You Should Read This: More Notable Young Adult and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction of 2013

Cover for September Girls by Madison Bennett

September Girls managed to do something new with mermaids, which is something that gets increasingly hard to do.

I blogged last week about some of my favorite YA of 2013 and I wanted to add some more books to that list. These are all books that I wold’t have run across if I hadn’t been reading for the Norton jury, and I’m very pleased to have found them. With each I’ve identified both the genre (fantasy vs. science fiction) and the gender of the lead character, since I know that may affect some buying decisions.

For what it’s worth, the overall breakdown here is: 4 male authors, 7 female authors; 6 fantasy, 5 sf; and
5 female leads to 6 male leads.

The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond. Fantasy, female lead. I love the premise: “Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke around the world.” This is the setting for seventeen-year-old Kyra Locke’s adventures in search of her missing father and his secrets.

Homeland by Cory Doctorow. Science fiction, male lead. The sequel to Little Brother, Homeland stands on its own legs, with plenty of action and a lead character, Marcus Yallow, who is beleaguered by questions about releasing information in a plot that seems extraordinarily timely.

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner Science fiction, male lead. An outstanding voice and unusual premise make the story told by social outcast Standish Treadwell well worth picking up. This was a 2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book.

When We Wake by Karen Healey Science fiction, female lead. When sixteen-year old-Tegan Oglietti is unexpectedly moved forward a century in time, she finds herself in a future that’s far from benign, and one that will force her to act in order to keep others from sharing her fate.

Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson Science fiction, female lead. Johnson’s past books have been terrific and this one is no exception. It’s an interesting take of a future society that is fresh and well-written.

September Girls by Bennett Madison Fantasy, male lead. This book is set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and therefore had me from page one. It’s a beautiful, evocative book that treats mermaids in a poetic and (I would argue) feminist take that is gorgeous and has a fabulous mythic quality.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal Fantasy, male lead. The narrator is the ghost of one of the Brothers Grimm…and it goes from there. There’s a slight resonance with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods that comes at a jarring moment, but overall, a terrific and interesting novel.

A Corner of White: The Colors of Madeleine, Book One by Jaclyn Moriarty Fantasy, female lead. I don’t even know how to begin to describe this book, except that it is well written and playful in a way that sometimes is not associated with young adult books. Really lovely.

More than This by Patrick Ness Science fiction, male lead. I will admit I don’t usually like books where the protagonist wakes up amnesia, because it’s a situation that’s been done to death. But the place where Seth awakens is odd enough that I reluctantly found myself drawn into his explorations.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron Fantasy, male lead. Boy is, in fact, Frankenstein’s monster, and his plight is touching and funny and lovely, particularly when he runs away with the granddaughters of Jekyll/Hyde. This is a funny book in the way funny books should be, and will make your heart hurt even while you’re laughing.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters Fantasy, female lead. Reviewers aren’t supposed to talk about the book as a physical object, but I still want to note that this is a handsome book with evocative illustrations that really add to the experience. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black has been sent to San Diego during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. When she begins to hear the voice of her recently-killed lover, she becomes involved with the Spiritualist movement. Rich historical details add a lovely texture to the book as well.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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