We’re almost halfway through Sci-Fi Month, how is everyone faring so far? I’m celebrating my favorite genre this month with book list recommendations in between my sci-fi reviews, and today I want to shout about diverse science fiction stories.
One of the reasons that I love reading is that I can escape the real world and go on an adventure. Science fiction – especially space opera – enables me to live the astronaut life I dreamed of as a child before I realized math would keep me grounded. It’s a genre of innovation and problem solving; the sky is the limit in terms of technologies.
But my favorite reason of all? We can travel to new, more inclusive worlds or times in the future. Today I’m bringing you some diverse YA science fiction stories that have left a mark on me as a reader, ones that I encourage everyone read. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but six of the books that make my heart swell when I see them on my shelves.
🌌 Diverse YA Sci-fi You Should Read
Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor
Young Adult, Science Fiction
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
Interview with Rosiee ARC Review to Come
I just finished this book a couple of days ago, and friends? This book is special. It’s set in a future where Earth has been destroyed by technology and humanity has taken to the stars to make Earth-Adjacent home. But tech of all forms is banished to avoid humanity’s past mistakes… at the cost of lives.
I loved the characters that Rosiee brought to life in the pages, each of whom have their own goals and ambitions which are at odds of one another. But I also appreciated the space given to finding your identity and the amount of understanding between the characters. It’s own-voices for the aro-ace representation, and there is also a f/f relationship.
The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee
Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
I read this book in February and think about it at least once a week. This book offers a nuanced conversation about activism, nonviolent and violent protest, and how the line becomes blurred between acts of terror and revolution depending on who wins. The book has impossibly high stakes and characters who are simply trying to do the right thing, and I felt for them so much. The book features a m/m romance, but Noam is bisexual and I appreciated the on-page discussion of bisexuality not being erased when in a same-sex relationship.
A Spark of White Fire (Celestial Trilogy #1) by Sangu Mandanna
Young Adult, Science Fiction, Space Opera
Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.
It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.
Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love.
Inspired by the Mahabharata, The Celestial Trilogy is an amazing science fiction story full of capricious gods, destiny versus free will, and one of my favorite friendships. The world is vast, as are the characters within it, and I absolutely cherish this trilogy: A House of Rage and Sorrow rended my heart a couple of months ago and I have yet to recover. The main character may be Esmae, but Titania rules my heart! This story is own-voices for the Indian representation.
Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda
Young Adult, Science Fiction, Horror
Laura Cruz is a shipraider searching the galaxy for the history that was scattered to the stars. Once her family locates the John Muir and its precious cargo, they are certain human civilization is saved.
When Tuck’s and Laura’s worlds collide―literally―the two teens must outwit their enemies, evade brutal monsters that kill with sound, and work together to save the John Muir . . . and the whole human race.
It’s 2435 and what is left of humanity has taken to the stars after destroying Earth. Humanity has seen a lot of change since going off into space, but much of the monstrous parts of humanity – bigotry, racism – remain. An underlying theme of the book is whether or not humanity is worth saving, and what it means to be worthy of redemption. This book is a fantastic blend of science fiction/space exploration and horror, the text oozing anxiety from the first page to the last. This book is own-voices for latinx representation.
Mirage (Mirage #1) by Somaiya Daud
Young Adult, Science Fiction
But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.
As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.
Poetically written and instantly captivating, this book draws you into a new world so vivid you feel as if you could walk the streets. This is a powerful own-voices Moroccan inspired SFF tale of culture, family, oppression, and rebellion with a diverse cast of complex characters that you cannot help but adore. This story explores the measures that occupying groups employ to exert and maintain control over their conquered land.
The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light at the Bottom of the World #1) by London Shah
Young Adult, Science Fiction
At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.
Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.
When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.
Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.
The Light at the Bottom of the World is set in the year 2099, about sixty-five years after a cataclysmic climate event made the ocean’s waters rise and the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. What remains of humanity lives 1,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, stuck in the past and afraid of the unknown. The setting is absolutely unique, as typically when Earth becomes inhabitable humanity will take to the stars. But the ocean holds the same darkness and terrors of the unknown, provides the same risks to life with lack of oxygen. This book is own-voices and features the first British Muslim teenager of Afghan heritage in SFF.
What do you think of this list of diverse YA science fiction? Have you read any of these? What books would you recommend that I add to my TBR?
Let’s go on another adventure together!