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.
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.