It’s a broad category, but outer space adventure is a defining part of science fiction – both on screen and in YA literature. From Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014) to next month’s hotly anticipated The Martian (out October 2!), space travel seems to be just about everywhere.
Between explanations of technology and complex new worlds, science fiction centered around space travel can sometimes be a little heavy for the casual reader. Have no fear, though – YA books are the perfect entry point if you’re new to the genre. Usually combining a fast pace with a compelling story, there’s a science fiction book for everyone.
If you’re looking to broaden the scope of your galaxy hopping beyond Star Wars (out December 18, as I’m sure everyone on the planet knows by now), check out these stellar reads.
Top of my list is Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee. It’s an ambitious pairing of outer space adventure and edge-of-your-seat sports action, but the combination works. Carr Luka is fighting to become the galaxy’s number one zero gravity boxer, and his determination and genuine personality soon make him the top hero of down-on-its-luck Earth. Compared to the successful colonies on Mars, Earth has struggled to keep up – so the athletic success of Carr, a regular Earthling with no advanced genetic modifications, is a big deal. Which means that when Carr discovers his genetic identity isn’t as heroic as he thought, he has a serious problem on his hands. Blow-by-blow sports action (thrilling even for a non-sporty person like myself) combined with impressive world building means this one is a winner.
Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta features a universe that combines the action and pace of Star Wars with the irreverent humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Cade is a drifter on a planet where humans are third class citizens. Nothing seems to matter much to her besides playing her beloved guitar – that is, until she’s tracked down by a scientist who explains that because she was genetically “entangled” with another person when she was just a baby, Cade might be the key to saving humans from the debilitating Space Sick. Without becoming Space Sick, humans could travel the galaxy just like everyone else, potentially even find a planet of their very own to replace their abandoned Earth. When Cade feels the mysterious pull of her entangled other half – a boy named Xan – she’s determined to do anything it takes to find him – including joining up with a band of smugglers and outlaws.
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, the first of the Starbound trilogy, is an excellent example of a romance set inside a space-bound science fiction universe. Spoiled belle of the ball Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the universe, so she’s not supposed to have anything to do with lowly soldier Tarver Merendsen. But when they’re the only two survivors of a horrific spaceliner accident, they have to work together to stay alive – and stay sane. The rapport between them is fantastic, and this story about love and loyalty blossoms in the harsh world of an alien planet.
— Savannah Kitchens, currently reading Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, collected by April Genevieve Tucholke