Jinxed by Amy McCulloch (9781492683742)
Set in a modern world where smartphones have been replaced by companion robots shaped like a variety of animals, this middle-grade novel is a dynamic mix of STEM, science fiction and robot battles. Lacey spends most of her time in her basement cave where she works on baku, the smart pets that accompany everyone around. Lacey longs to get into Profectus, the school that feeds people directly into Moncha, the company behind the bakus. She knows her grades are high enough and her test scores are strong, but she gets a rejection letter. It may be because of her mysterious father who left both their family and Moncha when Lacey was five. Then Lacey discovers a ruined baku in a ravine after saving her friend’s new baku from a fall. She works for months to restore the entire machine and when the cat baku finally comes online, Lacey receives an email that she has actually been accepted to Profectus. Jinx, the cat baku, and Lacey make their way into the elite school, but all is not what it seems both at Moncha and with Jinx.
McCullough has written a middle grade novel that is perfect for devouring quickly. It offers a hint of middle grade romance along with the science fiction and STEM elements. The technology on display is enthralling, making sense as to why it took society by storm. Readers will long for their own baku too. Lacey’s skill with technology and her dedication to it is shown very clearly, honoring the time it takes to both learn and accomplish this high-level work. The baku battles are written with clarity that allows readers to follow them easily and with strong pacing that keeps the action quick and exciting.
The relationship between Jinx and Lacey is key to the book. Using a cat form as the baku who is rather aloof and does what he wants to do, rather than being perfectly biddable and helpful, makes it really function. Elements in the novel that may not make sense early on, will by the end of the first novel, though many questions are left unanswered for future books in the series.
A great first in a new series that may make middle graders look up from their phones. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Sourcebooks.
The Sunburst Award is given “for excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.” They just announced this year’s winners in both their adult and young adult categories. Here is the winner as well as the books that were in the longlist for the young adult category:
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Antilia: Sword and Song by Kate Story
Black Chuck by Regan McDonell
Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith
Feeder by Patrick Weekes
North to Benjamin by Alan Cumyn
Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer
The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones
Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe
Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
Super! by Jennifer Chen
A World Below by Wesley King
Worldshaper by Edward Willett
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (9781524720964)
Just as Tyler Jones is about to recruit the perfect squad, having been the top student at Aurora Academy, it all goes sideways. Hoping to burn off some of his nerves, he takes a short ride into The Fold where he discovers a girl, Aurora, who has been asleep for over 200 years. Rescuing her, means he loses his ability to recruit his squad. He is left with the dregs of the academy plus his sister and her best friend who refused to join any other squad. Their first mission is dull and boring, until suddenly they discover that Aurora has stowed away with them and brought the attention of ruthless forces bearing down on them all. As Aurora starts to show her powers, they realize she is not what she seems and that the future of the galaxy may be in their hands.
This novel is pure science fiction joy. The cast is quirky and very funny, the plot is fast moving and cleverly built, and the aliens are believable. As I read it, I kept on thinking of the first time I read a Miles Vorkosigan novel with their mix of humor and space drama that was intoxicating. This novel has that same feel, that same bubbling humor, wildly dramatic space battles, and enough character development to make it all worthwhile. Kaufman and Kristoff have created a great space opera for teens.
The wit and humor of the book is particularly noteworthy. A large part of that success is in the crew and the way they all interact together. There is the warrior with a huge heart and a grief-stricken past. The diplomat who charms but also cuts with sarcasm. The pilot who is the best around but who can’t keep her eyes off the captain. The scientist who loves firing guns a bit too much. The technician whose big brain can’t match the size of his attitude. Put them all together with a captain who loves to lead and a girl who is still coming into her own, and you have an incredible story.
One of the best science fiction novels for teens, you will not be able to put it down. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Knopf Books for Young Readers.
The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the 2019 finalists for the Locus Awards. The winners will be announced in late June at the Locus Awards Weekend. There is one category that covers young adult fiction. Here are the finalists in that category:
YOUNG ADULT BOOK FINALISTS
The Agony House by Cherie Priest and Tara O’Connor
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Cross Fire by Fonda Lee
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
The Gone Away Place by Christopher Barzak
Half-Witch by John Schoffstall
Impostors by Scott Westerfeld
Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
The finalists for the 2019 Hugo Awards have been announced, including the ones for the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book. Here are the YA finalists:
The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black
Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland
The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin
Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman
Another by Christian Robinson (9781534421677)
In his first solo picture book, award-winning illustrator Robinson creates a wordless experience for young book lovers. A little girl is in bed with her cat sleeping at her feet, when a portal opens in the wall. Through the portal comes a cat who is just the same as her cat except that it wears a blue collar rather than a red one. The portal cat steals the girl’s cat’s red mouse toy and heads back through the portal with it. What ensues is a literal cat and mouse game through a series of portals that lead to Escher-like rooms, reversal of gravity, and much more. Finally, the girl meets another version of herself and retrieves the red mouse, returning home. The adventure is over, or is it?
Cleverly designed, this wordless picture book is a joy to experience. Readers will love figuring out that gravity is different, or that stairs don’t actually look like stairs, or that there are other worlds out there much like our own. The use of portals adds a delightful science-fiction quality to the book too. As always, Robinson’s illustrations are exceptional. His use of repeating polka dots is used on the end-pages and under the book jacket as well as throughout the story. From the girl’s hair to entire landscapes of dots, the book is a cohesive whole even as it journeys through other worlds.
An exceptional picture book made all the more impressive by being wordless. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The finalists for the 2018 Nebula Awards have been announced by The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Winners will be announced in May. The awards are given in several categories, one of which is focused on youth adult science fiction and fantasy. Here are the finalists in that category:
THE ANDRE NORTON AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY BOOK
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
A Light in the Dark by A.K. DuBoff
Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
The 2019 Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction Notable Lists have been announced by LITA. The list includes three age categories with books in each. Here are the books:
GOLDEN DUCK NOTABLE PICTURE BOOKS
Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway by Tim McCanna. Illustrated by Tad Carpenter.
Breaking News: Alien Alert by David Biedrzycki.
Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey.
If You Had a Jetpack by Lisl H. Detlefsen. Illustrated by Linzie Hunter.
Little Robot Alone by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest. Illustrated by Matt Phelan.
A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade. Illustrated by Melanie Demmer.
THE ELEANOR CAMERON NOTABLE MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS
CatStronauts: Robot Rescue by Drew Brockington.
Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge.
Margot and Mateo Save the World by Darcy Miller.
Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron.
A Problematic Paradox by Eliot Sappingfield.
Quantum Mechanics by Jeff Weigel.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks.
Star Scouts: The League of Lasers by Mike Lawrence.
The Story Pirates Present: Stuck in the Stone Age by Geoff Rodkey.
Too Much Space! (Beep and Bob) by Jonathan Roth.
Voyage of the Dogs by Greg Van Eekhout.
Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs.
The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown.
THE HAL CLEMENT NOTABLE YOUNG ADULT BOOKS
A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole.
Cross Fire by Fonda Lee.
The Future Will Be BS-Free by Will Mcintosh.
Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre.
Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan.
Impostors by Scott Westerfeld.
Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson.
The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette.
A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna.
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson.
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.
Your One & Only by Adrianne Finlay.
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton (9780525580966)
Take a dazzling and frightening look at our potential future in this novel for teens. Told in six linked stories, the novel starts in the near future with a look at the moral medical questions of saving one twin by killing the other. Things only get more complicated from there with genetic modifications becoming more and more prevalent. Where does a human end and a cyborg begin? What happens when a modified human loses empathy but gains so much intelligence? What about cryogenics when it falls into the wrong hands? Can humans evolve so far that they appear to be another species entirely? Each story takes the reader farther from the present day and into a wild exploration of the depths of genetic modification taken to the logical extreme.
Dayton could have created six stand-alone stories but instead wisely chose to tie all of them together but not in an expected way. Instead of one of the main characters, it is a minor but majorly influential character who is in the background of all of the stories, making an appearance himself or just having his theories mentioned. He is a religious man who starts out believing that genetic modification is the work of the devil and creates demons but then has his own personal experience with death and genetics and finds a way to become the leading figure in promoting genetic modification.
Dayton keeps a firm hand on the politics of her world as well, setting one of her stories in Australia and another in Russia while the remainder take place in the United States. This global focus allows readers to see more deeply into the divided views on genetic modification and also to see more of the questions related to how far it is alright to take this. Each of Dayton’s stories is an ethical question wrapped in a taut and fascinating plot in a shared world.
Brilliant and timely, this novel for teens is remarkable in its ethical and open questions. Appropriate for ages 13-18.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Delacorte Press.