In 2015, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti published Zeroes, a wonderful, intricately plotted YA thriller about the discovery by a group of teens (all born in the year 2000) that they have a variety of extremely millennial supernatural powers, which grow in strength in social situations; in the years since, the authors have finished the trilogy with two more excellent volumes: 2016's Swarm, which introduces out-of-town powered teens and raises the stakes to life or death for the Zeroes' whole hometown; and 2018's Nexus, which sends the Zeroes off into conflict with the US government, and a massive army of not-exactly-but-sorta-evil powered teens who have all the crowd magic of Mardi Gras to work with, in a battle over the fate of the human race itself.
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In Gregory Scott Katsoulis's All Rights Reserved
, we had a thrilling YA adventure in a world where ever word is copyrighted and every person over 15 wears an unremovable surveillance cuff to bill them for their speech; in the sequel, Access Restricted
, we follow the surviving heroes outside the claustrophobic confines of the Portland dome and into the wider world, to DC, the wastelands beyond, and finally to Tejico, the semi-colonized, semi-independent nation made up of Mexico and Texas, where a way out of this terrible world may be found.
In Gregory Scott Katsoulis's All Rights Reserved
, we get all the traditional trappings of a first-rate YA dystopia: grotesque wealth disparity leading to a modern caste system, draconian surveillance to effect social control in an inherently unstable state, ad-driven ubiquitous entertainment as the only distraction from environmental collapse -- but with an important difference.
Hope Larson's All Summer Long
is an incredibly charming, subtly complex story about friendship and coming of age, the story of Bina and her lifelong friend Austin, who, as far back as they can remember have spent every summer playing a game where they award themselves "Fun Points" for petting cats, finding change on the sidewalk, going swimming, and otherwise making the most of a long, wonderful summer. Until now.
Jen Wang's work: her debut graphic novel Koko Be Good
was thought-provoking and challenging and beautiful; "In Real Life," her adaptation of my story Anda's Game
took the tale to places that delighted and surprised me -- today, Firstsecond publishes The Prince and the Dressmaker
, which I believe will be her breakout graphic novel.
Judy Blume is Amanda Palmer's ballad in honor of the author's 80th birthday, celebrating her decades of service in helping young women to navigate a world that labels them as crazy and vain, the nagging sense that it's "just me": "The experiences of her teenage characters ― Deenie, Davey, Tony, Jill, Margaret ― are so thoroughly enmeshed with my own memories that the line between fact and fiction is deliciously thin. My memories of these characters, though I’d prefer to call them “people” ― of Deenie getting felt up in the dark locker room during the school dance; of Davey listlessly making and stirring a cup of tea that she has no intention of drinking; of Jill watching Linda, the fat girl in her class, being tormented by giggling bullies ― are all as vivid, if not more so, as my own memories of kissing Stephen Lee in our elementary school’s auditorium closet atop a pile of gymnastics mats (fourth grade), of being teased by Mike O’Curtin for being too flat-chested (all of sixth and seventh grades), or of discovering that an empty plastic ice pop sheath makes a pretty good dildo when filled with warm water (summer of eighth grade. And believe me, it was a truly great summer.)"
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In 2002, MT Anderson blew up the YA dystopia world with Feed
, his zeitgeisty, prescient novel about "identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains" -- in his latest, Landscape with Invisible Hand
, Anderson takes us to a world where neoliberal aliens have sold Earth's plutocrats the technologies to make work obsolete and with it, nearly human being on earth.
The Science Fiction Writers of America have announced the 2017 Nebula Award winners, including two of my favorite books of 2016: Charlie Jane Anders's wonderful debut All the Birds in the Sky and Seanan McGuire's outstanding novella, Every Heart a Doorway. Read the rest
In Soupy Leaves Home
, writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Jose Pimienta expand the borders of young adult graphic novels, telling a moving, inspiring tale of Depression-era hobos, identity, gender, suspicion, solidarity, and the complicated business of being true to yourself while living up to your obligations to others.
In Spill Zone
, YA superstar Scott "Uglies
" Westerfeld and artist Alex Puvilland tell the spooky, action-packed tale of Addison, one of the few survivors of the mysterious events that destroyed Poughkeepsie, New York, turning it into a spooky, Night-Vale-ish place where mutant animals, floating living corpses, and people trapped in two-dimensional planes live amid strange permanent winds that create funnels of old electronics and medical waste.
"Your first doomsday machine is a malevolent, inscrutable wristwatch.”
The Please Don't Tell My Parents series, by Richard Roberts, is a wonderful young adult series of novels about Penelope Akk and her two friends Claire and Ray. They are normal middle school kids just hoping their superpowers will kick in soon. Read the rest
Lauren McLaughlin is no stranger to hard-hitting, unflinching young adult novels: her debut, Cycler
(and its sequel, Re-Cycler
) was about a teenaged girl who turned into a boy for four days every month; Scored
was a class-conscious surveillance dystopia; now, in The Free
, McLaughlin sheds any fantastic or futuristic elements and mainlines a pure, angry, relentless and stripped-down story about a kid whose desperate circumstances become almost unbearable when he takes a fall for a car-theft and goes to juvenile prison.
is a new dystopian science fiction YA graphic novel from Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro that tells the story of Angela Swiff, a teen who refuses to go along with the "Guarantee," a totalitarian philosophy that demands that everyone work, play and (especially) shop as quickly as is humanly possible.
Victoria Jamieson's 2015 graphic novel Roller Girl
won the prestigious Newberry Honor Award and it's easy to see why: Jamieson's story of a young teen's interest in roller derby is the perfect vehicle to explore the difficult and even traumatic way that girls' friendships change as they become teenagers, while never losing sight of the core story, about personal excellence, teamwork, and hard-hitting, girl-positive roller derby.
I first encountered Noelle Stevenson's work through her groundbreaking
, but before the 'Janes, Stevenson was tearing up the webcomics world with Nimona
, which was collected and published by Harper Teen
Che Taylor is 17 and his little sister, Rosa, is 10 -- and she's a psychopath. His itinerant parents are relocating the family -- again -- to start (another) social enterprise, this one in New York, and Che knows that when the plane from Bangkok touches down, Rosa will resume her secret campaigns of psychological torture and ghastly cruelty, and that he'll be the only one who can see through the cherubic, charismatic, ringleted facade to the monster underneath. If only he didn't love her so much...
Last week, the National Coalition Against Censorship
honored Rainbow Rowell for her refusal to be back down
on the frequent challenges to her multiple-award-winning, bestselling 2013 novel Eleanor & Park
. I was there, and got a copy of the novel, and have read nothing since, and now that I've finished it, I find myself profoundly moved.