11 Sep 2019

#Discussions: The 10 Best YA Speculative Fiction Reads of 2019 (So Far) // #GuestPost by Greg Josselyn of Reedsy

The 10 Best YA Speculative Fiction Reads of 2019 (So Far)

Speculative fiction allows us to escape into fantasy, but it can also put a mirror up to reality, exploring social issues like power, corruption, and choice. The heroes in these novels are often ordinary people put up against an oppressive force. The line between civil disobedience and violence is toed. Ultimately, speculative fiction asks hard questions and invites readers to consider a variety of answers.

While speculative fiction has been challenging readers to think outside the box for many years, this post presents recent bestsellers who depict prevailing themes in new and unique ways.

1. WILDER GIRLS

Author: Rory Powers
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Summary: Wilder Girls follows Hetty, an ordinary student at Raxter School for Girls, whose life turns upside down after a quarantine. The deadly disease Tox has killed all of the teachers and ravaged the outside community. The side effects of infection – making one’s body feel almost alien – turns Hetty’s town into an uncivilized and dangerous place. Promised by a vague body of government that a cure is forthcoming, Hetty and her classmates hide out. When Hetty’s friend Byatt disappears, she must escape the school to hunt her down. But a lie is soon exposed – and Hetty has to face a world full of complexities she never thought possible. 

2. STEPSISTER

Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Scholastic Press 
Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Summary: Cinderella’s stepsisters rarely got much attention – until now. Stepsister takes them head (or foot) on with this retelling of the classic tale. It picks up with the prince surveying the townspeople with his infamous glass slipper. Desperate to make her feet fit and fool the prince, Cinderella’s stepsister Isabelle cuts off her toes. Of course, her feet don’t fit and no matter how much blood (literally), sweat, or tears she sheds, Isabelle can never quite seem to find her happily ever after. Yet with Prince Charming gone, an unlikely event is on her horizon, and it just might present her with a chance at redemption. 

3. THE RED SCROLLS OF MAGIC

Authors: Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu 
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: April 9, 2019

Summary: The Red Scrolls of Magic presents the adventures of the Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood and his boyfriend Magnus Bane. While on vacation in Paris, Magnus learns that a devil-worshipping cult he had started years ago as a joke has plans to terrorize the world at large. Fearing the worst, Magnus and Alec hunt down the cult to try and stop them. But their search throughout Europe is full of barricades and demons, all of which test their relationship. As they suss out the truth about the world around them, they must also face the truth about themselves. 

4. SORCERY OF THORNS 

Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books 
Publication Date: June 4, 2019

Summary: Sorcery of Thorns follows Elisabeth, an orphan whose unusual childhood involved living among sorcerers in a Great Library, where she learned all about magical grimoires — which can turn to destructive creatures if released from their chains. As a young girl, Elisabeth makes a promise to herself to guard them. But when a grimoire ends up getting loose and wreaking havoc on the kingdom, Elisabeth’s attempts to stop it backfires – and everyone blames her for its release. Soon enough she’s forced to seek out help from her archnemesis, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, forcing her to navigate what she thought she knew about her past and her hope for the future.

5. THE FALL OF CRAZY HOUSE

Author: James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: April 8, 2019

Summary: Following the breakout hit Crazy House, here we have its sequel The Fall of Crazy House, a story of escape with twin sisters Becca and Cassie. They live in a world controlled by a tyrannical government, so both of them have had to learn how to fend for themselves as warriors. But now they’re determined to overhaul the regime with those skills – and wage war. Faced with the responsibility to save their fellow citizens and maintain their values, they must examine the meaning of “an eye for an eye” once and for all.

6. KINGSBANE

Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: May 21, 2019

Summary: Meet Rielle Dardenne, the Sun Queen. She’s got a rather important job to do: repair the gate that locks up the angels. Spying on these angels is eventually gets her wrapped up in conspiracies and corruption. The story then fast-forwards to the newly crowned Sun Queen Eliana Ferracora, who is terrified of falling prey to the mistakes of Queen Rielle. Her fear is put to the test when she hears news of her friend Navi’s illness, and has to examine the ethics of using her own power for personal gain. 

7. WE HUNT THE FLAME

Author: Hafsah Faizal
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Summary: We Hunt the Flame follows Zafira, a hunter, and Nasir, the Prince of Death. Nasir is the son of the sultan, and is on a murderous rampage against anyone who breaks the rule of law. Meanwhile, Zafira dresses as a man and hunts for food to survive. But when she hears of a lost artifact with magical powers that could help restore her community, she chases it. Not long after, Nasir is assigned to the case as her hitman, and the two characters collide on a journey that becomes more and more occult along the way. Deep magic unearths questions they didn’t anticipate, leading to surprising revelations.

8. DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN

Author: Adam Christopher 
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: May 28, 2019

Summary: Told as a novel, this audiobook fills in the gaps for the Stranger Things-obsessed. It’s a deep dive into the character of Chief Jim Hopper and — spoiler! — the novel gives insight into Hopper’s life in 1984 Hawkins and 1977 New York City. Within these episodes, we get a major break from the Upside Down with an in-depth look at Hopper’s time in Vietnam and the NYPD. In Darkness on the Egde of Town, a version of Hopper is presented that the fast-moving show doesn’t always have time for – including the history and deeper motivations behind his character.

9. DRY

Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: Paperback edition September 3, 2019

Summary: The Tap-Out makes the lives of Alyssa and her neighbors unbearable. She’s in the middle of a life-threatening drought in the state of California, and can barely take a shower or get a sip to drink. Everything escalates when her parents go missing, so Alyssa must make quick decisions as the tap runs dry and her hometown falls to ruin. To save her family and make it out alive, Alyssa is forced to face her fears and trust her own judgment. 

10. THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA: SEASON OF THE WITCH 

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan 
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Summary: Following Stranger Things’ flirtation with backstories, this Season of the Witch audiobook takes us back to Sabrina Spellman’s impending initiation into a Coven of Witches and Warlocks. The story goes deeper into Sabrina’s ruminations as she decides whether she’ll remain mortal or become a witch. She’s especially attached to her mortal boyfriend Harvey, so she tries to test their love, hoping that might help her decide which path to take. But as the decision grows in difficulty, she finds she must wrestle with her inner demons first.

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Greg Josselyn is a writer for Reedsy, a curated marketplace for writers and speculative fiction readers. As a storyteller, he’s covered everything from pop culture to poetry on a variety of different mediums.

What speculative fiction books have you enjoyed this year?

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