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
When Maisie's father gave her the middle name 'Danger' he thought he was being funny. He didn't know how apt it would turn out to be. Maisie has wanted to go to astronaut camp ever since she was a little girl, so when she sees the contest on her cereal box she figures that it couldn't hurt to apply. She is shocked to win and even more so when she's selected to be part of an elite group that gets to visit the space elevator built by the eccentric genius who runs the camp. But what starts as a prize loses its luster when things go horribly wrong. All of their lives will be changed forever as they come to grips with new abilities and try to decide who, if anyone, they can trust.
Aliens, superheroes, cool gadgets, and epic fight scenes: this book has it all. The characters are diverse and resist easy categorization into good and evil. If you’re looking for a sci-fi thriller with a super hero angle, look no further.
Dangerous by Shannon Hale
Erica's Picks 7th -8th Grade Tags: Family life, Fast Paced, Makers, People of Color, Romance, Science Fiction
Juliet is a maid in King's College. She works at night, cleaning off the blood stains in the operating theatre when the halls are as dark and silent as a grave. It would bother many ladies and many men, but she is her father's daughter and she is made of stronger stuff. She grew up falling asleep to screams from his laboratory where he performed the experiments that disgraced him and led to Juliet's dreary circumstances. After believing herself an orphan for many years, she is shocked to discover that her father is alive and well--performing his experiments on an island far from the prying eyes of society. She is warned that it's no place for a lady, but when things turn from bad to worse she is forced to flee London and travel to the island of her father, Doctor Moreau.
This book was deliciously atmospheric. I could feel the gloomy London fog and the oppressive tropical heat. The hints about the full extent of her father's experiments keep the tension high and his secretive nature casts a shadow of doubt over everything. Juliet finds herself caught in a love triangle with high stakes as who she trusts may decide whether she lives or dies. Juliet is a wonderful heroine bold enough to do what needs to be done even when the men around her quail at the task. The Madman's Daughter is a thrilling gothic romance based on a classic Victorian science fiction story.
In a final act of defiance and glory, the Valorim forge a necklace containing their art and send it off into the stars before they fall to a dark lord. It travels across light years and finally reaches a planet in a distant solar system--where it falls into Tommy Pepper's lunchbox. Tommy Pepper unknowingly absorbs the art of the Valorim and soon he starts making paintings that come to life, speaking in a strange language, and referring to events that sound like they come from a fantasy novel. At first his friends don't know what to make of it, but when the dark forces that conquered the Valorim come to Earth, they start to believe in his crazy talk.
This book is a unique mix of high fantasy, science fiction, and a realistic school story unlike anything I've read before. The parts involving the Valorim are written in a high fantasy style involving plenty of invented words and archaic language patterns (like Lord of the Rings). The parts involving Tommy and his family coping with their mother's death and getting along with his friends at school read like a regular school story. The writing is superb in both styles and full of meaty issues, complex characters, and fantastic world-building. If you like aliens, J.R.R. Tolkien, and school stories you’ll enjoy this interesting mix of the three. The difficult, stylized language in the parts with the aliens makes this most suitable for strong readers.
What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt
Erica's Picks 6th - 8th Tags: Adventure, Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Fantasy, School Stories, Science Fiction
What would the world be like if robots dominated and humans were an often buggy technology? Just ask Henry. He's an average bot going through his difficult 13th upgrade. One day a human goes berserko in his mother's shop and they get an experimental replacement. This new human is unlike any he's seen before. He can complete complex tasks and he even likes to play video games and read comic books! Henry knows that humans aren't like robots, but he can't help feeling like this new human is more than just an appliance. Will Henry be willing to risk it all when his new friend needs him to break into the motherboard?
I absolutely love the humor of this novel and the way it has robots and humans switch places in society provides plenty of opportunity for funny comparisons. Henry is the robot equivalent of a teenager and has a sort of virus that can make processing information at school difficult. The way this is described will ring true with many readers. The description of their adventures as they break into the motherboard reminds me of a video game and gamers are sure to enjoy it.
Henry and the Incredibly Incorrigible, Inconveniently Intelligent Smart Humanby Lynn Messina
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.
Steampunk meets genepunk in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. The time is the eve of World War I, but the timeline is not the one we are familiar with. It is a world where Charles Darwin was able to go further in his research and manipulate genes to create vast, living airships out of a hodgepodge of animals. Those who find his practice ungodly have responded with similarly strange, animalistic machines to combat them. Your guides in this world are a young Machinist named Alek and a Darwinist named Deryn. When his father is assassinated, Alek is forced to flee for his life, while Deryn flees her family and disguises herself as a boy so she can enlist and get a seat aboard the airship, the flying whale, the Leviathan.
I love the world presented in this novel, and I like that the perspective switches back and forth between characters on both sides of the conflict. Leviathan engulfs you in its world and keeps you turning the pages until the 'to be continued' at the end (thankfully all three books in the trilogy are already out, so you won’t have to wait after the cliffhangers.)