Whether or not you believe we’ve actually set foot on the moon (honestly, my preferred conspiracy theories are of the death-faking variety), it’s easy to see that our desire to reach for the stars is so fundamentally human. This insatiable curiosity for the universe is perhaps the same need that drives us to create art, to tell stories. The least explored frontiers aren’t always further and further away—they can exist within the remotest places in our own bodies and hearts, things we’ve thought and felt but have never been able to express. There’s nothing quite like reading that one searing line in your favorite new novel just to realize that someone finally understands—and that now, so do you.
Today, we celebrate Space Day. An annual holiday celebrated the first Friday of May, it exists to honor the achievements of space exploration and encourage young people to enter careers in science and engineering. (We’re guessing ‘Get Paid a Liveable Salary Day’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it.) But jokes aside, these five YA novels share the same purpose: to capture our collective wonder, which, when put to task, is a pretty powerful thing.
Grab one of these books, lie back, space out, & enjoy.
1. The Disasters by M. K. England
Queer characters?? And a queer author?? Everyone needs to give The Disasters some serious love. M.K. England offers readers a fun, fast-paced romp around the galaxy with an extremely entertaining (and diverse) cast of characters. England’s interplanetary colonies were extremely well-realized; clearly, England went beyond futuristic moon bases that look like the inside of an Apple store and neon Star Wars lasers. All of the colonies seem rich and grounded with culture, and when have you last read a YA where the basis for the fictional world was African / Middle Eastern culture? (That is, besides Children of Blood and Bone) An extremely endearing tale of a misfit cast of characters. Also, who doesn’t love a disaster bisexual protagonist?
Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.
But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.
On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.
They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.
2. We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
You’d think that once you introduce the aliens, the book can’t get any weirder. Wrong. This book is unlike anything you’ve ever read, the aliens more a vehicle through which to explore complex family bonds, relationship abuse, struggles with sexuality, and the general existential bullshit of the universe. It’s rare that a book about someone who really isn’t all that interesting in living will make you want to live, but we did say this book was weird—that’s weird as a synonym for uniquely moving.
From the author of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes a brand-new novel about a teenage boy who must decide whether or not the world is worth saving.
Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.
Only he isn’t sure he wants to.
After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.
Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.
But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.
3. The Last 8 by Laura Pohl
When was the last time you read a novel with an aromantic, bisexual protagonist? Given that WordPress is telling me to correct the spelling of ‘aromantic’ (probably to aromatic or, more ironically, a romantic), I’m gonna guess NEVER. This #OwnVoices novel is a wild ride of plot twists and nonstop danger, and, as a bonus, it includes a responsible and nuanced handling of mental health issues. It’s a unique tale of friendship and sacrifice… one not weighed down by a forced romance that seems to mistakenly believe it’s more important than the world getting saved.
A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.
4. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Let’s dive into this powerful classic YA with one of its most iconic quotes: “we are the choices we make.” Maybe you should make the choice to head down to your local bookstore and grab this for yourself. Winner of the Guardian Award, the novel has left a lasting impact: pop-culture superstars Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland set to star in a film adaptation scheduled to hit theaters in March 2020. With its raw, unfiltered voice, it’s sure to stay on your mind for a long time to come… and on your bookshelf for even longer.
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
You may never have wanted to read a novel about a cyborg Cinderella living in a futuristic city while getting into sci-fi shenanigans all vaguely reminiscent of childhood staple Sailor Moon… but that’s probably only because you didn’t know that novel was available. This breakout hit launched Meyer’s career, and she’s since published eleven others books that are just as unique as they are uniquely compelling. You’d think novels based loosely on fairy tales would have to be at least somewhat derivative; that’s only because you haven’t read this one.
A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague.
Earth’s fate hinges on one girl . . .
CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.
Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.
This is not the fairytale you remember. But it’s one you won’t forget.
All In-Text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Via SteemIt.