Welcome to Smugglivus 2012! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2012, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2013.
Who: Phoebe North, one of our favorite bloggers who is a soon-to-be debut author of young adult science fiction! We’ve loved Phoebe’s blog posts and her reviews over at The Intergalactic Academy (just as much as we’ve loved her blog partner, Sean’s), and we could not be more excited for her first book.
Recent Work: Starglass is Phoebe’s first novel, coming out next year from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. We had the pleasure and honor of hosting Phoebe’s awesome cover reveal, and seriously cannot wait for Starglass.
Please give it up for Phoebe, folks!
Four Awesome YA Sci-fi Titles of 2012 (and one of 2013!)
There’s been a lot of grumbling in YA circles about the weary, dying genre of YA dystopians and how little they have to offer readers in terms of original content, story, or plot. By now, we all know the drill: girl grows up in oppressive society (perhaps one in which rainbows have been banned and the government controls the weather) where she’s paired with a sweet-natured upstanding citizen. But then the unthinkable happens! She meets a hot rebel boy and learns that her society is built on lies!
Luckily, not every YA sci-fi title of 2012 was quite so predictable. And, as a YA sci-fi author and blogger with the Intergalactic Academy, I’ve read most of them. Here are four books that have pushed the boundaries of the genre in the past year.
A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
Nix’s work is complex, challenging space opera about Khemri, a “prince” capable of reincarnation and set to compete with many other princes in the hopes of ruling over the Empire. This is dense science fiction, with little apparent resemblance to our own world at the outset. Like adult sci-fi writers, Nix plunges readers in to his setting with little throat-clearing or preamble. Instead, readers must piece together the details of this world themselves based on word choice and contextual clues. And yet Khemri’s eventual softening and maturation make this undeniably a work of YA sci-fi. It’s a terrifically weird one–but a great one, too.
The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman
At a recent trip to Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, I spotted a teenage boy with Hautman’s SF time travel novel tucked under his arm. He was begging his mom to buy it for him, and I couldn’t help but pipe up, “The Obsidian Blade is so good!” They smiled vaguely and shuffled off–scared, I think, of the strange tattooed book pusher haunting their local book shop.
But it’s that kind of book. In some ways, The Obsidian Blade resembles the best of Rod Serling’s work–strange, lonely, and a little cold. It’s the story of Tucker Feye, the preacher’s son, whose father one day disappears and reappears with a strange girl named Lahlia. This event has wide-reaching ramifications–not in the least in how it heralds Tucker’s mother’s madness. Soon, Tucker is visiting locales across time and space. But this isn’t a mad-cap journey. It’s strange and sad, with a heavy religious context. And it’s quite literally “haunting,” a tale that will stay with you for days after, like a nightmare, half-remembered.
Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
Janet Edwards’ YA sci-fi debut came out this year in the UK; Pyr will release it in the US in 2013. I can’t wait to share it with other readers stateside. Like A Confusion of Princes, this is space-based sci-fi–sort of. Earth Girl is the story of 18-year-old Jarra, an Earth-bound “ape” who can’t travel to distant extra-solar colonies because of an immune system response. Instead, she picks a new identity for herself and buries her in school work at an archaeological dig site on the ruins of New York City. Jarra’s chatty voice carries the tale, but the unusual universe–each space colony has its own social mores and language–is what distinguishes it. It’s also a college story, complete with dorm room canoodling and incipient romance. Great fun, and truly innovative.
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
Zhang’s debut is a high concept story–of a girl with a secret second soul in a universe where all people are born with two, but must repress one by puberty–wrapped in the beautiful, delicate language of a literary novel. In that way, it best reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. But what’s particularly refreshing about What’s Left of Me is the focus on the relationship between the two souls, Eva and Addie. These girls are essentially sisters, and Zhang creatures a complex story about the equally complex relationship with girls who grow up in the inevitable shadow of their blood relations. Jealousies and anxieties abound, but Zhang never resorts to melodrama. Instead, it’s a delicately-told tale, quiet–but less a bore and more a thrilling whisper.
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Johnson’s YA debut won’t be out until next spring, but I can’t help but crow about it now: June Costa is an artist in the post-apocalyptic land of Palmares Tres (built on the ruins of old Brazil). It’s the story of a society in recovery from a plague that significantly reduced the male population, and the sacrifices they make in order to remain prosperous. It’s also deliciously complex, with interesting worldbuilding and stunningly well-integrated diversity. Plus the setting just glows. Conceptually sophisticated (the book is divided into seasons, not chapters), it’s a bit difficult to talk about–and to talk about without gushing. All I can say is that I can’t wait to gab about it with other readers.
Thank you, Phoebe!