I loved it for Greg, who—unlike many a boy in books about cancer—is not wise, thoughtful, mature, sweet, generous, or even all that nice, but is real, relatable, slappable**, and hilarious. I loved it for Earl, who is just plain wonderful—and who, even though Greg is so self-absorbed that he hardly even knows him, comes off as a real, believable person. A real, believable, hilarious person.
Zenn Scarlett has a great sense of place, both physical and political; wonderfully described alien species that aren’t at all anthropomorphized; a likable heroine, tight pacing with lots of chapters ending on exciting old-timey serial cliffhangers, and a good amount of humor. I enjoyed it hugely...with a few minor caveats. (You totally knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
Celaena is a swaggering, smart-mouthed heroine—with a secret past, naturally—who hides her pain and fear behind a smirking exterior. She’s comfortable in her own skin and with her own sexuality, and her vanity is strangely charming. She holds grudges and is quick to lash out, but those who are lucky enough to call her “friend” know her loyalty and warmth.
But while the writing itself is actually really decent, Razorbill’s packaging of The Innocents is the most exciting thing about the book. The drama isn’t particularly dramatic—more angst than action—and the shocking behavior of the characters looks almost wholesome compared to what went on in Beverly Hills, 90210 over 20 years ago.
Katherine Longshore’s depiction of Catherine Howard is quite well-rounded. She’s manipulative, tempestuous (behind closed doors), power-hungry, selfish and short-sighted, but it’s always worth remembering that she’s also 16 years old. She’s married to an ailing, sad old man, and she longs for romance. That she would chafe at her lack of freedom is easily understandable, that her power would occasionally go to her head is easily believable, and the rare glimpses we get of her sadness and her fear are affecting. It’s a darker, more nuanced portrait than the Sexy Nose Hair cover art implies.
Trust me? Add this to your list. Don’t trust me? Add it to your list anyway. Fan of historical fiction? Espionage? World War II stories? Add it, add it, add it. Even if your tastes don’t usually tend in that direction, you need to pick it up anyway. It will make you dissolve into a puddle, and then, once you’ve recovered, you’ll immediately read it all over again. That’s what I did.
Before the story even starts, there’s a map and a list of intriguingly named soldier types like “Tidemakers,” “Alkemi” and “Heartrenders.” Among those factors and the cover, I was predisposed to like this book before I even started reading it. And, overall, I did... with a few reservations.
The parts about the Hollywood high school are priceless, Aunt Max is awesome, and like What My Mother Doesn't Know, it's predictable, but not in a bad way. Oh, and she's a big reader, so there are a couple of poems that are basically reading lists of awesome YA books. Rad.
Lizzie Skurnick Books are now available through our subscription book club. Whether you are in a reading group, choosing a gift, or just want to build (or rebuild) your own collection of classic young adult titles, you can get the books you loved as a teen delivered right to your front door. All subscription plans include FREE SHIPPING.
Of course, as I'm currently rather poor, I'm unlikely to actually sign up in the near future, but it's awesome to know that it's AN OPTION.
Although it's certainly not the only YA space opera in existence, I credit Beth Revis' Across the Universe trilogy—comprised of Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and Shades of Earth—with bringing the subgenre to a more broadly mainstream readership... WITHOUT sacrificing the science fiction elements or simply setting a popular storyline in outer space.
In other words, this is not Twilight or The Hunger Games or Harry Potter in space. Each installment of Across the Universe is something different—the first book is a murder mystery, the second a political thriller, the third a frontier adventure—but they're all tied together by the overarching story, by ongoing themes of growth and independence and choice and sacrifice and leadership and love, and by the coming-of-age of the main characters.
The trilogy is exciting and romantic and epic and surprising and original; it stars a refreshingly difficult heroine and showcases OUTSTANDING character development; each book is very much one part of a larger whole, but still works as a satisfying story unto itself; as the best science fiction stories do, it explores current-day issues in a futuristic setting WITHOUT being overly obvious or preachy; it's atmospheric and claustrophobic, it contrasts the wondrous vastness of space with the frustration of being stuck—maybe forever—on a ship that may never reach its destination; it's realistic in that the characters face difficult, complicated situations to which there are no easy answers...
I could go on, but that's enough from me, take it away, Beth!
When I finished the first draft of
Across the Universe, one of the first things I did was go to
my small local indie bookstore and ask for all the YA science fiction
they had. I wanted to know the market inside and out. And what I
found was…no market. My bookstore had three SF novels on the YA
shelf: Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games, Stephanie Meyer's The
Host, and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. And while
I’d read all three, what I wanted was more: more variety, more
diversity, more space, just more.
Fortunately, in the past few years,
there’s been a boom in YA SF. There is a lot more available—and
more coming. I actually had a really hard time narrowing down this
list to just ten titles! In the end, I decided to restrict myself to
works that were published between 2011 and the end of this year.
Although two of my selections are dystopians, I tried to err on the
side of sci fi. So, without further ado, here’s some of my personal
favorite modern YA SF—in no specific order, as I love them all
Pia is a child of science—literally.
Born in a science commune hidden in the jungle, she has been raised
to be the perfect scientist. As she learns more about who—and
what—she is, she must decide whether it is worth it to choose her
own destiny, or take the one carefully planned for her. This novel
has some of my favorite elements of sci fi: a healthy mix of
philosophy, action, and possibilities.
Of all the novels on this list, Memento
Nora scares me the most, because it is eerily close to being true
already. Nora lives in a world where people have given up their
freedoms due to fear of terrorist attacks—and many choose to give
up their memories, too. When she decides to hold on to her
memories—despite the bad ones—she realizes just what true
I love a time travel novel. The first
of a trilogy, Hourglass tells the story of Emerson, a true
Southern girl who sees ghosts. Except they’re not ghosts. They’re
echoes of the past—a past that Em can travel to. With hot boys, a
healthy dose of snark, and an appropriately twisty plot, this book is
such a fun read.
Cinder is so high-concept that
you can tell what the book is by looking at the cover—it’s a sci
fi retelling of Cinderella with a cyborg instead of a princess.
Brilliant, am I right? Cinder has cyborg-feet, a
Prince, an evil queen that lives on the moon, and such an
entertaining voice that I couldn’t put the book down. The sequel,
Scarlet, tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood with a Wolf
who’s a spaceship captain, and I am chomping at the bit for the
next title coming, Cress, which features my favorite fairy
Beautifully told, this novel is a
retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion in a far-future New
Zealand. This isn’t a novel about an apocalypse—it’s about what
happens after, to the ones who live far past a world event that rocks
the whole world. But it’s also a love story, a commentary on
technology, a story of class and prejudice, and so much more.
Did I mention that I love time travel
novels? I so do. Pick this one up for the hero, Jackson. He starts
off as a jerk with a special talent for falling back in time, but
when something truly traumatic happens, he finds himself stuck in the
past—and given a chance to save the life of the girlfriend whose
death he’s partially responsible for. Jackson’s older than most
YA characters, and definitely a boy—but all the more realistic
because of it.
Lydia Kang is a genius. No, I’m not
exaggerating. She’s a doctor. She knows science inside and out. And
it shows in this smart novel of a future where genetics have gone
awry. Ostensibly, this novel tells about a group of teens on the run;
their genetic mutations and anomalies have made them very special to
the wrong people. But more than that, this is a book about loving
someone not despite their differences, but because of them. And I’m
not talking about just romantic love (although there is that), but
also familial love, friendship, and more.
This is a book about parallel worlds.
In the multiverse, there are many different copies of people in
different worlds. In her world—this world—Sasha is an ordinary
girl. But in another world, she’s a princess. Dragged across the
multiverse, she must learn what happened to the original princess,
how to save the people she’s come to care about, and, maybe, how to
A mix between science, alt-history,
fantasy, and something unique all its own, Perfect Ruin is the
perfect follow up to the Chemical Garden trilogy. Fans of Avatar:
The Last Airbender will love the unique wordplay of the new world
Lauren’s created, and those sick of dystopians will love the
utopian portrayal of Internment at the start of the novel. The best
part? Internment is truly a unique setting for a cast of amazingly
unique characters. You will love them all.
I was so lucky to get an early copy of
this book! This is exactly the sort of sci fi I wished I’d had
growing up. It starts off in what is essentially a Titanic of
the stars, a luxury spaceship that provides a contrast between the
two main characters—a girl born to opulence and a poor boy who’s
risen the ranks of the military. When the ship crashes—and they’re
the only survivors—they must find a way home on an inhospitable
alien planet. You will absolutely, positively not be able to guess
the end of this explosive book.
This one’s not YA, but it reads like
one (in that it’s not hard SF, has a quick pace, is more focused on
characters than most adult SF, etc.). It’s an absolutely
fascinating look at a possible future where, if you’re hot and
young enough when you die, you can be frozen, revived only if you’re
willing to be a contracting bride for the very rich. There’s some
adult language in this one, and some racy ideas, but nothing too
inappropriate on-screen, so mature readers will definitely be able to
get a lot out of this adult title, and I highly recommend it. It’s
a modern Philip K. Dick / Twilight Zone hybrid.
As I always get a giggle out of Travis Jonker's One Star Review Guess Who posts, I figured I'd swipe the idea and post the occasional one-star Amazon review of a much-lauded YA title.
So, can you guess what book this disappointed reader is reviewing?:
Only two words: Children's book.I decided to read the book after it got a
positive review from Lebron James but as you may already know he did
not go to college. Can't believe i spend $5 on this crap, so prepare to
As that one didn't include any details, here's another one about the same book:
WOW!!! With all of the movie hubb-bubb I figured I better look into reading this. No way, Jose!! Didn't like it from about page 20, when the whole premise of the book is laid out. The whole kids-killing-kids aspect of it was distasteful and disturbing. The whole ""we're a happy in-love couple trapped in these "games" ". The whole wolf-pack at the end was over-the-top, bad enough to kill these kids once, but, twice??? I could go on, , ,but, , ,this book is much to do about nothing!!!