Tag Archives: Young Adult Science Fiction

When We Wake by Karen Healey

What do you think the world would be like if you fell asleep right now and woke up in 100 years time?  Would the world be incredibly technologically advanced or would it be ravaged by an apocalyptic event?  Would people be more tolerant of differences in race, ethnicity and sexuality? Karen Healey shows us her version of a future in earth in her latest book, When We Wake, about the first person to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived.

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027 – she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice. But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies – and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

Tegan is the first person to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity – though all she wants is to rebuild some semblance of a normal life … including spending as much time as possible with musically gifted Abdi, even if he does seem to hate the sight of her. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

When We Wake has everything a great science fiction story should have – mystery, action, actual science, a future world, cool technology, and a main character who you route for right from the start.  Karen keeps you guessing and her writing is fast-paced so you want to keep reading so you can find out how it ends.

It’s a sign of a great character when you connect with them as soon as they start talking.  Karen hooked me in from the first paragraph and I wanted to know everything about Teegan and the insane situation that she finds herself in.  You empathise with her because you know how strange and difficult it would be to adapt to a different world. The more you find out about her and the sort of person she is, the more I liked her.  She’s the sort of person who won’t be pushed around and told what to do.  Even though she’s told by the army and various religious groups that her life doesn’t belong to her she does everything to prove them wrong.  She’s not concerned about making a spectacle, even when she’s being broadcast to millions of people around the world.  Other people try to force their morals and ethics on to Teegan, but she has her own strong opinions and no one is going to change those.

One of the things that really stood out for me in When We Wake was the way that Karen brought the future society’s moral and ethical views into the story.  Many science fiction stories (especially for teens) don’t delve into these aspects of future worlds so it made Karen’s feel fresh and different.  Through Teegan you see how the future society’s views of religion, ethnicity, and sexuality have changed, and how, even with massive climate change, people still aren’t looking after the planet.  Like today’s society, many of the people in charge of this future earth have questionable morals and ethics, and it’s these that shape the story.

5 out of 5 stars

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2012 Cybils Winners and My Favourite Finalists

It was an exciting week last week, with both International Book Giving Day and the announcement of the winners of the 2012 Cybils Awards on Thursday 14th February.  It’s always exciting to find out which books judges pick as the winners, and it was even more exciting for me as I got to help choose the winner of the Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy category.  You can find out about all the winners of each category on the Cybils website.

I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the Round 2 judges for the 2012 Cybils Awards.  My group of judges had the tough task of choosing our favourite YA science fiction and fantasy book from the 7 shortlisted titles (you can see them all here).  It was a really interesting and enjoyable experience, even though it was tough at times.  For someone like myself, who won’t finish a book if I’m not enjoying it, I had to push through a couple of the finalists and force myself to finish them.

We chose Seraphina by Rachel Hartman as our winner of the Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy category.  Seraphina was one of my top 3 books in the category, along with Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi and Every Day by David Levithan. I think these are three books that all high school libraries should have in their collection, and you can find out what I loved about these books below.


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina works as the music assistant to the royal court composer in Lavondaville. Her world is populated by humans and by dragons able to take human form, and for now there is an uneasy peace between them. In fact, the fortieth anniversary of the treaty between human and dragonkind is rapidly approaching. But then a member of the royal family is murdered, and the crime appears to have been committed by a dragon. The peace and treaty between both worlds is threatened.Seraphina is caught desperately in the middle of the tension. Her father is human, and her mother was a dragon in human form.She is unique, and completely illegal – and if she is found out, her life is in serious danger . . .

  • The world building was amazing and I really felt immersed in Seraphina’s world.  The history of the relationship between dragons and humans was explained well, without getting into lots of detail.
  • I connected with Seraphina right from the start and I found her voice interesting.  She’s a character that teen readers would relate well to and they would be routing for her.
  • The mystery and intrigue really hooked me in.  Sure, at times there wasn’t a lot of action, but trying to figure out different people and their motives kept me interested in the story.
  • It was an original dragon story.  I didn’t feel like Rachel had borrowed ideas from other fantasy stories.  Her dragons were captivating and I loved the way that they hoarded knowledge rather than gold.  I think that aspect kind of connected me to the dragon characters.  I also loved that the dragons could shape shift into human form and walk among us.

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Two refugee children, Mahlia and Mouse, are known as ‘war maggots': survivors who have barely managed to escape the unspeakable violence plaguing the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities. But their fragile safety is threatened when they discover a wounded half-man -a bioengineered war beast named Tool, who is hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers. When tragedy strikes, Mahlia is faced with an impossible decision: risk everything to save the boy who once saved her, or flee to her own safety.

  • Paolo’s real strength in this story is his world building.  He feeds you little details about why the Drowned Cities are the way they are and who the different factions are that are fighting for supremacy. The setting is definitely a character in itself and he describes the Drowned Cities in great detail.  Through his descriptions you know what it looks, feels, sounds and smells like and you wonder how people can survive here.
  • I loved the the characters of Tool, Mahlia and Mouse/Ghost.  If Paolo can make you feel for a killing machine that’s some powerful writing.  The way that Paolo chose to tell the story, switching between the three main characters, really helped to keep the story moving along and I was always wondering what was happening to the other characters.
  • The story is quite dark, but this is why I enjoyed it so much.  You’re delving into this world full of despair and routing for the characters to make it out into a world full of hope.  A lot of the characters are sinister and have been shaped by the world they live in, and you keep reading in the hope that they will get their comeuppance.

Every Day by David Levithan

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

And then A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

  • It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever read, because usually the narrator stays in one body throughout the story and they interact with the same characters.  In Every Day, A is in a different body each day, so it has to get used to being a different person (on the outside) and acting like that person.  One of the most interesting things about this book is the way that you look at the character of A.  Even though A doesn’t know if it is male or female, I imagined A as a male right from the start.  However, I think each reader will picture A differently.
  • Sometimes it can take you a while to put yourself in the main character’s shoes, but I immediately empathized with A and what it was going through.  You try to understand what it would be like to wake up each day as a different person, but you can’t really grasp how difficult it would be.
  • I loved the interactions between A (in its different bodies) and Rhiannon and you are hoping with all your heart that they can be together.
  • David Levithan’s ending to the story is absolutely perfect, and has to be my favourite ever ending of a book.

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Love YA sci-fi? Grab The Rosie Black Chronicles

The Rosie Black Chronicles is a fantastic young adult science fiction series, written by Australian author Lara Morgan.  The series is published by Walker Books Australia, who also publish some other exciting science fiction/futuristic books for children and teens, including Brian Falkner’s The Tomorrow Code and Brainjack, and Ambelin Kwaymullina’s The Tribe series. 

The Rosie Black Chronicles is an action-packed, fast-paced series set in the not-too-distant future.  There are corrupt organisations, secret plans, a killer virus, rebellions, space travel, a colony on Mars, a touch of romance, and a butt-kicking main character, Rosie Black.  If you like futuristic stories like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Across the Universe, and Legend then The Rosie Black Chronicles is the perfect series for you.

Last week I received a top-secret package from Helios, the secret organisation from The Rosie Black Chronicles with a flash drive containing information about Rosie Black.  I was told to spread the information, so below you will find links to chapter samplers from each of the three books in the series, character profiles, book trailers and an interview with Lara Morgan.  Feel free to print these off and share with readers far and wide.  Next week I’ll have a special giveaway of a complete set of The Rosie Black Chronicles signed by Lara Morgan, so watch out for this.

Rosie Black Book 1: Genesis Chapter Sampler

Rosie Black Book 2: Equinox Chapter Sampler

Rosie Black Book 3: Dark Star Chapter Sampler

Rosie Black Character Profiles

Q&A with Lara Morgan

Rosie Black Mini Poster

For more about Lara Morgan and The Rosie Black Chronicles visit www.rosieblack.com

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Prepare for the conclusion to The Rosie Black Chronicles

The Rosie Black Chronicles, written by Australian author, Lara Morgan, is one of my favourite YA science fiction series.  If you haven’t come across this series (from Walker Books Australia) you don’t know what you’re missing.  Here’s the blurb of the first book in the series, Genesis:

Rosie Black is on the run to save her family and uncover the truth.
Five hundred years into the future, the world is a different place. The Melt has sunk most of the coastal cities and Newperth is divided into the haves, the “Centrals”; the have-nots, the “Bankers”; and the fringe dwellers, the “Ferals”. Rosie Black is a Banker. When Rosie finds an unusual box, she has no idea of the grave consequences of her discovery. A mysterious organisation wants it – and they’ll kill to get it. Forced to rely on two strangers, Rosie is on the run. But who can she trust? Pip, the too attractive Feral, or the secretive man he calls boss? From Earth to Mars, Rosie must learn the secrets of the box. Before it’s too late.

Lara amped up the action and the tension in the second book, Equinox, and the third and final book, Dark Star, is due to be released in November.  I’ll be reviewing it here on the blog in a couple of weeks and, thanks to Walker Books, I’ll have some signed copies to give away.  In the mean time, check out the fantastic trailer for Dark Star:

Lara Morgan will be visiting the Walker Books Australia offices on Thursday so if you have any burning questions about the series to ask her you can post them here or send Walker Books a message on Twitter – @WalkerBooksAus

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1.4 by Mike Lancaster

Mike Lancaster’s 0.4 is one of my favourite books and the best science fiction story I’ve read.  I read it just before the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch so I was distracted by everything that was going on and didn’t get the chance to tell everyone how amazing it was.  It’s the story of Kyle Straker, a teenage boy living in a small village in England, who wakes up after being hypnotized to find his world a very different place.  It hooks you in from the first line and you don’t want to put it down until the last word.  1.4 is Mike Lancaster’s sequel to 0.4 and it’s just as addictive.

It’s a brave new world. In the far future, people no longer know what to believe…Did Kyle Straker ever exist? Or were his prophecies of human upgrades nothing more than a hoax? Peter Vincent is nearly 16, and has never thought about the things that Strakerites believe. His father – David Vincent, creator of the artificial bees that saved the world’s crops – made sure of that. When the Strakerites pronounce that another upgrade is imminent, Peter starts to uncover a conspiracy amongst the leaders of the establishment, a conspiracy that puts him into direct conflict with his father. But it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with someone who controls all the artificial bees in the world.

1.4 is an upgraded, even better story than 0.4.  The story takes place 1000 years after the events of 0.4 and Mike shows us his incredible vision of the future.  It’s a future where bees have died out and been replaced by robot bees, humans can connect to technology and each other through filaments that come out of their bodies, and they are constantly connected to technology through their Link.  The story is told through the LinkDiary entries of Peter Vincent, whose father invented the robot bees, which many people believe saved the world.  There is a small section of society who believe that the Kyle Straker tapes are real and that the events of 0.4 actually happened, but these people are treated like second class citizens and live in slums.  Amalfi (or Alpha) is a Strakerite who goes to Peter’s school, and when she asks for Peter’s help to find out what has happened to her father, their world is turned upside down.

The thing I like most about 1.4 is the way that Mike Lancaster has woven the two stories together.  If you’ve read 0.4 you know why society is so technologically advanced and who the ghosts in the photos are.  I also really like that Mike doesn’t let relationships between his characters get in the way of the story, like many female authors tend to do.  Having said this, his characters are still interesting and you empathize with the situation that they’re in.

1.4 is a smart science fiction story with lots twists and turns, freaky technology, and hidden truths.  If you haven’t discovered Mike Lancaster, you don’t know what you’re missing.

5 out of 5 stars

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Starters by Lissa Price

Imagine a world that is populated only by the very young and the very old.  Everyone in between has been killed by biological warfare because they weren’t vaccinated.  Children and teenagers who don’t have living relatives survive day by day, living in abandoned buildings and scrounging for food.  There is one company who offers a way out of poverty for teenagers who are willing to rent out their bodies to the elderly, who just want to feel young again.  This is the situation that Callie finds herself in when we first meet her in Lissa Price’s amazing debut novel, Starters.

16-year-old Callie lost her parents when the ‘genocide spore’ wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first – the very young and very old. She and her little brother must go on the run, living as squatters, fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes in the form of the Body Bank run by a mysterious figure, known only as The Old Man. The Body Bank allows teenagers to rent out their bodies to ‘Enders’ – the elderly members of society – who want to be young again. But Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party in her body. She intends to commit murder.

I absolutely loved this book!  Starters really stands out among all the other young adult science fiction/dystopian books being published at the moment.  It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time and Lissa Price was constantly surprising me.  There were so many twists and turns that I gave up on trying to figure out what would happen next.  Callie is an intelligent, kick-butt female character that is always putting the safety and health of her brother over her own life.  The reason she first goes to the body bank is to get the money she needs to make a good life for her brother, and she is constantly thinking about him and doing everything she can to make sure he’s safe.  I liked that the story is told in first person from Callie’s point of view as it helps you understand her motives and you really feel the punch to the gut when she uncovers the truth.  I loved the character of the Old Man because there is so much mystery surrounding him.  He always seems to be just out of reach and you don’t really know who he is or what part he plays.  I can’t wait to find out more about him in the next book.

Lissa Price is an extremely talented author and definitely one to keep an eye on.  The sequel to Starters, called Enders, is due out in December 2012 so I’m glad I don’t have to wait long to read the next part of the story.

5 out of 5

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Starters book trailer and giveaway

16-year-old Callie lost her parents when the ‘genocide spore’ wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first – the very young and very old. She and her little brother must go on the run, living as squatters, fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes in the form of the Body Bank run by a mysterious figure, known only as The Old Man. The Body Bank allows teenagers to rent out their bodies to ‘Enders’ – the elderly members of society – who want to be young again. But Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party in her body. She intends to commit murder…

Starters by Lissa Price sounds amazing and it’s out now in NZ.  Check out Lissa’s website for more about Starters and her writing – lissaprice.com.  I have 2 copies to give away so enter your details below to get in the draw.  Competition closes Wednesday 23 May (International).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners are Blake and Sandra.

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172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

One thing I really love about the Young Adult books that are being published at the moment is the amount of great science fiction stories.  Whether it’s the paranormal, like Andrew Hammond’s CRYPT series and Will Hill’s Department 19 or set in outer space, like Beth Revis’ Across the Universe and Philip Webb’s Six Days, these stories grab me and don’t let me go until the very last page.  Johan Harstad’s new book, 172 Hours on the Moon is one of these stories.

Set in 2019, it’s the story of 3 lucky teenagers who are chosen from millions of others around the world to be the first teenagers to travel to the moon.  A worldwide lottery is announced to find the 3 teenagers and it’s Mia from Norway, Antoine from France, and Midori from Japan who are chosen for this once in a lifetime experience.  In the first few chapters we find out who they are and what their life is like in their countries.  Each of them want to escape their lives and the moon mission gives them that chance.  They know that once they return from the moon, they will live very different lives.  Before they leave for their training, each of them experience some strange events that make them questions whether they should be going to the moon.  After their weeks of training they say goodbye to their families and leave for the moon.  You know that things are going to go wrong and sure enough, they do.  From the moment they land on the moon a series of strange events occur, and soon they find themselves fighting for their lives, millions of miles from home.

172 Hours on the Moon had me hooked from the blurb ‘Three of them will go on the trip of a lifetime.  Only one will come back.’  Johan’s story was originally published in his native Norwegian and Tara F. Chace has translated it well, capturing the fear and claustrophobia of the moon perfectly.  You know as soon as you start the story that everything is going to go horribly wrong, but you have to find out how and why.  The suspense keeps you reading and I found it really difficult to put the book down even to make a cup of tea.  The teenage characters were very real and I was really hoping they’d make it home (even though I just knew they wouldn’t).  I loved the way the author held back certain details about the true nature of the mission and revealed these slowly throughout the story.  One of the adult characters would reveal some details, but wouldn’t tell the teenagers the whole truth, which makes you keep reading to find out the truth.  Johan ends the story with a punch to your guts and leaves you catching your breath, marveling at the story you’ve just read.

4 out of 5 stars

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172 Hours on the Moon book trailer

172 Hours on the Moon is a chilling sci-fi thriller by Norwegian author Johan Harstad.  It’s a creepy, fast-paced read and I spent the whole day yesterday totally engrossed in it.  It’s out in NZ on April 1st and my review will follow soon.

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