There are whole universes’ worth of awesome female-penned YA sci-fi novels, but here are eight of the best—some old, some recent, some coming soon—that you won’t want to miss.
Warcross, by Marie Lu
Marie Lu kind of owns YA sci-fi, does’t she? Hot on the heels of her Legend and the Young Elites (I know, fantasy, but with some sci-fi-ish elements) trilogies comes this barnstormer of a futuristic hacker-based sci-fi thriller. Emika Chen is a hacker extraordinaire as well as a ruthless bounty hunter, tracking down anyone stupid enough to bet illegally on Warcross, the ultimate virtual game. Millions around the world log in and play it every day, and Chen plays a key role in keeping people in line. However, one day she gets greedy and reckless, and hacks into an international Warcross championship game, inadvertently revealing her true identity. She’s summoned to Warcross HQ…but instead of being punished, she’s given a secret mission. Lu plunges us into a deadly, thrilling world, diving from NYC to future Tokyo into the wild terrain of Warcross and back again. It’s high stakes, nonstop action, and if you liked James Dashner’s The Eye Of Minds or Patrick Ness’s More Than This, you’re gonna love Warcross.
Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Fresh from their outstanding Starbound series, Kaufman and Spooner are about to hit us with an all-new awesome sci-fi universe. In Unearthed, the Earth is facing an environmental disaster. Time is running out when a message from an ancient alien race is intercepted. A desperate mission is launched to the aliens’ homeworld, Gaia. A mission which has two stowaways: Jules, a scholar who does things by the book, and Mia, a scavver who wants to scavenge whatever artifacts she can find on Gaia. So far, so first 30 minutes of Prometheus. But then, much like that movie, things take a darker turn. The aliens—known, not sinisterly at all btw, as the Undying—might be more of a threat than anyone realized. Jules and Mia have to join forces as things escalate in a major way. Kaufman has described it as Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft in space. In other words, pre-order it now. (It comes out in January 2018, just three months before Kaufman teams up with Jay Kristoff to unleash Obsidio!)
Glow, by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Book one of the Sky Chasers series is set on the Empyrean and the New Horizon, deep space vessels heading for a new planet in hopes of colonizing it. Waverley and Kieran are key to humanity’s survival on New Earth. As in, they are set to get married and having kids. But this is YA sci-fi set in deep space, so you know things may not go entirely according to plan. It’s bad enough that Waverley is kind of crushing hard for someone other than Kieran, but when things quickly go terribly wrong, the two spaceships are suddenly on violently opposing sides, and Waverley and Kieran are separated. The fate of humanity is in the balance as the colony ships go to war. Told in alternating chapters from Waverley and Kieran’s points of view, Glow has an intense, twisty-turny, don’t-know-who-to-trust vibe that continues all the way to the end.
Adaptation, by Malinda Lo
If you like your YA sci-fi powered by X-Files–style creepiness and conspiracies, and built around a diverse love story, you’ll be wanting to read this immediately. Lo sets the stage in atmospheric fashion, with a series of strange occurrences across America—in particular, birds hurling themselves into airplanes—that result in Reese’s flight being grounded. She and her crush David try to drive home, but get into a car accident on Nevada and wake up in a mysterious facility, where their injuries have miraculously been healed. And now Reese finds herself powerfully drawn to Amber, who sweeps all thoughts of David out of her mind. As Reese and Amber’s relationship develops, Reese and David start to realize they’re different now. They have abilities. And they’re being tracked. Lo whips all this up into a tense and diverse YA sci-fi thriller with a kicker of a twist.
Rebel Rising, by Beth Revis
YA sci-fi writer extraordinaire takes on reluctant rebel Jyn Erso in this prequel to last year’s Rogue One movie. The story focuses on Jyn’s time with the focused and ferocious Saw Gerrera, the man her father entrusted to raise and protect her. Set in the dangerous and cutthroat world of the darker side of the rebellion, the story follows Jyn as she copes with being raised by bloodthirsty soldiers, and discovers just how far she’ll go in fighting someone else’s fight against the Empire. A must-read addition to the rapidly-growing Star Wars novel-verse from one of our greatest YA writers.
Linked, by Imogen Howsen
Telepathic twins on the run from terrifying government agents in space? Yes please! Elissa has lived her whole life never knowing she had a twin. She’s been tortured by terrible nightmares of being wired up and experimented on. Things change when she has a particularly vivid nightmare about escaping from a government facility. She’s scheduled for some intense brain surgery to “fix” these nightmares. Fortunately, before the surgery happens, Elissa finds out that her visions are actually a telepathic link to Lin, her twin, who has managed to escape from her wretched life as an experimental test subject. Elissa and Lin have to flee their world to evade the agents pursuing them. Elissa enlists her friend Cadan to get them off-world, but this is a world where it’s hard to know who to trust, and as Elissa and Lin try to get to a new world, the tension mounts quickly. This is a fast-paced, thrilling, romantic and suspenseful slice of YA sci-fi.
Love is the Drug, by Alaya Dawn Johnson
A complex YA dystopian biotech thriller that lives in the intersection between class, race, and privilege, this story is full of classic sci-fi paranoid elements: a deadly flu sweeping the nation, shady government agents, and, at the center of it all, the mysterious memory loss of high-achieving high schooler Emily Bird, the daughter of two scientists who may know too much. Diplomat’s son turned drug dealer Coffee and Emily’s perfect boyfriend, Paul, have no answers, but the intimidating forces closing in on all of them think otherwise. Twists upon twists and turns upon turns drive the story forward, even though at its heart this is about Emily’s struggle to stay authentic to her heritage and true to who she really is.
Leia, by Claudia Gray
Not much is known about the plot of this latest YA Star Wars novel from Claudia Gray (who also wrote the breathtakingly good Lost Stars), other than the MOST IMPORTANT THING: it’s about the young Princess Leia, most likely on Alderaan. The prospect of one of the greatest Star Wars authors taking on one of the franchise’s most iconic characters—again, since Gray also wrote the brilliant Leia-starring Bloodline last year—is a thrilling prospect indeed. This one comes out in September.