Whether you’re suffering Star Wars withdrawal or are simply on the hunt for a book with a killer concept that’ll wind around your brain and disturb your sleep (YESSS!), you need to get science fiction into your life. This year’s crop of thrilling YA sci-fi explores brilliant “what if” questions in both familiar yet brilliantly altered places and worlds utterly different from our own. Commence the coveting.
See all 2016 previews here.
Burning Midnight, by Will McIntosh (February 2)
Sully lives in a world transformed by the mysterious arrival of the spheres, gemlike objects that randomly appeared in hidden places around the world. Burning them imbues their owner with gifts ranging from quick healing to singing ability to an extra inch of height, with each color representing a different gift. The sphere market is dominated by brutal billionaire Alex Holliday, but Sully deals in small-time spheres at a flea market. There he meets gifted sphere finder Hunter, and teams up with her to search for their hidden quarry. When they find a previously unheard of Gold sphere, it’s a stroke of incredible fortune that could be the death of them, as Holliday will stop at nothing to take it away.
Starflight, by Melissa Landers (February 2)
Two teens with very different reasons for needing to escape suddenly must rely on each other as they take off on a spaceship leaving Earth behind. Solara Brooks is an orphan and a felon sick of being defined by her past. Doran is a spoiled rich man’s son—and Solara’s high-school bully—being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Solara switches their ID bracelets and thus their official statuses, as they flee Galaxy Patrol aboard smuggling ship the Banshee.
Bluescreen, by Dan Wells (February 16)
With comparisons to M.T. Anderson’s Feed and a promises-to-be-deliciously-tangled plot, this one is high on my must-read list. In a 2050 Los Angeles of dark tech and dangerous criminals, everyone worth knowing has a djinni, a brain implant that allows them to live permanently in a virtual world. Marisa is the daughter of well-off restaurant owners, but in the digital world that matters, she’s a member of girl gamer group the Cherry Dogs. There she tries virtual drug Bluescreen, the effects of which are so scary she starts investigating its real world origins with the help of a sexy dealer. Their hunt draws the attention of the drug’s inventors, whose creation is even more dangerous than Marisa knows, just as gang warfare breaks out in her real world L.A. neighborhood.
Ascending the Boneyard, by C.G. Watson (February 16)
Caleb is being crushed under the weight of a shattered family, guilt, and abandonment. His only escape from his dark reality is computer game the Boneyard, where he can take control in a virtual landscape. But as Caleb relies more and more on the game, the lines between pixels and reality start to blur. Birds fall dead from the sky, his phone fills up with malevolent texts, and he encounters people as unreliable as his own mind. His fractured present is interwoven with flashbacks to the past, including the accident that had permanent consequences for his brother.
Beyond the Red, by Ava Jae (March 1)
An alien queen and a half-human, half-alien rebel soldier find themselves thrown together and on the run after being framed for an attempted assassination. Queen Kora faces mistrust, anger, and assassination attempts as she tries to lead a patriarchal people, and soldier Eros is hated for being half-blood, and grieving the destruction of his people by Kora’s forces. The safe choice would be to throw themselves on the mercy of the high court, but Eros’s volatile secret identity, and their uncovering of a heinous plot against rebel humans, binds them in their efforts to save their world from terrible violence.
On the Edge of Gone, by Corinne Duyvis (March 8)
Duyvis’s sophomore novel promises the same blend of diversity, excellent world-building, and high-stakes drama as 2014’s Otherbound. In 2035 Amsterdam, autistic teen Denise is counting down the days to the arrival of the comet that might speed the end of the world. Her family’s only chance of survival lies in making it to a shelter outside of town, but Denise’s sister is AWOL and her mother’s drug addiction makes her a liability. When chance delivers her (temporarily) to a ship carrying escapees of Earth to build new colonies in space, she’s desperate to keep her spot but fears the worst: that, on a vessel with room only for the most useful, a girl with autism and her family will never find a place.
Dark Energy, by Robison Wells (March 29)
Alice Goodwin, daughter of a NASA director, is forced to uproot her life and enroll in a Minnesota boarding school after a UFO crashes and skids across the midwest, leaving thousands of casualties in its wake. The alien survivors, or “Guides,” indistinguishable from humans, are mostly housed in a pop-up town near the crash site, but two are enrolled at Alice’s school. She and her new alien classmates form a friendship that breaches interspecies lines, but soon it becomes clear that all is not as it appears, and the seemingly benevolent “Guides” might not be the only interstellar visitors with Earth in their sights.
Future Shock, by Elizabeth Briggs (April 1)
Elena Martinez’s eidetic memory has been her closely guarded secret for years, but now it has drawn the attention of a powerful corporation. Aether Corp. recruits her and four other highly gifted teens to make a data-gathering trip 30 years into the future, in exchange for the kind of compensation she can’t refuse. But when their trip doesn’t go as planned, they make the worst mistake possible: checking in on their own future lives. As their one-day window ticks down, Elena, with the help of science genius Adam, must find a way to return to where she came from and stop a dark course of events from coming to pass.
The End of FUN, by Sean McGinty (April 5)
Aaron lives in a world where choosing to live wholly in the real world comes at a steep cost. The book takes the form of his Application for Termination of augmented reality system FUN. As one of the program’s earliest adopters, Aaron has had all kinds of empty, expensive, FUN-approved fun, but now he wants out. Even though his real life isn’t that great either—he’s in debt, his fun is turning to fail, his grandpa has just died—he wants to take a chance on building a worthy non-virtual existence.
Mr. Fahrenheit, by T. Michael Martin (April 19)
All Benji wants to do is escape his small town, where his family’s roots run deep and nothing ever happens. Until the night something does: he and his three best friends shoot down a flying saucer, then bind themselves in a conspiracy to keep it a secret. But as the stakes around their discovery rise, their friendship is tested, and Benji starts to question why he wanted things to change so badly. This one has a Spielbergy vibe I can’t wait to explore.
Consider, by Kristy Acevedo (April 19)
When holograms claiming to be humans from the future appear around the world, they bring with them a terrifying warning: stay on Earth, which will soon be destroyed by a comet, or travel through a vortex to the safety the holograms promise. As the deadline for the comet’s arrival approaches, Alex, already struggling with an anxiety disorder, has to decide whether to trust these strange beings, who might not be what they say they are, or take her chances staying on a possibly doomed Earth.
Change Places with Me, by Lois Metzger (June 14)
Shy, unhappy Rose wakes up one morning subtly different—subtly better. Her clothes are newer, her social life is busier, her outlook on life is brighter. But something is terribly wrong: she’s not the person she used to be, and she can feel past Rose lurking just beneath her skin. There isn’t a lot of information available about this near-future-set story yet, just enough to intrigue.
Mirror in the Sky, by Aditi Khorana (June 21)
Scholarship student Tara Krishnan’s life at hyper-competitive Brierly Prep was complicated enough without the announcement that casts a shadow over her junior year: light years away from Earth floats Terra Nova, a “mirror planet” to our own. The world abruptly changes, as the social hierarchy at Brierly shifts, people’s priorities go up in flames under the glare of the discovery, and Tara becomes preoccupied imagining how her alternate self is living—whether her choices have made her life bigger and better than Earth Tara’s. It’s a paradigm-shifting revelation that could change nothing or everything, and I can’t wait to see what Khorana does with it.