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31 Days of the Next Big Thing: More Science Fiction for Teens? Make it So!

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

Back in May The Hub tackled upcoming trends and I mentioned that “straight-up, non-dystopian, space-ships-and-aliens science fiction for teens” was a trend I saw coming, though I also noted that it was possibly wishful thinking. Being a card-carrying, president-of-the-science-fiction-and-fantasy-club-in-high-school SF fan, I’ve complained a lot in the recent past about the dearth of good YA science fiction, and while I’ve enjoyed a lot of the recent dystopian and post-apocalyptic titles, what I was really craving were the kind of books I read growing up, only new. And for teens. I’m thinking of authors like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, William Sleator, John Christopher, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, and Andre Norton or books like A Wrinkle in Time, Ender’s Game, The Martian Chronicles, Lord of Light, Earthseed, and so many others.

Six months and a dozen new SF titles later I think this is an honest to goodness trend, and I couldn’t be happier. As I mentioned in that May post, books like Across the Universe, Glow, Black Hole Sun, Partials, the Star Kingdom series (first book by David Weber, the ones to follow by Jane Lindskold), Losers in Space, John Scalzi’s Redshirts (which is published for adults, but should have big crossover appeal), Cinder, and so on seem to herald a new wave of fiction that, as Merriam-Webster describes it, “[deals] principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.”

Publishers Weekly, in a September round-up of “What’s New in YA,” pinpointed science fiction as one of three emerging trends. “Science fiction stories are in ascendance,” says PW, and the number of recently released and upcoming SF titles bears out that statement. In addition to the titles mentioned in that article (Transparent by Natalie Whipple, Eve and Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant, Origin by Jessica Khoury, The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna, and Beta by Rachel Cohn, in case you don’t want to click through) SF lovers get:

  • MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza (March 2013) is the story of how Mila discovers that she is really an experiment in artificial intelligence and not the small town Minnesota girl she thought she was. On the run from factions that want to destroy her, examine her, or duplicate her, Mila finds herself becoming much more than her programming predicted.
  • In the After by Demitria Lunetta (June 2013) tells the story of how Amy survived the initial attack by Them, vicious creatures who devour the human race, how she rescued a small child and how they hid for years, and how once the two of them were rescued and taken to a colony of survivors things went from bad to worse.
  • In Starglassby Phoebe North (July 2013), sixteen-year-old Terra is charged with assassinating the new captain of the ship carrying her society towards a planet they have never seen.
  • After Eden by Helen Douglas (July 2013) begins with the discovery of a new planet and ends — maybe — with the destruction of the human race, unless a boy from the future can prevent the discovery in the first place.

Plus, there are a number of SF sequels on the horizon.

  • Fire Season by Jane Lindskold and David Weber (Oct 2012), sequel to Weber’s A Beautiful Friendship, is the second book in the Honor Harrington prequel Star Kingdom series. Stephanie Harrington, Provisional Forest Ranger on the planet Sphinx, and her treecat companion, Climbs Quickly, must protect the native treecat population from those who would use the natural fire season of the planet to destroy the sentient and highly intelligent species.
  • In Shades of Earth by Beth Revis (Jan 2013), the sequel to Across the Universe and A Million Suns, Amy and Elder finally leave the spaceship Godspeed behind, but instead of the empty paradise they expected, Centauri-Earth turns out to be scary — and inhabited.
  • The sequel to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (a 2012 Teens’ Top Ten pick), Scarlet (Feb 2013), continues the story of Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, as she and her new associates attempt to stay one step ahead of the Lunar Queen.
  • Mary E. Pearson’s Fox Forever (March 2013), the third volume in The Jenna Fox Chronicles, tells of Locke Jenkins’s quest to repay the Favor that allowed him to move his long-sequestered mind into a new body.
  • Shadow on the Sun by David Macinnis Gill (March 2013), the sequel to Black Hole Sun and Invisible Sun, completes the story of Durango and Vienne and Mimi, Durango’s former chief who is now a nano-implant in Durango’s brain. While trying to avoid becoming Prince of Mars, Durango must keep Mimi safe from his own father.

I ran across a quote by William Gibson some time ago, and it’s always stuck with me.

One of the liberating effects of science fiction when I was a teenager was precisely its ability to tune me into all sorts of strange data and make me realize that I wasn’t as totally isolated in perceiving the world as being monstrous and crazy.

That being the case (and I agree with his sentiment wholeheartedly), I’m beyond excited to see so many new SF titles on the horizon, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

— Julie Bartel, currently reading Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge while she waits for her copy of Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz to arrive from the UK.

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Julie Bartel

Julie is a writer and librarian living in Salt Lake City, UT.


  1. Karyn Silverman Karyn Silverman

    You skipped my favorite of the season, the most true blue scifi of them all: Garth Nix’s A Confusion of Princes. Proper scifi indeed, much more than some of the others you’ve listed. Here’s hoping this is the next big thing indeed, because it’s time we left dystopias for some new frontiers.

    • Julie Julie

      A Confusion of Princes was excellent, and you’re right–it’s definitely straight-up science fiction. Thanks for mentioning it since it absolutely deserves a shout out!

  2. Huzzah! I couldn’t agree more Julie, and have been grumbling for ages too about SF equating dystopia when it comes to books for teens. It has always amazed me that the sheer imaginative possibilities of SF have been reigned in when it came to teen books – an age group that would embrace imagination with glee. I’m SO happy to see these books!

    I agree with Karyn about Confusion of Princes – great true-blue SF and great fun to read. Another one I love is Planesrunner by Ian McDonald – late 2011 pub – but I just found it and it is terrific – there’s real science and multiple universes and a great plot. The sequel is just out I think, Be My Enemy.

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