever known, and most of all, fight back against scrabs, the earth-dwelling monsters that are currently ravaging the world. So when an opportunity arises for Clara to join an international monster-fighting squad, she jumps at the chance.
When Clara starts training with her teammates, however, she realizes what fighting monsters really means: sore muscles, exhaustion, and worst of all, death. Scrabs are unpredictable, violent, and terrifying. But as Clara gains confidence in her battle skills, she starts to realize scrabs might not be the biggest evil. The true monsters are the ones you least expect.”
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.
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!
Diversity note: Fowley-Doyle is bi.
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.'”
Diversity note: Dimaline is a Canadian Métis writer.
“Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “Lo siento” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.
Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.”
Diversity note: Older is Latino.
“[A] mind-bending sci-fi mystery and tender love story about two boys aboard a spaceship sent on a rescue mission, from two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer.
Two boys, alone in space. Sworn enemies sent on the same rescue mission.
Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed—not when he’s rescuing his own sister.
In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust each other . . . especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.”
I love zombies, I adore Jane, and I had such a good time reading this book.
“Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.”
Update: I’ve now read the second book in the duology, Deathless Divide, and a follow-up short story collection Three for the Road, and they’re both yay!
Diversity note: (1) Jane is bi, and there is also other queer rep yay! (2) 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!