New Young Adult Fiction: Fairytales, Dystopias, and Life Lessons

How amazing is the 2017 fall/winter young adult science fiction and fantasy lineup? If I had my way, this master list would be 18 pages long. But sadly, the Powers That Be said “no” to that. So while Kristin Cashore’s unsettling Jane, Unlimited, Leigh Bardugo’s gorgeous Language of Thorns, and Kali Wallace’s haunting Memory Trees aren’t on here, you should still get them into your To Read queue forthwith.

The trend this fall seems to be an increase in dystopias, as well as a lot more male leads. Teen girls continue to rule high fantasy, usually as princesses/queens or the Chosen One. But overall, the amount of high quality of stories coming out this fall—including everything from the writing to the range of settings to the kinds of characters portrayed—is wonderfully high.

As in previous columns, all these books feature diversity and representation, and I’ve noted the specific elements alongside each synopsis. Books marked with an asterisk “*” will be reviewed on Tor.com in the coming months.

Something not on my list but high on yours? Share with the class down in the comments.

 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

In a kingdom cursed to suffer from everlasting winter, two young rivals confront the horrors wrought by men in this magical retelling of Snow White. Mina is the daughter of a neglectful magician who long ago cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. She secures a marriage with King Nicholas in the hopes of gaining both love and power, but also obtains a step-daughter. When Princess Lynet, crafted by a magician from snow in the likeness of her dead mother, turns sixteen and is given territory coveted by Mina, the women’s relationship curdles from complicated to conflict. Lynet and Mina’s lives are dominated by their cruel fathers, a theme explored through their combative mother/daughter relationship.

Deets: YA fantasy and fairytale adaptation with a queer protagonist and feminist themes.

September 5, 2017, Flatiron Books

 

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

In a version of our world, a company called Death-Cast calls people at midnight to let them know they have only 24 hours to live. Deckers don’t know how they’re going to die, but the company is never wrong. Cuban American Rufus Emeterio and Puerto Rican Mateo Torrez get their End Day call and soon connect through Death-Cast’s app Last Friend. Both boys have had hard lives, but that doesn’t mean they’re looking forward to it all being over. As their newfound friendship grows into something deeper, Mateo and Rufus have the chance to live as they never have before—and never will again. If you still haven’t gotten over Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, this is the book for you.

Deets: YA science fiction set in an alternate present day New York with queer Latinx protagonists.

September 5, 2017, HarperTeen

 

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic by F. T. Lukens

When high school senior Bridger Whitt is accepted to college in Florida, he looks for a part time job to help cover the cost of escaping his suburban town of Midden, Michigan. He ends up employed by Pavel Chudinov, a deeply odd man responsible for keeping humans and non-humans apart. But when Bridger’s hometown is suddenly crawling with cryptids, he and Pavel must figure out not just what’s causing the magical instability but how to keep the muggles from learning the truth. As if things couldn’t get anymore complicated, when he starts to have feelings for Leo, his Puerto Rican neighbor, Bridger must also contend with where exactly he fits on the queer spectrum.

Deets: YA fantasy set in Michigan with a queer protagonist and Latinx secondary.

September 7, 2017, Duet Books

 

* Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

Sierra is back in the second book in the Shadowshaper series. As the new leader of Shadowhouse, she recruits her friends and family into the fold. When the Sorrows make a power play against Sierra, she finds herself caught between them and an old magical battle she wants nothing to do with. With the help of a classmate, Mina, Sierra acquires a sinister playing card representing a powerful being: the Hound of Light. If Sierra can’t locate the rest of Deck of Worlds before her enemies, and if her crew can’t improve their shadowshaping skills fast, it might be all over before it really begins. But it’s not just the magical world in upheaval; racial tensions in the real world threaten Sierra and her Scooby gang. Will she step aside and accept subjugation or fight back and demand freedom?

Deets: YA fantasy set in Brooklyn with a Latinx protagonist and POC/QPOC supporting characters.

September 12, 2017, Arthur A. Levine Books

 

Warcross by Marie Lu

Eighteen-year-old Emika Chen is a teenage hacker/bounty hunter for the massively popular online game Warcross. Without a family, a juvenile record, and ever-increasing debt, she survives, but only just barely. When she unintentionally hacks into the Warcross Championships she attract the attention of Hideo Tanaka, the 21-year-old billionaire inventor of Warcross. At first Emika is enthralled with Hideo’s money and status, but the more her new pro team play the game, the graver the threat. Someone is trying to sabotage Warcross, and Emika’s the only one who can stop them.

Deets: YA dystopia/cyberpunk science fiction set in near future Tokyo with a Chinese American protagonist and POC cast, including a character in a wheelchair. Chinese American author.

September 12, 2017, Putnam

 

* Release by Patrick Ness

Today will be one of the biggest days of seventeen-year-old Adam Thorn’s life. Adam has a painful encounter with his homophobic, evangelical parents, suffers sexual harassment from his boss, and learns his best friend Angela, an adoptee from South Korea, is moving to Holland. Oh, and he and his new beau Linus get frisky. And because it’s Patrick Ness, something dark and magical lurks in the background, in this case the ghost of a teenage girl murdered by her drug addict boyfriend. She and her mystical companion seek revenge for her murder. Virginia Woolf references permeates the narrative, the perfect pairing to a intimate, emotional, mournful tale about the unexpectedness of adolescence.

Deets: YA fantasy set in present day Washington with a gay protagonist.

September 19, 2017, Walker Books

 

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

Nearly two centuries from now, Korea, China, and Japan have merged together and are run by the Neo Council who keeps them embroiled in a perpetual, endless war. Lee Jaewon is just about to graduate from a military academy when he’s sent to the Tower, a massive skyscraper in Neo Seoul. His assignment is to oversee Tera, a supersoldier pilot of the mighty God Machines. Rebels threaten national security, and Neo Seoul is being crushed by a brutal gang. Jaewon uncovers dangerous state secrets that test his loyalty. Will he side with the state or the people?

Deets: YA dystopian science fiction set in 2199 East Asia with an all-East Asian cast. Korean American author.

September 30, 2017, Tu Books

 

27 Hours by Tristina Wright

The moon Sahara is a strange, savage place. With winged monsters and nights that last 27 hours, the human colonists are in the fight for their lives. Nyx Llorca, a girl who can “hear” the moon, deserts her settlement for a rebel encampment inhabited by Jude Welton, a young resistance fighter. The son of a colony chief, Braeden Tennant, worries that the chimeras are attacking his settlement because his parents have one of them chained up in their basement. And Rumor Mora, a warrior trained to kill chimeras, finds himself lost after failing to rescue his father from one of the monsters. The four teenagers have one night to bring peace to the planet before their kind are destroyed.

Deets: YA science fiction with an all-queer cast including a deaf character. Bisexual author.

October 3, 2017, Entangled Teen

 

Satellite by Nick Lake

Leo and twins Orion and Libra were born and raised on Moon 2, a space station orbiting Earth. As the trio turn sixteen, they are sent to Earth, but the planet they long to call home doesn’t welcome them with open arms. The teens are at the center of a controversy they don’t understand, one that unfolds gradually, piece by piece. What really makes this novel stand out is its grammatical structure. The first person narration from Leo is in a syntax similar to texting shorthand where only names are capitalized—u for you, c for see, etc. That’s going to give a lot of people some trouble, but if nothing else it makes the novel stand out. It’s definitely not a book for everyone, but everyone should at least give it a try.

Deets: YA futuristic science fiction set partially in space with a POC protagonist and POC secondaries.

October 3, 2017, Knopf Books

 

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

McLemore is known for her lush, mesmerizing prose, and she’s on top form once more. In the garden of La Pradera live the Nomeolvides women. Generation after generation have tended the garden, and now the task is left to five cousins—Estrella, Azalea, Calla, Dalia, and Gloria—who use magic to grow flowers with their hands. The women are cursed: if they ever fall in love their lover disappears, and if they leave the garden they die. When the girls all fall in love with Bay Briar, they leave offerings in the pond to pray for her protection. In return, the garden spits up a boy named Fel who remembers nothing of his past. As Estrella and Fel get closer, the garden’s curses are called into question.

Deets: YA fantasy/magical realism with queer Latinx characters.

October 3, 2017, Feiwel & Friends

 

Not Your Villain by C. B. Lee

The sequel to the crackling Not Your Sidekick stars Bells Broussard, Creole shapeshifter. In the 22nd century, dormant abilities were activated by solar flares, hence Bells’ powers. Bells loves being a ‘shifter, but suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the law when he discovers a powerful secret covered up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes. As he and his pals Jess, Emma, and Abby go on the hunt for the Resistance, the disgraced former hero Captain Orion is depowering superhumans. Not to mention the military developing robot weapons.

Deets: YA futuristic superhero with a Creole, trans protagonist. Bisexual Asian American author.

October 5, 2017, Duet Books

 

* Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is in hot demand. Her novella trilogy Binti has scooped up awards right and left, and it was recently announced that George R.R. Martin and HBO were collaborating to bring Who Fears Death to the small screen. But it’s the sequel to Akata Witch that I really want to squee about. Thirteen-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born Nigerian girl with albinism, is now a part of the Leopard society. Her magic is stronger, but she will be tested when an oracle tells her that her nightmares are really prophecies of a possible apocalypse. With the help of her spirit face, Anyanwu, and her besties Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, Sunny crosses from the real world into the magical city Osisi to face her fate.

Deets: Older MG to younger YA fantasy set in Nigeria with an albino protagonist. Nigerian American author.

October 8, 2017, Viking

 

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

The beautiful, eighteen-year-old peasant girl Xifeng is destined to become the Empress of Feng Lu, or so her witch aunt Guma insists. When Guma demands Xifeng give up her childhood lover Wei, the two teens escape into the Great Forest. Eventually Xifeng makes her way to the palace as a maid to the Empress Lihua and is enmeshed in court politics. Blood magic and demons guide her toward her destiny, but just how far into the darkness is she willing to descend? Will she sacrifice her morals for power, and if she does, what will be left behind? This is the first in the Rise of the Empress duology and is inspired by the evil queen from Snow White.

Deets: YA fantasy and fairytale adaptation in an East Asian setting with an all-East Asian cast, including a little person character. Vietnamese American author.

October 10, 2017, Philomel Books

 

* Malice of Crows by Lila Bowen

Lila Bowen (aka Delilah S. Dawson) is killing it right now. Her Star Wars books are so good, and her comic book Ladycastle was a delightful miniseries. If Phasma hasn’t hooked you, maybe the third book in her The Shadow series will. Teenage Rhett Walker is on the hunt for Trevisan, a necromancer that nearly killed him in the last book. As the Shadow, Rhett is destined to fight many great battles, and he does so with the help of his friends, Cora, Earl (a donkey shapeshifter), shapeshifting Indigenous siblings Dan and Winifred, and cowboy Sam. Everything is at stake for Rhett, but putting Trevisan down for good might cost him everything he holds dear.

Deets: YA paranormal fantasy/weird west set in a fictional version of the American West with a trans QPOC protagonist and POC/QPOC secondaries.

October 31, 2017, Orbit Books

 

The Speaker by Traci Chee

The second book in the Sea of Ink and Gold series opens with Sefia and Archer on the run once again. Archer seeks catharsis from his personal demons by slaughtering impressors and freeing the boys they tortured into becoming killers. Meanwhile, Sefia, the only person in her world who can read, works to reveal the secrets of the Book, and learns about the intersection between her parents’ mysterious past and the Guard hunting them. Along the way they meet new characters as well as old ones.

Deets: YA fantasy with an Asian protagonist and Asian and queer secondaries. Asian American author.

November 7, 2017, Putnam

 

Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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