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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Best Y.A. Science Fiction (NOTpoll)

What is the best Young Adult Book (or series) in the Science Fiction genre?

Even though I have recently shifted from polls to NOTpolls, it seems like we JUST did the whole slew of adult SciFi and Fantasy by classic, modern, or contemporary, so I'd like to get a few buffer conversations in there before we begin to retread all that ground.

That said, let's talk about Science Fiction in Y.A. literature. 

I am going to make a distinction here that is not a hard and fast line. There will be another NOTpoll along shortly for dystopian Y.A. since it is such a pronounced genre of its own with SO many rich and wonderful choices. It absolutely needs its own category. I'm not going to nitpick or police everyone's choices, and I know there's a lot of overlap between the two, but consider if you think your nominee might be a better fit for dystopia rather than sci-fi. (Hunger Games, for example, did not make enough out of the futuristic tech and/or emphasize sci-fi tropes. It felt much more dystopian to me.) 

For those still getting used to NOTpolls or who remember the years and years of polls we ran here, there are still rules (below). But instead of trying to figure out what more people think is the BEST (which usually turns into which book has the coolest movie adaptation anyway), we're just going to have a good chat about good books and all come away with some suggestions for our To Be Read Pile™. We'll still have the system of seconds (and "thirds" and "fourths"), but all that will determine is which goes to the top of the list when I post the results. And I'll link out the original nomination post for folks who want to go see what people are actually saying about the book. Eventually these posts listing the results will be compiled in a massive "book recommendation" post.

The Rules

  1. Make two recommendations. Obviously, I can't stop anyone from making fifteen, but nothing beyond the first two will make it onto the master list.
  2. TALK ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE THE BOOK or series (but without spoilers)! Obviously if you just drop a title name and it gets all the seconds, I'm still going to list it, but the whole point of this is to gush a little about the books you think are great, exciting, well written, or unforgettable. 
  3. For each recommendation, let us know if you're nominating it more as a BEST book in the genre or an UNDERSUNG HERO in the genre. Basically "undersung hero" is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, NEED to be read by everyone yesterday, but are maybe not necessarily the besty bestest best. They'll all end up in the list I compile, but I'll put them in different places.
  4. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Divergent as science fiction (even though it's probably better placed as dystopia), you should show your work if you desire those sweet, sweet seconds (or thirds....or fourths) and there might be a discussion thread after your comment with a lot of people writing out the "Uh...." 
  5. You get to mention two (2) books. That's it. Two. You can do one BEST and one UNDERSUNG HERO. Or you can do two BESTS. Or you can do two UNDERSUNG HEROES. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more, I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but it's just lil ol' me compiling this list by myself and it's a pain when people drop a megalodon list of every decent book they can remember in the entire genre. If you list more than two books and your third or later choice gets a second, I'll consider the SECOND the first mention of the book "officially." (Even though that matters a lot less than it did when I was counting seconds to see which titles made the poll––see below.)
  6. Did I mention two?
  7. You may (and absolutely should) second AS MANY nominations of others as you wish. There is no more poll, so this will not be a cutthroat competition to see who makes it to the semifinals. It will simply dictate which titles I list first, and it may influence which books someone considers a good recommendation. ("This one got six seconds, and that one only got two, so I think I'll start with this one.")
  8. Put your nominations HERE. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that and what your nomination is, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  9. You are nominating WRITTEN fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought Stardust was a spectacular movie, but never really could get through Gaiman's written version, please nominate something else. (I love films, but they're a different medium.)
  10. Have a conversation, but check the typical internet assholery at the door. If someone likes something you think is terrible, it's okay to let them enjoy it. And if someone has one tight and polite bit of criticism about your recommendation ("I was not a fan of the X plot arc or the way that author writes women."), it's okay that they didn't care for it and there's no need to defend it like they have impugned you honor for seven generations.  I **WILL** delete shitty comments, and I absolutely know that's highly subjective, so better to err on the side of nice. 
  11. TWO!

Hopefully, we all get some great book recommendations (and maybe a few fewer "not winners") out of this new format. 


  1. For YA sciFi my current favorite is Elizabeth bears book MACHINE which is book two in the white space series... Don't get me wrong, because book one was absolutely phenomenal!...but book two was at least 10 times better. Although it is a series, there's only maybe one paragraph in the second book that you won't understand if you haven't read the first book. Although they are going to culminate together for the third book... That's pretty clear even though it's not out yet and won't be for another year.

    What I love about Elizabeth Bear books in general is that (pronoun unknown so I will use they) they write in a very inclusive manner... There are asexual characters... there are neurodivergent characters... there are characters going through the process of self-realization... There are unhealthy tropes that are brought up and then characters recognize that they are doing something unhealthy and they put in the effort to grow and change and change course.

    What I love about this book in particular... Machine... Is that it's very colorful sci-fi with a lot of space opera feel to it... There are a myriad of races that breathe a myriad of different gases or liquids... some are humanoid but some look nothing like anything we have a word for and some look like things we do have words for... Everything about the background and the races is wide and varied but is also not showy. That variance is not the point of the book which is astounding. In the story arc (no spoilers) some things happened and everyone is trying to figure out how it happened who did it and why they did it like a classic murder mystery or something... Tied in with this vivid background of knowledge and experience. Through the course of the story the characters grow and change their mind about things and for the most part are very intentive and caring and healthy in their interactions with each other.

    not only is it a good story with good character development and good background information it also shows how people can respond in healthy ways to things and how they can respond positively to others when those people are not behaving in a healthy fashion all wrapped up in an incredibly beautiful science fiction story.

    I nominate this book because I wish I had had the pleasure of reading this when I was 15 or 16 years old! It was so good that I know I will be reading it again.

    It rivals Dune for the emotional evolution aspect although it is written much better than Dune, based on the language choices in the word choices etc.

    So this is my nomination! I honestly wish for everyone to read it 🥰

    1. I don't know why it didn't show who I was on that first post... But it was still me. And now I'm reading the precursor series by Elizabeth Bear which is in the exact same universe and takes place a couple hundred years earlier... It's basically all the exact same series that just different points in time. -Bells

  2. I know there have been a lot I haven't read, or even heard of. I'll nominate two different series: John Varley's Thunder & Lighting (Red Thunder, Red Lightning, Rolling Thunder, Dark Lightning) each of which covers different generations within the same space exploring family; and David Gerrold's Dingilliad (Jumping Off the Planet, Bouncing Off the Moon, Leaping to the Stars), which has recently been sequeled with the first of another trilogy, Hella.

  3. I’ll start with Scott Westerfeld’s YA Space Opera “The Risen Empire” and “The Killing of Worlds”

    He described these as the Space Opera that he wishes he had as a teenager. Their fast paced, character driven with fantastic world building hiding behind the scenes and a clear belief that real world science needs to underpin the story

    My second nomination will be for Elizabeth Bear’s “Karen Memory”, a western set in a Seattle brothel, with plenty of steampunk/SF elements

    1. Side note, the two Westerfeld books are one single story and were written as such, but were split into two books by the publisher in order to accommodate the conventional physical shape of YA novels

  4. Matthew Looney and the Space Pirates series, Written by Jr. Jerome Beatty (Author), Gahan Wilson (Illustrator).
    Not as hard core or edgy as more modern fare, but this series will open new worlds for kids and stir their imaginations. Gahan Wilson's illustrations are always cool too, but this is a book that only has the occasional illustration at the start of the chapters.

    Have Space Suit, Will Travel - Robert A. Heinlein
    RAH has done a ton of juveniles, and all of them are pretty decent. This is the last one he wrote and introduces aliens, technology, engineering, and all the normal stuff people expect from their scifi.

    Both of these books are probably for the 7-12 age range, possibly a little younger than you were shooting at, but it's nice to remember these older titles sometimes.

  5. best book: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. It's about a half ehru young girl who was raised to kill the prince of her kingdom. But the plan requires her to get close to him first. The story is the fight to resist her mother's command by finding her true purpose. I love the fantastical setting, the way they teleport and the consequences of doing it to often, how ghosts are real and they try to trap people. How relatable the main character is in in her desire for friendship. I also love how it doesn't force a love triangle on the audience.

    unsung hero Epic by Connor Kostick. In a society were video game currency is equal to real money and violence is absolutely prohibited. One boy decides instead of doing the practical thing like creating his character to be a powerful mage he just makes a really hot pirate lady as his game character and... its actually helpful. At the time a government using a video game to rule was a novel idea. I liked how thinking outside the box and being creative was the best solution to every problem and the world's lore vast. It felt like we barely scratched the surface of the world by the time the first book ended.

  6. undersung hero: these broken stars (and subsequent series). the author took a risk in making a female protagonist who is pretty unlikeable at the beginning and who really grows through to the end. it has elements of horror, too, and takes place on first a spaceship bigger than a city, then on a terraformed planet. characters are fun, consequences are real, and the romance is sweet. definitely recommend :)
    p.s. if you're like me and don't read horror as a rule, no worries here--i'm a scaredy cat and it didn't scare me much. tw for in-series acknowledged controlling/abusive parent, some gore, death

    1. I have to correct myself--its authors, not author!