By Kate Schefer, Digital Products Coordinator
Every year, YALSA promotes teen literacy and engagement with a week celebrating books for teens. This year, as you may know, the theme is “It’s Written in the Stars: READ,” which puts the focus on sci-fi, fantasy, and other extraordinary books. As a formerly voracious teen reader, I especially love this theme, because there’s so much great genre fiction for teens that isn’t just about budding romances or coming-of-age tales (though the best books will include a little bit of everything). In recent years, fantasy and sci-fi content has seen a revival, especially among younger audiences, which is great! But this also means there are a ton of new books on the market that weren’t there before, and readers who are new to these genres may feel overwhelmed. Below, I’ve rounded up some of my evergreen favorites from sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian genres.
The first entry in MariNaomi’s Life on Earth series, this graphic novel masterfully combines the daily concerns of four teens with the mystery surrounding a classmate’s disappearance. A unique storyline and artistic style will engage hesitant and adventurous readers alike.
This wacky space adventure is still making the rounds decades later for a reason. Adams’ irreverent and illogical approach to the genre reached even the most unwilling audiences, as he made it accessible and nuanced. Perfect for existing sci-fi fans looking for more mature reads.
Another adult-level title, I know, but it was my first introduction to Vonnegut as a teen, and I immediately fell for his quasi-sci-fi, entirely human stories. This book is a great combination of classic Vonnegut themes and absurdities, which makes it ideal for advanced readers searching for more depth and history.
A great intro to sci-fi, the six titles in this series answer the question, “what would happen if you woke up inside a video game?” Leveled for reluctant teen readers, the high-energy storyline keeps them engaged, while the text remains accessible. Fun and current for all types of gamers.
Author Walter Moers has crafted one of the most fantastical and complete worlds I’ve ever encountered in this first installment in the Zamonia series. This rich tale works up into a hefty print book, but it’s full of lively illustrations and the pace keeps readers enthralled from beginning to end. Draw in your insatiable teen readers with this title, and they’ll be happy to know there’s plenty more where it came from.
My first favorite book as a child, and the first in Fünke’s book-centric trilogy, Inkheart felt wonderously magical from the first page. A bookbinder father? A book collector aunt? A mysterious fire-eater? Booklovers will be immediately drawn to the Inkworld, while even reluctant readers will fall for its charm and whimsy.
Before Uglies, before The Hunger Games, before anything like dystopian YA was cool, came this book. Set in a world where a mysterious virus kills off anyone older than 12, protagonist Lisa becomes the defacto leader of her neighborhood, preparing them for a future in which the country’s children must figure out how to rebuild. Revamped as a graphic novel in 2012, this title is a must for any post-apocalyptic fans who’ve already worked through the modern canon.
The Wind on Fire trilogy introduces readers to a number of dystopian cultures, as well as a diverse cast of teen characters that any young reader could see themselves in. Ideal for readers looking for representation and a greater understanding of the world, while remaining in the fiction realm.
The inspiration for Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, this novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin couldn’t even be published in his home country of Russia until 1988. A groundbreaking piece of sci-fi-infused social commentary, We will enlighten and stimulate inquisitive minds.
Potentially the coolest way to broach the subject of high-level physics concepts, the graphic novel Smash! follows two teens on a tour of CERN, where they learn about the Large Hadron Collider and the science behind it. Perfect for interested readers who aren’t into the drier academic texts on the subject.
If we truly want our teen readers to get out of this world, why not introduce them to the theory of black holes? An in-depth exploration of these celestial enigmas is accompanied by informative and approachable sidebars and illuminating graphics to bring this concept down to Earth.
There are so many ways to approach teaching and reading these genres, and there are still so many amazing books out there that I didn’t touch upon. Hopefully you’ve discovered something new to show that teen reader who comes to you looking for recommendations, whether they’ve sworn never to read sci-fi, or they just can’t get enough. What are some titles you’ve found popular among teen readers? Let me know in the comments below!
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