When it comes to fantastical YA, a lot of attention gets paid to books that specialize in fantasy creatures: dragon slayers, vampires in love, werewolves with a heart of gold. I’m a huge fan of all of the above, but sometimes I like to take my craving for adventure somewhere beyond our own world.
It’s deliciously spooky to think of aliens watching us from afar (or scarier still, living among us), and it’s exciting to imagine we may not be alone in the universe. The authors below imagine worlds in which aliens and humans interact, and how our world is changed by these interactions. While most take a pretty pessimistic view of what a human-alien encounter would look like, there are still some friendlyish and, dare I say it, sexy aliens thrown in for variety. (Are sexy aliens the new sexy vampires? I’m not sure the world is ready for that.)
Adaptation, by Malinda Lo
Birds are going crazy on planet Earth—flying directly into airplanes and cars and causing general mayhem—and Reece and her crush David have their flight back from a debate trip canceled because of a presidential block on air travel, they become the victims of a bird-related car accident. After the two wake up in a military hospital, they start noticing they’ve developed some unusual new powers the government wants to keep tabs on. And then, of course, there’s the beautiful and mysterious Amber, who suddenly appears in Reece’s life. This novel includes aliens and an LGBTQ* love triangle, and I am all about both of those things.
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey
Aliens have invaded the earth in multiple waves, and their most devastating power is their latest: the ability to take on the appearance of survivors’ loved ones. Now Cassie and every other human being left alive lives in suspicion, afraid to reach out to anyone in case they’re secretly an alien in disguise. But will Cassie be willing to trust the mysterious Evan Walker if it means rescuing her brother? This series is equal parts dystopian despair and YA love story, plus aliens. Who wouldn’t read that?
I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore
Nine aliens escape to Earth after the destruction of their home planet and are now being hunted by denizens of the destroying planet, who want to finish the job. Aliens numbers 1, 2, and 3 have already bitten the dust, and now John, number 4, is next on their hit list. Can he stay alive AND win the affection of the beautiful and very human Sarah? (Of course he can, this is a YA sci-fi novel!)
Alienated, by Melissa Landers
Aliens have come to Earth, and they’re invading…our school systems. Cara volunteers to host an alien exchange student named Aelyx, and obviously feelings ensue. When humans start turning against their alien visitors, Cara and Aelyx only have each other to turn to—but can Aelyx and the rest of the aliens really be trusted? A cool take on the “aliens come to Earth and everything goes horribly wrong” plot, plus Aelyx is SUPER hot.
The Rules, by Stacey Kade
Ariane is just a normal teenage girl…other than the fact that she’s half alien and was created in a lab, that is. Now she’s escaped with her “father” and is trying to live a quiet life, one that doesn’t involve having her secret revealed and getting sent back to the lab she fought so hard to stay out of. Now petty high school drama headed up by a mean Queen Bee just might end up being her undoing.
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
An android Cinderella who has to save her world from aliens? Yes to that! Cinder is an android mechanic who catches the eye of a prince and gets roped into trying to save New Beijing from some vicious aliens. A really cool mix of fairy tale and sci-fi, headed up by a kick-ass half-machine Cinderella.
Ultraviolet, by R.J. Anderson
Alison is in a mental hospital after killing the most popular girl in school—but did she really do it? All she remembers is watching as the girl disintegrated before her eyes. Now she has to convince everyone, including herself, that she’s innocent. Maybe the handsome and mysterious Dr. Faraday can help… This one’s for fans of aliens and synesthesia.
Obsidian, by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Katy’s mom packs her up and moves her to West Virginia, where she’s sure a life of boredom awaits. Then she meets her extremely hot new neighbor, the mysterious Daemon Black. He’s a little rough around the edges, but he does save her from an attacker…by freezing time. Suddenly Katy’s life in West Virginia is a lot more interesting, now that she knows she’s living next door to a gorgeous alien.