John Clark here: I know I wrote about downsizing, something I’m continuing to do, but I really need more space and that’s not a contradiction in terms by any means. I mean more juvenile and young adult space opera/science fiction. Not so long ago, fantasy and paranormal ruled the teen roost, but sci-fi has come back with a vengeance and I’m thrilled. I’m sharing some of the better reads below.
Let’s start with a couple books that aren’t truly YA, but are dandy nonetheless. Mature teens will gobble them up. They are Switched and Switched Too by Diane Burton. Imagine you’re the non book smart sibling of emotionally remote parents. Your older brother got his PhD in his teens and is your parents’ darling. You run a repair shop out of the old farmhouse you inherited from your grandmother. One night, you’re accosted by someone who looks exactly like you and the next time you open your eyes, you’re on an interstellar research vessel, dealing with a super hot Mr. Spock clone. The books are about an evil experiment that was stopped, but not before two sets of twins were separated and raised on different planets. They’re a neat mix of hotness, intrigue, snarky dialogue and sabotage. Diane has written several other science fiction titles I plan on reading down the road in ebook format.
Next up is Toxic by Lydia Kang. Read on: “Imagine yourself as human, but spliced together from bits and pieces of DNA and genetic material by someone who you’ve called mother for sixteen years. Then imagine she’s hidden you from everyone for your entire lifetime and she’s suddenly disappeared. You’re alone on a sentient spaceship that’s in the process of dying. Meet Hana. She’s awoken to this reality. She’s smart in what she’s absorbed from Cyclo, the sentient ship, plus what her mother taught her, but has almost no people skills because she was hidden from them. Have a small crew of somewhat scary entities arrive, each desperate to complete terms of a contract that will, they hope, atone for things they’ve done to others. Speed up the time frame they were originally given to analyze why Cyclo is decaying, thus threatening their only hope for redemption. Have them encounter Hana. Have Hana fall for one of them. Have plenty of scary things happen to all involved. Mix well and hand to anyone who likes a tension filled YA science fiction tale. Watch them get lost in said story. Success!”
Consider A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna. “Esmae will remind some readers of Katniss, but she’s her own (literary) person. Separated at birth from her family, she’s waited years to step forth and claim membership in the family she belongs to. Unfortunately, in the time it’s taken her to gain a chance to prove herself, the universe, at least the part she knows, has undergone serious upheaval and her family is now not only fragmented, but at war.
Even so, she goes against the Gods’ advice and wins the most powerful ship in the war, but at what cost? Read the book and find out. Then prepare to await the next in the series. You (and I) won’t be disappointed.”
One Giant Leap by Heather Kaczynski is the sequel to Dare Mighty Things which was amazing. Here’s my mini review of book 2. “Nice sequel to Dare Mighty Things. The action and plot twists make for a fast and engrossing read. By the end, readers will be shaking their heads over which race was the villain and which was the victim. My only comment of a critical nature is that the ending was a bit too long, but that’s a very minor point.”
Then there’s Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne. I describe it this way:”Another nice entry in the resurgent YA science fiction genre, this one a retelling of Jane Eyre. Imagine earth having to be abandoned after a global winter. Numerous ships orbiting for hundreds of years, waiting for conditions to reach a point where return is possible. Blend in a smart, but underclass girl, a tormented, but attractive ship captain, solid friendships, deceit and intrigue, mix well and enjoy. “
Sanctuary by Caryn Lix is another that screamed for a sequel. Lucky me, I have an ARC in ebook awaiting me next week. “This begins with a very interesting premise, that some teens have a super power/ability and because these are unpredictable, they must be locked up with implants that prevent their using these abilities. Kenzie and her parents are living on an orbiting space prison, guarding these teens. Her dream is to become one of the elite guards. Then something goes awry. Shortly after her father returns to Earth, she’s captured by the prisoners and her mother refuses to try freeing her.
Add in a far scarier threat than mutant teens and an uneasy, but very necessary alliance with the prisoners, coupled with nonstop action and a cosmic mystery and you have a great read. The end hints at a sequel and I’d grab it as soon as it came out.”
Others well worth a look are Dry by Neal Shusterman, Phantom Wheel by Tracy Deebs and Skyward by Brandon Sanderson.