Death can be cured and aging reversed. The need for politics and politicians has been erased by a benevolent, all-seeing artificial intelligence dubbed the Thunderhead. The only thing humanity won't let the Thunderhead dictate is who dies. So how do you ensure the population doesn't surpass what Earth can provide? Scythes. These elite arbiters of death are apprenticed in adolescence and trained in how to kill from martial arts to poison. No one is entirely sure what methods they use to select who they glean and everyone is eager to get in their good graces. But in a world beyond politics, factions are rising within the Scythe ranks and radical splinter groups are forming that enjoy the art of killing a bit too much. They are orchestrating tragedies on a scale that hasn't been seen for centuries. In the midst of this chaos two rival apprentices appear who are destined to change everything.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman Erica's Picks 7th & up Tags: Dystopian, Fast-Paced, Science Fiction
Seth feels the impact of a rock against his head as the waters close in around him and he drowns. He dies in America, but he wakes up again in his childhood home in England. His neighbors' houses are exactly how he remembers them, except that nobody's home. He ventures into town for supplies and finds that nature has begun to reclaim the town with wild plants and animals. It's like nobody has lived there for years. He thinks he's in his own personal afterlife until he finds two others like him and a mysterious enemy that is hunting them all down. I always go into Patrick Ness novels expecting death, so I was actually a bit relieved when it came at the very beginning. I had hoped that would remove some of the suspense and eventual emotional devastation--oh how wrong I was! I think talking too much about the plot will just ruin it for people who haven't read it yet so I'll just say that I love the the characters and the mind-trip that was the ever-twisting plot.
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Erica's Picks 8th Tags: Adventure, Character Driven, Dystopian, LGBTQ, People of Color, Science Fiction, Tear Jerker
Ava dreams of Earth, but she has never set foot on solid land. She lives on a Crewe ship where everyone has a place and a job. She longs to learn how to fix things or go down to Earth, but that's men's work. Women have their own work like cooking and laundry. The other women tell her that the longing for Earth and other things she can't have will go away once she gets married and has children. As the captain's daughter the odds are good she'll make a fine match--maybe even as a first wife. But just when everything seems to be coming together, disaster strikes and she has to flee everything she has ever known for the perils of a life on land.
Reading about the Crewe ship society with its mythology and social constructs is fascinating and that's just the beginning of the fully developed settings Ava lives in. The characters are as richly layered and diverse as the settings and had a way of staying with me. If you like reading about gritty, dystopian futures and well developed characters overcoming trials and tribulations, then this is the book for you.
Erica's Picks 8th Grade Tags: Character Driven, Dystopian, People of Color, Science Fiction
Veronika, Caroline, Isobel, and Eleanor have lived on a deserted island for as long as they can remember. The four girls do everything together and look identical except for their hair color. Irene and Robbert tell them that their parents all died in a plane crash and do their best to take care of them and provide them with an education. Despite their tragic circumstances they live a relatively happy and normal life. Or at least that's what they always believed. Then one day a very different girl appears on the island who makes them question everything.
The book is written from Veronika's perspective and her limited knowledge and her inability to see how unique her life is creates tension as little hints are dropped which left me constantly guessing and trying to extrapolate to figure out what was going on. It reminded me of psychological thrillers like The Twilight Zone. Veronika even talks in a way that is a bit off (read a bit of the beginning to see if you can get used to this style or not.)
The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist
Erica's Picks 6th - 8th Grade Tags: Character Driven, Dystopian, People of Color, Science Fiction, Survivor
You may think that your family is weird, but Karou's isn't even human. She has a pretty normal life on the surface: she goes to art school, hangs out with friends, copes with a break-up. But those closest to her wonder why she has a habit of disappearing. They never suspect the truth--that she goes through secret doors to a workshop filled with monsters that send her all over the world collecting teeth. These are no baby teeth either. They are ripped from animals of all sorts and collecting them can be dangerous. Karou doesn't know how she came by this odd life, but she loves her monstrous family. Then an angel with wings of flames comes into her life and Karou finally begins to unravel the story of her dark past as she prepares to face an even more dangerous future.
The world-building in this series is phenomenal. Laini Taylor creates a unique and complex world that weaves together not only different countries but parallel universes. The creatures that live in this alternate universe are creative part animal part human hybrids. This series is a real page-turner so make sure that when you finish the first book you have the next one ready!
Life on the railsea is not easy: bad tracks, traps laid by pirates, and attacks from below claim many lives. But Sham is grateful for his job aboard the Medes. He is finally seeing the world outside his home town. Hunting giant moles can be exciting and people say that he should be proud to serve under a captain with her own Philosophy--an ivory colored creature she pursues with a passion and who has already taken her arm. But while the captain's nemesis is certainly deadly, Sham soon discovers that secrets are the most dangerous quarry of all.
The world-building in this novel is wonderfully creative. Industries have cropped up around salvaging technology from the more prosperous past and pollution has seeped into the ground and created mutant creatures that thrive in the empty wastelands between cities. In this world there are many captains like Ahab from Moby Dick and it's become a trend to have a 'philosophy,' a specific creature that has wronged a captain and which the captain has sworn to hunt until one or both of them dies. Mieville uses slang and dialect to help set the atmosphere and it’s fun to puzzle it out and unravel how it relates to the world. I'd give this to science fiction fans looking for something with intricate world-building or those looking for a new take on Moby Dick.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Take all the criminals and put them somewhere out of the way. Give them a whole new world equipped with everything they could ever need. Then add in an all-seeing intelligence named Incarceron to watch over them. It was a great experiment, and a failed one. Now the prisoners struggle to survive knowing that at any moment they might be killed or disfigured at Incarceron's whim. Meanwhile those in power on the outside have done their best to trap the world in the past--forcing everyone to act and dress in Era. Not everyone is happy with these restrictions, including the daughter of the warden. When she makes contact with a boy in her father's prison they are determined to change both worlds.
This novel is set in a future that is trapped in the past so there’s extrapolated technologies as well as frilly dresses and drama at court. The prison makes a deliciously dark and formidable opponent for our intrepid protagonists to face and a great dystopian setting. The characters are very well developed with unique voices.There's plenty of meaty bits to ponder as well as fast-paced action scenes.
813: a beautiful planet full of forests and wildlife carefully studied by the resident scientists. And the best part? It's light years away. Just to travel there takes 6 years--meaning that when people go there, they don't come back. It's not an assignment for everyone, but it sounds like paradise to Glenn. Ever since her mother disappeared and her father began doggedly pursuing insane ideas, Glenn has wanted nothing more than to get away. There's not much she'd miss. Things have been weird with her best friend Kevin and she could take her cat with her. Her father is the only thing standing in her way, and he's so distracted that he is an easy obstacle to overcome. At least until his crazy theories become a dangerous reality and Glenn finds herself leaving everything behind ahead of schedule--while running for her life.
Hirsch blends fantasy and science fiction in this novel with worlds following the laws of science and magic existing side by side, separated by a rift. Glenn is a great lead and a computer programming whiz. Kevin Kapoor often made me laugh. In addition to a unique setting and layered characters, the pacing is fast and full of great action scenes.
Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch
Erica's Picks 6th - 8th grade Tags: Dystopian, Fantasy, Fast-Paced, People of Color, Science Fiction
Finding oil is supposed to be your lucky strike--not your death warrant. But Nailer doesn't have much time to contemplate the irony of the situation as the thick black liquid closes over him. Getting out alive after being left for dead can change a person, and soon Nailer will hold another's life in his hands. Will he leave a girl to die for the chance to buy his way out of the slums? Or will he risk his life to save hers? Hard times make for hard decisions and while Nailer's never had an easy life he's never been in this much danger.
Fans of dystopias will enjoy the grim future painted by Bacigalupi: the oceans have risen, oil has become scarce, and the rift between the rich and the poor has turned into a gaping chasm that has swallowed up the middle-class. There’s great world-building and characters that are thought-provoking, but those just looking for fast-paced action won't be disappointed.
The world is a dangerous place. It's full of and water to drown in and sharp objects to pierce the skin. Which is why the city of Jewel was founded. In Jewel, children are always connected to an adult by a chain. That way they cannot be kidnapped, or lost, or injured. If they disobey they get heavy punishment chains to wear. For their own good, of course. The system worked very well, until one day when a bomb explodes and a girl named Goldie runs away in the confusion. She finds shelter in a mysterious museum where all the dangerous things live, waiting to come back out.
The museum is a fascinating place full of fantastic creatures and all kinds of wonderful secrets. There are a lot of great characters child, adult, and animal in the novel and the pace is fast with many great action scenes as well as imaginative descriptions. I'd give this to anyone looking for a fantasy adventure novel. The audiobook would be great for a family roadtrip.
Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner
Erica's Picks 3rd - 6th grade Tags: Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy