Young Adult Fiction: My top 13 picks for Sci Fi and Fantasy

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For some reason I feel like telling the world (everyone who reads this blog) about my addictions/obsessions lately. First sports and now this. Before GoodReads outed me, on a small list of people knew about my addiction to young adult fiction. The list included the librarians in various libraries in Pittsburgh and DC, people at the gym in college who actually payed attention to the book in my hand while I biked, close friends, and others who I realized over time had the same obsession as me.

I feel that its slightly more acceptable now (Thank you Twilight and The Hunger Games) and frankly I stopped caring what people think of the books that are my guilty pleasure.

So here I’ve compiled my top 13 picks for young adult fantasy/sci fi books or series. Yes 13. Not 10. 13. It’s my lucky number! I narrowed it down to 10 and then realized there was no way I wanted to leave off the other three- one of which happened to be Harry Potter. I’ll address some of the more famous books (maybe just one series) that was left off and why there is no way on this green earth that I would  include it.

**I thought I read a ton of this whole genre, but I recently met a friend who has read far more than I have. I’m going to make him give me his picks too. He doesn’t know this yet, but he’ll find out when I hit publish!

13. Enders Game by Orson Scott Card

I haven’t read any of the other books  in the Ender’s Saga, but have heard good things. This one, however, is ridiculously good. The story follows Ender as he trains in a remote facility with other children his age to become elite soldiers for the government. The children undergo rigorous training and Ender soon shoots to the top of his class and begins leading intricate battles in the zero gravity battle room. The story delves more into the life of Ender and his relationship with his brother and sister. You learn more of Earth’s battle with the Buggers and how dire the situation is getting.

I read this book quite quickly. It’s easy to read – Orson Scott Card’s writing is fluid and easy to follow. The story is intriguing and you root for Ender as he goes through pressure from peers and teachers and deals with bullying and growing in his studies. Definitely one of my favorite sci-fi novels.

12. Uglies by Scott Westerfield

This series follows Tally as she crosses from adolescence into young adulthood. In her world, you’re an ‘ugly’ until you reach the age of 16 at which point, you undergo a series of operations to make you a ‘pretty’ or in other words to fix your imperfections – make your face symmetrical, change your eyes, fix skin imperfections, weight issues, everything. After the operation, you join the world of the pretties where no one works and everyone just has fun. Sounds pretty awesome, right? That is until you learn more and more about what the authorities are doing to people against their will.

The series is a strong one and only tapers, in my opinion, in the last book – Extras. Some things are easy to see coming such as Tally managing to get captured in each book (Sorry that MIGHT be a spoiler, but lets be honest, you should see it coming every time). Each time you find yourself rooting for her because she manages to keep a mental hold on her original self and ideals. There’s a few cute love stories thrown in there that I’ll be honest I didn’t quite see ending the way they did. Tears were shed. I became attached to characters. The books are easy to read and I had to finish each book in one sitting; I was too engrossed to put them down. If you’re a fan of dystopian young adult literature, I definitely recommend this series.

11. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Claire

I think I found out about this series backward. I found A Clockwork Angel and was meh about it, but then decided to give City of Bones a try as it had a higher rating overall on Goodreads. I don’t know why I have this series ahead of Uglies, but I do. That’s how I was feeling earlier when I wasn’t in this drowsy state of whatever I’m in right now. Anyway, I’ve only read through the third book. I wasn’t aware there was a fourth, fifth or even a possible sixth until recently and am quite excited about them, though I’m unsure where she can go with the characters. Apparently it was originally supposed to be a trilogy? Whatever. I’ll accept more books.

A swirl of teenage love stories threads through the tales of Clary Fray who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or is it the right place at the right time) and meets the Shadowhunters – warriors who rid the earth of demons. As you move through the books, you learn more and more about why Clary was pulled into the mess of the Shadowhunters and who her and her family really are in their world. Clare does an amazing job of painting the surroundings of the characters including the City of Glass. You can easily get attached to the characters and find yourself rooting for different people in different situations – even the bad guys at times.

10. Sweep by Cate Tiernen

I’ve read through the Sweep series – well most of it – several times now. Set in present day, the series follows Morgan Rowlands as she navigates through highs school relationships, the creation and breaking of friendships, and most importantly, growing into her powerful Wiccian ancestry. Each book is ridiculously short and action packed. Something intense happens in each one – usually ending with Morgan in a life or death situation. I know that sounds like it can get old, but it doesn’t. Each situation is completely different. To me, as someone who isn’t Wiccan but has read books on the religion, the books seem to paint a positive picture of the practice.  Oh and the mental images of Hunter and Cal don’t hurt either.

9. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I don’t know if you know this, but I really love Neil Gaiman. You probably do know this. If you didn’t, now you do. I would love to put every single one of his books on here, but I won’t. Just know that you should read them all. Its like pokemon, gotta collect them all. Right now, I’m making my way through The Sandman graphic novel.

That being said, The Graveyard book made the list. I know, I know, I should have put Coraline or Neverwhere, but I didn’t. I chose The Graveyard Book. Deal with it. Bod, whose full name is Nobody Owens, wanders into the graveyard after his family is killed. Here, a group of ghosts agree to raise him with the help of a guardian who is neither living nor dead. Bod can’t leave the graveyard; if he does, he will be attacked by the very man that killed his family – Jack. But guess what, he leaves the graveyard.

This book is adorable, exciting, creepy, chilling, engrossing, and just about every other word you can use to describe something utterly magical. But what do you expect? It’s Neil freaking Gaiman.

8. Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

My friend loaned me these books when I was in 10th grade. I think it was 1oth grade. I can’t remember. Regardless. Amazing. Alanna takes the place of her twin brother as a knight in training when she is very young and her brother, Thom, heads off to magic school in her stead. Each book grows with Alanna as she navigates through life and the different stages of knighthood from her first years as a page and squire, to her leading armies into battle and becoming a shaman. I’ve read a lot of series’ where the author has an issue developing the main character through their growth from a child into an adult, but Pierce does a good job with Alanna and the story lines. You can understand where she is coming from and what she is going through. Throw in a love story or a few and you have a good recipe for a great book about a female heroine.

I’m also a fan of Pierce’s other series Protector of the Small, Daughter of the Lioness, and Circle of Magic.

7. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

I borrowed the first book from my friend about 3 months ago and after finishing The Golden Compass, I scooped up the next two books as quickly as possible. The Amber Spyglass, I felt, wasn’t as strong as the first two, but was still an exceptional read. The books each follow Lyra Belacqua long with her Dæmon as she battles evil forces experimenting on her friends and their connections to the mythical dust through her world and then through alternate worlds including the world of the dead. The plot twists and turns through each of the books and more and more characters are added as you advance through the trilogy. There are many heart wrenching parts and many moments of pure joy – they are like an emotional yoyo. Yes, I just said that. And I hate myself for it.

6. The Chornicles of Narnia

Every few years, I’ll pull out this lug of a book and read through at least one or two of the books. But then I realize after reading one, that I want to read another. C.S. Lewis is a genius to create such an amazing and magical world. My favorite by far is The Silver Chair and I don’t know why. Prince Caspian definitely is up there as well. I feel as though I shouldn’t have to write a summary of them as they have become more famous with the making of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I love the characters and how the stories cover more than one generation of Narnia. Some of the books include the same characters, but others move on to new characters as the others grow older and can no longer make it to the mystical world.

I won’t tell you how many wardrobes I’ve opened hoping they will lead me to the mystical world of Narnia. I may be a bit older now, but Neil Gaiman has taught me no one is too old for Narnia – he recently had a working lamp post installed in the woods outside of his home.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Can we just stop talking about The Hunger Games already? I know that is what you’re all thinking. So I’ll say one thing. I read this before it was popular. I feel so hipster. Anyway, they are great books. Well to me they are. I got attached to the characters and was intrigued with what was happening. I know, I say that for everything. I get easily attached to fictional characters. Yes I know that she somewhat ripped off Battle Royale, but I watched that the other day and its different. Yes kids still kill each other, but its different- ish. But really, if you dig close enough many stories are rip offs of other stories combined with more stories. Its how someone shapes the idea to make it their own. 

4. The Riddle of the Wren by Charles de Lint

This was not my first Charles De Lint book. Greenmantle was, but it was because this book was gone from the library at the time. I’m glad I finally got my hands on it. Charles De Lint is my favorite urban fantasy writer – so far. I love the way he combines present day with myth and folklore from native americans and other cultures in urban spaces in America. I’m a huge fan of his short stories.

The book is about Minda Sealy who meets Jan, the Lord of the Moors, in her dreams one night. He is trapped much like she is in her nighmares by Ildran, the dream master. Through the book, she is on a mission to save Jan from his enslavement as well as to solve the ‘riddle of the wren’ and ultimately the truth about herself.

3. Harry Potter

I grew up with Harry. I read the first book when I was in 7th grade. I was hooked. I grew up waiting for the next book to come out. Waiting YEARS. If I have kids, I’m going to give them the books with the same amount of time between them that I had. “I’m sorry Sally*, you have to wait 3 years for the 4th book, that’s just the way it is.”

*I will never name my kid Sally.

Then again, I can just use it in place of walking uphill both ways in snow to school. “In my day, we had to wait 4 years to find out what happened to that young mister Potter! You can wait 5 minutes for your e-book to load!” Just kidding, I don’t want my kids to read e-readers. They won’t appreciate the pages and the smell of old books. I sound weird right now.

I love how the characters develop throughout the series. Harry goes through the angry teenage phase and then later is tested along with his friends. I don’t need to talk this one to death either, its been done.

2. Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Anne Pierce

Obsessed. I think that is a term you can use for me and the Darkangel series. I left my books in PA and I miss them. As soon as I get a library card here in California, you better believe that I’ll be getting my hands on the books to read them again.

Each book is so different in the story, but still all follow Aeriel who is kidnapped in the first book by the Darkangel – a black winged angel – who feeds on the souls of women. She is his fourteenth bride and must kill him before he can use her to reach his full power and reign evil on her village and the world around her. It’s a beautiful story about the human spirit and what love and compassion can do. The second and third books again follow Aeriel, but as she battles the evil White Witch and her seven other darkangel sons. Aeriel grows into a strong woman through the three stories and meets many a character on her way. The final outcome wasn’t what I thought would happen for each of the books and they are all strong works of literature solo, but combined create a beautiful work of art.

1. the Time series by Madeleine L’engle

Ok, obsessed with these too. I can’t help it. I will read these books again and again. I think I was the only one in high school who didn’t read A Wringle In Time in elementary school. Boy did I miss out. Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her mother are having a late night snack when they receive an unexpected visitor. From that night on, Meg’s life is changed as she learns of her father who disappeared not too long ago when conducting scientific research. She learns about a tesseract and, along with Charles Wallace, a neighborhood boy, and the help of three witches goes off to find her father where he is locked in a world shrouded in evil. The second, third and forth books involve Meg, Calvin, and her family in different combinations. Each tale combines science and the mystical world to create an epic fantasy tale. L’Engle paints vivid pictures in your imagination through each chapter both with the characters she creates and the worlds she imagines.

A Wrinkle In Time was made into a movie. It was awful. I couldn’t watch the whole thing even though Gregory Smith (Everwood) was in it. But fear not! A new one is on its way at some point. I thought there was a date and more information, but IMDB tells me that I was wrong. Or at least that information is no longer available. Rats.

I’m done talking. Go read something.

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6 thoughts on “Young Adult Fiction: My top 13 picks for Sci Fi and Fantasy

    shiftersseries said:
    August 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Some of my faves are on this list. I would add The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper and The Justice Trilogy by Virginia Hamilton to the list. If you like dystopias, you should check out the latter.

      paperballpotluck responded:
      August 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      Yeah… I realized today that I left off The Dark Is Rising and another of my favorite books. I will definitely check out the Justice Trilogy!

    rachelocal said:
    August 4, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Love so many of your choices and I’m reading extras now. I didn’t read your paragraphs about that in case there was a spoiler! I’ll be checking out a few of your suggestions. Thanks!

      paperballpotluck responded:
      August 4, 2012 at 1:21 am

      Thanks! I hope you enjoy them! I loved that whole Series, even extras though it wasn’t as strong as the other 3.

    Scott said:
    August 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    I like it! I’d add The Dark is Rising too, and The Phantom Tollbooth, Thief of Always and From the Mixedup Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but I haven’t read half the stories on the list (yet!). Love the Graveyard Book.

      paperballpotluck responded:
      August 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      Well you’re supposed to make your own list! Someone didn’t read that paragraph 😛

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