After the events of last night’s Westworld finale on HBO (no spoilers here), you may be looking for a great book to fill the futuristic, “robots in the Wild West nightmare waiting to happen” hole in your heart. We’ve got your to-read list right here: Lifelike robots, emotional confusion, viewers getting dragged into intense storylines, the Wild West, and scary theme parks feature heavily in these five YA novels. Welcome to the park!
Caraval, by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett is the dutiful sister, Tella the impetuous, headstrong one. So when they receive an invitation from the mysterious Master Legend to attend Caraval—a magical event that lasts days, in which players enter an immersive game they may never leave—it’s Tella who hatches a plan to sneak away from their terrifying father. What neither sister bargains on is Tella getting kidnapped and being made the prize in the game. Just like in Westworld, nothing here is what it seems, and once players get drawn into the Caraval storyline, the danger is real, and anything can happen. Loaded with atmosphere, secrets, and scares, this is a magical, entrancing tale. (It’s not out till next month, but get your pre-order on today!)
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
You want androids? We got ’em. In this retelling of Cinderella, our heroine is now called Cinder, and she’s a cyborg in New Beijing, a bustling, lawless city crowded with humans and androids living side by side. The world is ravaged by plague, and even Cinder’s adopted family is threatened. When Prince Kai shows up in Cinder’s workshop to get an android repaired, he’s instantly attracted to the not-quite-human Cinder. However, the evil mind-controlling Lunar Queen has other ideas, and she drops in from the moon in order to marry Kai…which kind of leaves Cinder in the middle of an intergalactic war. A little awkward. Full of Cinderella references that have been cleverly translated into a sassy, scrappy sci-fi future.
Girl Parts, by John Cusick
David is plugged in. He’s always online, and has friends everywhere. Charlie, not so much. However, David is clinically “disassociated,” and to help him learn how to connect, his parents buy him the newest Companion Bot, a redhead called Rose. David has some ideas about how he’d like to connect, but unlike in Westworld, this robot has strict intimacy protocols (and no “girl parts”), and shocks him whenever he’s being inappropriate. Useful trick. Rose gradually begins to understand what she is, and develops more emotional responses. Which is when she runs away, and runs into Charlie. The story focuses on Rose as she becomes more than a machine, but we also get two very vivid portraits of lonely teenagers struggling to relate to a world they don’t understand in David and Charlie. Friendship, love, and loss mix in this unique sci-fi fable.
Revenge and The Wild, by Michelle Modesto
Set in a futuristic Wild West (sound familiar?), Revenge and the Wild follows Westie, a girl with a mechanical arm seeking revenge on the cannibals who took her limb—and her family—seven years ago. She lives in the out-of-control Rogue City, full of magic and darkness. The Wintu people use magic to protect Rogue City from the beasts that roam outside, but their magic is failing, and Westie thinks her family’s killers may have just arrived in town. Westie is determined to get her revenge at all costs, but her adopted family has other ideas. This is a thrilling, dark, and magical adventure that would be a great storyline in the Westworld theme park.
Full Tilt, by Neal Schusterman
Brothers Blake (responsible) and Quinn (reckless) get stuck in a scary phantom carnival/amusement park that has a habit of trapping people forever. Not ideal, and it’s all Quinn’s fault. Who goes into a haunted amusement park?! Blake has to go after him to make sure he’s okay…which is when things go horribly wrong. (Seriously, thanks, Quinn.) The demonic Cassandra appears and breaks the news: Blake has to complete seven supernatural rides (aka, terrifying tasks that are horrendously difficult and challenging on, like, a personal level) before sunrise, or he’ll never be able to leave the park again. It’s the theme park from hell, forcing Blake to face his deepest fears and traumas. Horror, fantasy, and depth of character drive this story to its intense showdown.