Girls Rule In This Season’s New Young Adult Fiction

SO. MUCH. SCIENCE FICTION. There must be something in the water, because science fiction is crawling out of the woodwork this season. There’s some great fantasy as well, but space is apparently where it’s at right now. Luckily, it’s not just the same old, same old, but a lot of cool premises and tons of racial, gender, and sexual diversity.

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

Books marked with an asterisk will be reviewed on in the coming months.


* Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Desperate for money to pay for her plague-ridden brother’s medical treatment, Aisha Un-Haad reluctantly volunteers to become a Scela. But the process to become one involves severe body modification and mechanical enhancements that could kill her. Scelas are soldiers defending the gaggle 0f spaceships known as the Fleet. Their might enforces the harsh rule of its leaders. Life in the Fleet is great if you’re in the top tier, but for those at the bottom it’s a living hell. Key Tanaka has just recovered from her Scela mods. Physically she’s improved but her memory is shattered. Bits and pieces of her life before flicker through, but nothing sticks. Making it into the elite Scale ranks could help her get her memories back. Aisha and Key are thrust together in their training program, but a fomenting rebellion may ruin both their plans.

July 17, 2018, Delacorte


Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

This anthology contains three romantic tales set in the world of the Star-Touched Queen series. The first, “Death and Night,” revolves around the God of Death, Dharma Raja. He meets Night reincarnate, and although he was cursed to lose the woman he loves, a connection blooms between them. “Poison and Gold” stars a vishakanya named Aasha. Vishakanyas have the power to kill a person with their touch. All she wants is to be like humans, but her powers are too deadly. She meets the lovely Spy Mistress and things get heated. And in the final story, “Rose and Sword,” Guari tells her granddaughter Hira the legend of a woman who tried to save the love of her life from death the night before they were set to be married. For fans of the Star-Touched Queen series, and anyone who likes good fantasy short stories, this is a must-have.

August 7, 2018, St. Martin’s Press


* Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Now this is exactly what I love about diverse space-set science fiction. Like Nnedi Okorafor’s excellent Binti series, Mirage transplants African culture—in this case Amazigh and Moroccan—onto a science fictional premise, with compelling results. Amani is kidnapped from her small village on a moon orbiting the planet held by the rulers of the Vathek Empire. Because she looks almost exactly like the cruel princess Maram vak Mathis, she is used as her double to protect the heir from assassination attempts. Once in the palace, her Cadiz culture is stripped from her, and Vathek customs forced upon her. Part of the doubling requires her to spend time with Maram’s fiance, Prince Idris, the last heir to the Vath-conquered Andaalan. This is the first book in the Mirage series.

August 28, 2018, Flatiron Books


Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood

This anthology collects fifteen short stories centering on a witch, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes bad only because some dudes say she is. A collection of feminist and super diverse tales by some of the best writers out there. I mean, just look at this talent! Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotswood, Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Córdova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, and Brenna Yovanoff. Sadly, I’ve only read two of those authors, with two more on my summer to-read list. Given how exciting this book sounds, I won’t have to worry about that deficit much longer.

August 28, 2018, Harlequin Teen


* A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

The first entry in the new Celestial trilogy is inspired in part by the Mahābhārata, an ancient Indian epic poem about two family groups battling for the throne. Esmae longs for her home and family. She was once the princess of Kali, but she was abandoned by her mother in an orphanage in a massive spaceship doubling as the kingdom of Wychstar. When the King holds a royals-only competition to win the battleship Titania, Esmae enters and reveals her noble secret. If she wins the ship, she and her exiled brother Alexi can return to Kali and take back the throne from her usurper uncle. But telling the world who she is will have dire consequences she cannot predict. With gods and prophecies blending fantasy and science fiction, this myth retelling should be all kinds of great.

September 4, 2018, Sky Pony Press


Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

If you’ve been following along with Blake’s heart pounding Three Dark Crowns series, you’re probably really jazzed about the third entry. I know I am! Katharine, the poisoner, was once the weakest of her three sisters, but now holds the throne of Fennbirn. Sisters Mirabella, a powerful elemental once believed strong enough to rule, and Arsinoe, the naturalist with a dangerous animal companion, are far from their homeland. A ghost they believe to be a Blue Queen—a rare fourth daughter so revered the other three are drowned so she can ascend undisturbed—haunts them with warnings about their homeland. All the while, Jules, Arsinoe’s BFF is hiding in Fennbirn. With her new-found abilities, there’s far more to her than meets the eye.

September 4, 2018, HarperTeen


* And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness and Rovina Cai

Think Moby Dick but from the whale’s perspective. In the future, whales and humans are at war. Bathsheba joins Captain Alexandra’s pod, hunting whaling ships and destroying them with the harpoons strapped to their backs. Likewise, humans hunt whales in an endless, ancient war. Bathsheba is searching for the infamous white ship, the Toby Wick, that tore apart her beloved mother. She wants revenge, but the cost of war may be too high. Patrick Ness’ narrative is paired with artwork from the astounding Rovina Cai, an illustrator you may know from the interior art of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. Two creative powerhouses, one story. This oughta be awesome.

September 4, 2018, HarperTeen


Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan

Ia Cocha is infamous. Well, kinda. Everyone thinks the dangerous criminal and master pilot, who’s been striking out against the Olympus Commonwealth for years is a man, but the notorious outlaw is really a teenage girl. When she’s captured, the Commonwealth press-gangs her into the military academy, which she of course immediately tries to scheme her way out of. The biggest obstacle to her escape is Flight Master Knives, a once-dedicated pilot now disillusioned by the death of his sister. He has a device that could kill Ia, so if she wants out she’ll need his help. Also getting in Ia’s way is her roommate, Brinn, a Commonwealth citizen hiding her ethnic heritage for fear of retribution. In the background, Armada slavers conquer Ia’s home. You like space fic and social justice? Then you’ll like this.

September 4, 2018, Albert Whitman


The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember

The sequel to last year’s intriguing The Seafarer’s Kiss is inspired half by Norse mythology and half by Peter Pan. That makes it all interesting to me. Where the first followed the POV of Ersel the mermaid, this stars her love interest Ragna. Ragna is a fierce shield-maiden and skilled warrior. She’s eager for vengeance against Jarl Haakon who slaughtered her family and destroyed her village in a bid to capture people like Ragna who have magical maps on their skin. She may be the captain of her ship, but her mercenaries don’t care much for being bossed around by a girl. To win the crew’s allegiance and respect, they set off on a risky voyage to prove her prowess. And as great as all that sounds, gets even better with all the delightfully inclusive gender identities and queerness.

September 13, 2018, Duet


Wildcard by Marie Lu

The Warcross duology wraps up with Wildcard. When we last left Emika Chen, she was still reeling from discovering Hideo’s secret algorithm that can control people’s minds. She also had an offer from the mystery hacker Zero to join his crew and use her tech talents to take down Hideo, the man she cares for. Now with a bounty on her head, she and the Phoenix Riders must go to extremes to stop Hideo’s sinister plan. Forced to side with Zero and his Blackcoats, she learns his darkest secrets and terrible plans. With everyone betraying everyone else and Emika caught in the middle, can she protect the world and the man she loves? Or will she be forced to sacrifice one to save the other?

September 18, 2018, Penguin Teen


Alex Brown is a YA librarian by day, local historian by night, pop culture critic/reviewer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, check out her endless barrage of cute rat pics on Instagram, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.


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