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.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks (9781368008440)
Living on Wilnick, an outdated and aging space station at the end of the galaxy could be dull, but not for best friends Sanity and Tallulah. Sanity, who has always wanted a pet despite rules against having one, decides to create one herself. It turns out to be a very cute three-headed kitten with a taste for meat. The kitten manages to escape soon after Tallulah’s mother finds out that she exists. The girls set out to find out whether the problems that are happening across the space station are the fault of one cute kitten or maybe it’s something else. Meanwhile, there seems to be a very large monster on the loose and the coolant tank appears to have been drunk dry. As disaster looms aboard the space station, it’s up to Sanity to save the day thanks to the technology she explored when creating her illegal pet.
Brooks sets exactly the right tone in this graphic novel. The girls best friends who tend to talk one another into getting into even more trouble while trying to fix what they have already done. Add in a three-headed kitten and mayhem follows. The two girls could not be more different, which makes for an odd-couple chemistry between them. The story is fast paced and a delightful mix of STEM and girl power.
The art in the book is done in a limited color palette with pinks and deep blues. The art brings to life the space station and its size, conveying the hazards of keeping it functional while giving the girls a lot of space to run into trouble. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse and that extends to all of the people who live aboard the space station.
A strong graphic novel with plenty of appeal. Appropriate for ages 9-12
Reviewed from library copy.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud (9781250126429)
Amani is taken from her farming village to the center of the Vathek empire, the alien race that now rules their planet. She looks nearly identical to the half-Vathek princess, Maram. The princess is despised by everyone, including the courtiers that surround her and her own half-sibling. Amani is drawn cruelly into a world where her very survival depends on her being able to pretend to be a princess. The training in being a body double is precise and ruthless. As Amani begins to conform to the expectations, no one can take away her love of reading and poetry. But Amani doesn’t know who she can trust in a world built on deceit and blood.
Daud does several things marvelously in this debut novel. She has created compelling characters, including Amani herself who is brave and willing to take immense risks for those she loves. Even Princess Maram becomes more complex as the book continues. The prince that Maram is betrothed too is also richly drawn, particularly as he and Amani become more closely acquainted. She has also created a richly built world that draws from Middle Eastern culture. It is a unique and compelling vision of the future that hearkens back to traditional tales in a fascinating way.
Given that this is a debut book, readers should expect some beginner issues. There is a lot of telling and not showing in the writing. I also struggled as Amani started to become friends with her oppressors, even though she is also given a way forward as a spy and mole, someone who could work aggressively to take down those who are hurting her family and her planet. I am hoping that in the next book in the series, there will be less warmth for the oppressors and more for the rebels fighting back.
This is a science fiction book for teens worth reading thanks to its unique setting and strong characters. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from library copy.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (9781250178138)
An amazing graphic novel for teens, this book offers romance, space travel, and boarding schools all in one incredible package. It is the story of Mia, a girl who doesn’t have a lot of friends at the boarding school she attends. But one girl catches her attention, Grace, a new girl who needs help figuring out how to make her way at the school. Soon the two girls are a couple, but Grace has a secret that she refuses to share with Mia until suddenly Grace is gone. Now Mia works in space repairing buildings with a small team. She gets close with the others until she finally reveals why she joined the crew.
Walden is the author of Spinning, which was an impressive graphic memoir about coming out. Here, she weaves a complex tale in a universe entirely her own. The universe she has created is populated entirely by women, something that is slowly realized by the reader rather than being specifically mentioned or explained. The result is an LGBT universe that includes a very special depiction of a transgender character as well.
The art here is simply amazing. The universe unfolds on the pages, done in a limited color palette but incorporating dreamlike moments, staggering rock formations, crumbling abandoned buildings and fish-like space craft. It is entirely Walden’s creation, unique and unlike anything else.
An impressive graphic novel both for its content and its art. This one is unique and incredibly beautiful. Appropriate for ages 13-18.
Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.
Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (9781534422209)
Cager’s best friend Billy and caretaker Rowan have taken him to his father’s huge cruise-liner spaceship orbiting the moon in order to break his drug habit. It was meant to be for a short period of time but while they are up in the ship, the earth with its thirty wars burns up. Now Billy, Rowan and Cager are the three last humans left alive with thousands of cogs (robots) around them to serve their every need. The cogs usually have one dominant personality trait and unfortunately that can be anger, glee, talkativeness or being constantly horny. As Billy and Cager explore the ship, they find that something strange is going on. Cager is certain that there are human girls aboard the ship because he can smell them. But even more interesting and perplexing, the cogs have started eating one another!
Wow. I fell hard for this wild and zany science fiction novel. It can be read as a rather sexual romp in space with horny robots and aliens intent on destroying the cogs. But Smith uses that tantalizing premise to really ask some deeper questions about humanity, about robots that are so close to being human that it may not matter any more, about love and about survival of a species that may be in its final version. Smith avoids becoming too didactic by continuing to have frantic and funny moments throughout from a tiger-eating giraffe with a French accent to Parker, the perpetually horny personal servant.
It is incredible that Smith keeps enough rein on this book as it strains to break free and become a farce at any moment. Yet he does, partly thanks to Cager, the lead character, who though he is spoiled and beyond wealthy, also has a straight-forward take on life whether beating a cog to death with a shoe or hanging cogs by the neck to save them.
A deep book hidden in farts, horniness and space, this is one incredible teen novel. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Simon & Schuster.