First, a definition. What is science fiction? Isaac Asimov called science fiction the literature concerned with the impact of scientific advancement upon humans. I think that’s a pretty solid and easy to grasp definition, and I’d add that what separates science fiction from fantasy is that it is plausible. There is a rationale behind how things happen and how they unfold. Of course, “plausible” can run the gamut from “I can definitely see that happening someday” to “That couldn’t ever happen, but I’ll buy it for the story.” Sometimes you have to have a healthy suspension of disbelief.
Science fiction has a host of subgenres within it, including aliens, space life/ships/operas/westerns, dystopia, alternative histories, cyberpunk, time travel, robots (you DO know the three laws, right?), science fantasy, and many, many more. Take some time to read through the wikipedia article on science fiction and its wide range of subgenres because it’s very well written and offers up some great further sources on the genre. If you have access to Novelist via your library, it’s worth perusing their subgenre classifications within science fiction, as well. Some of their subgenres include classic science fiction, among the stars, Christian science fiction, and others.
With the proliferation of dystopia in YA fiction, it’s been harder to tease out other science fiction titles, but there are tons out there. This is by no means a complete list, but rather, a means of showcasing the wide range of titles that are indeed science fiction. All descriptions are from WorldCat or Goodreads, and we welcome any additions you’d like to include — just drop a comment! These titles are more recent ones, and we’ve included forthcoming 2013 titles, as well, to keep on your radar.
First, if parallel worlds are of interest, Kimberly’s already written a great post with a ton of titles — these are examples of science fiction worlds because, well, they COULD happen.
Adaptation by Malinda Lo: In the aftermath of a series of plane crashes caused by birds, seventeen-year-old Reese and her debate-team partner, David, receive medical treatment at a secret government facility and become tangled in a conspiracy that is, according to Reese’s friend, Julian, connected with aliens and UFOs. Kelly’s review
First Day on Earth by Cecil Castellucci: A startling novel about the true meaning of being an alien in an equally alien world. Kelly’s review
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan: Part of the first generation to be conceived in deep space, fifteen-year-old Waverly is expected to marry young and have children to populate a new planet, but a violent betrayal by the dogmatic leader of their sister ship could have devastating consequences. Kimberly’s review
Cinder by Marissa Meyer: As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, observed by a ruthless lunar people, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story. Kimberly’s review
Yesterday by CK Kelly Martin: After the mysterious death of her father and a sudden move back to her native Canada in 1985, sixteen-year-old Freya feels distant and disoriented until she meets Garren and begins remembering their shared past, despite the efforts of some powerful people to keep them from learning the truth. Kelly’s review
Variant by Robison Wells: After years in foster homes, seventeen-year-old Benson Fisher applies to New Mexico’s Maxfield Academy in hopes of securing a brighter future, but instead he finds that the school is a prison and no one is what he or she seems. Kimberly’s review
172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad: Three teenagers are going on the trip of a lifetime. Only one is coming back. It’s been more than forty years since NASA sent the first men to the moon, and to grab some much-needed funding and attention, they decide to launch an historic international lottery in which three lucky teenagers can win a week-long trip to moon base DARLAH 2-a place that no one but top government officials even knew existed until now. The three winners, Antoine, Midori, and Mia, come from all over the world. But just before the scheduled launch, the teenagers each experience strange, inexplicable events. Little do they know that there was a reason NASA never sent anyone back there until now-a sinister reason. But the countdown has already begun… Kelly’s review
Insignia by S. J. Kincaid: Tom, a fourteen-year-old genius at virtual reality games, is recruited by the United States Military to begin training at the Pentagon Spire as a Combatant in World War III, controlling the mechanized drones that do the actual fighting off-planet. Kimberly’s review
The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson: In a world ravaged by global warming, teenage Owen Parker discovers that he may be the descendant of a highly advanced, ancient race, with whose knowledge he may be able to save the earth from self-destruction.
pasts, but revelations after his father’s death set him on a dangerous
quest that brings new threats from those who would either control his
destiny or kill him. Kimberly’s review
Across the Universe by Beth Revis: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet 300 years in the future, but 50 years before the ship’s scheduled landing, Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber. Kimberly’s review
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan: Sixteen-year-old Rosalinda Fitzroy, heir to the multiplanetary corporation UniCorp, is awakened after sixty years in stasis to find that everyone she knew has died and as she tries to make a new life for herself, learns she is the target of a robot assassin. Kelly’s review
Erasing Time by C. J. Hill: Eighteen-year-old twins Taylor and Sheridan are pulled into the future and must find a way to stop the evil government from using the time machine again. Kimberly’s review
Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill: On the planet Mars, sixteen-year-old Durango and his crew of mercenaries are hired by the settlers of a mining community to protect their most valuable resource from a feral band of marauders.
Here’s a look at some of the science fiction titles out in 2013 to give an idea of how vast the genre really is.
Half Lives by Sara Grant: Follows the lives of two unlikely teenaged heroes, mysteriously linked and living hundreds of years apart, as both struggle to survive and protect future generations from the terrible fate that awaits any who dare to climb the mountain.
Coda by Emma Trevayne: Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid. Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?
Homeland by Cory Doctorow (sequel to Little Brother): When Marcus, once called M1k3y, receives a thumbdrive containing evidence of corporate and governmental treachery, his job, fame, family, and well-being, as well as his reform-minded employer’s election campaign, are all endangered.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey: Cassie Sullivan, the survivor of an alien invasion, must rescue her young brother from the enemy with help from a boy who may be one of them.
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke: There’s never been anyone – or anything – quite like Finn. He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is to tutor Cat. When the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.
Proxy by Alex London: Privileged Syd and and his proxy, Knox, are thrown together to overthrow the system.
Rush by Eve Silver: Rochester, New York, high schooler Miki Jones is pulled into a sort of a game in which she and other teens battle real-life aliens and the consequences of each battle could be deadly.
Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum: Twenty years after robots designed to fight wars abandoned the battlefields and turned their weapons against humans, siblings Nick, Kevin, and Cass must risk everything when the wilderness community where they have spent their lives in hiding is discovered by the bots.
The Program by Suzanne Young: When suicide becomes a worldwide epidemic, the only known cure is The Program, a treatment in which painful memories are erased, a fate worse than death to seventeen-year-old Sloane who knows that The Program will steal memories of her dead brother and boyfriend.
The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist: Veronika. Caroline. Isobel. Eleanor. One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl–the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck–suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned.
Starglass by Phoebe North: For all of her sixteen years, Terra has lived on a city within a spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago seeking refuge, but as they finally approach the chosen planet, she is drawn into a secret rebellion that could change the fate of her people.
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau: Sixteen-year-old Malencia (Cia) Vale is chosen to participate in The Testing to attend the University; however, Cia is fearful when she figures out her friends who do not pass The Testing are disappearing.
Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza: Sixteen-year-old Mila discovers she is not who–or what–she thought she was, which causes her to run from both the CIA and a rogue intelligence group.
The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams: For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories. But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?
Tandem by Anna Jarzab (no cover yet): Sasha, who lives a quiet life with her grandfather in Chicago but dreams of adventure, is thrilled to be asked to prom by her long-time crush, Grant, but after the dance he abducts her to a parallel universe to impersonate a princess.
that uses young female psychics and mind readers as tools for corporate
espionage–and if Fia doesn’t play by the rules of their deadly game,
Annie will be killed.
The Originals by Cat Patrick: Seventeen-year-olds Lizzie, Ella, and Betsy Best are clones, raised as identical triplets by their surrogate mother but living as her one daughter, Elizabeth, until their separate abilities and a romantic relationship force a change.
Dualed by Elsie Chapman: West Grayer lives in a world where every person has a twin, or Alt. Only one can survive to adulthood, and West has just received her notice to kill her Alt.
Control by Lydia Kang: In 2150, when genetic manipulation has been outlawed, seventeen-year-old Zelia must rescue her kidnapped sister with the help of a band of outcasts with mutated genes.
Want some more resources or information about science fiction? Check out the following:
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association has plenty of information about writing science fiction and more on their website. The SFWA annually bestows that year’s best books, novellas, and more with the Nebula Award. There is also a great recommended reading list for books that have been honored in the past, and it does include some high-quality YA titles.
- There is also the World Science Fiction Society, and one of their big purposes is to bestow the Hugo Awards. The Hugo honors the best of science fiction in a given year. Check out the history of the Hugo Awards and past winners and honorees.
- The SF Signal is a web-based fanzine to all things science fiction. Bookmark this and peruse it for news and information about all kinds of science fiction and all things within the science fiction world.
- Locus Online is the web component of Locus Magazine, which is dedicated to all things science fiction and fantasy.
- Want to keep a couple of strong science fiction review/news blogs on your radar? Make sure you’re reading The Book Smugglers, as well as the Intergalactic Academy. While the second is no longer active, the archives are well worth your while. Also of note are the Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy blog and Strange Horizons.
- Who is publishing science fiction, you ask? Well, most of the publishers do, but there are imprints which focus specifically on science fiction and fantasy, such as Tor. There’s also Angry Robot and Pyr. Both of these smaller presses focus on science fiction, and they, along with Tor, do offer a number of YA titles.