Wednesday, December 13, 2017

YA Guy Lists... His 2017 Top Ten!

YA Guy didn't read as many books as usual in 2017. In my defense, among the books I did read, several were whoppers, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame (500+ pages), The Sword of Shannara (700+ pages), Dune (900+ pages), and The Count of Monte Cristo (1200+ pages). So when compiling my yearly Top 10--which, true to my name, I try to confine to YA and MG--I didn't have quite as many books to choose from as I typically do.

But I still read some great stuff. Here are the best of the bunch, listed in no particular order. I focused this year's list exclusively on science fiction and fantasy, so some great realist fiction (for instance, Sabrina Fedel's debut LEAVING KENT STATE) didn't make the cut. Most of these are 2017 releases, though a few are from late 2016.

Fonda Lee, EXO. A refreshing take on the alien-invasion narrative, Lee's second novel is driven by ethical and emotional issues rather than by implausible victories over advanced civilizations (in the manner of the Independence Day movies). To give you an idea of how highly I value Lee's work, I nominated EXO for a Nebula Award, and I believe it deserves to win. Oh, and there's a sequel, CROSS FIRE, coming in 2018!

Philip Reeve, RAILHEAD. Miraculous world-building in a galaxy where light-speed trains (yes, trains) cruise from planet to planet and godlike intelligences rule the masses. The character development is a bit lacking, but the worlds (and the trains) are stunning. I haven't yet read the sequel, BLACK LIGHT EXPRESS, but I hope to get to it soon.

Lisa Maxwell, THE LAST MAGICIAN. This New York Times bestseller features time-traveling thieves, a gritty depiction of turn-of-the-century New York, and enough magical razzle-dazzle to keep the pages flipping. There's a sequel coming out (I believe) next year, so stay tuned!

Michael Northrop, POLARIS. The sole Middle Grade entry on this year's list, Northrop's novel is historical science fiction about a Darwinesque voyage to the Amazon that returns bearing a horrific passenger. Particularly notable for its realistic sailing details, which perfectly ground the flights of science fantasy.

Cindy Pon, WANT. This novel, which takes place in a future Taipei that's even more radically divided by wealth than in the present, has a wonderfully realized setting, appealing characters, and a thoughtful message for our own time. The book has made numerous Top 10 lists, and deservedly so.

Paolo Bacigalupi, TOOL OF WAR. The third and, I assume, final installment in the author's Ship Breaker series, this book isn't quite as strong as the first two. But Bacigalupi is a master at rendering the peoples and places of a climate-ravaged future Earth, and his semihuman protagonist, Tool, is one of the great science fiction inventions of all time.

Jennifer Brody, THE 13TH CONTINUUM. When Earth's surface is rendered uninhabitable for a thousand years, a handful of survivors escape into deep space and the deep ocean. Now they're returning--if, that is, the totalitarian societies that have developed during that millennium will allow them. A fast-moving and fascinating dystopian tale, first in a series.

Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland, SHADOW RUN. There were parts of this deep-space adventure--the parts set on-planet--that I found less than gripping. But the scenes in outer space, where a small vessel "fishes" for the volatile substance known as Shadow, were full-on awesome. If memory serves, a sequel is due for this one, too.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, GEMINA. Book 2 of the wildly imaginative Illuminae Files trilogy, this tale couldn't quite match the intensity and physical creativity of the first book, but it came darn close. The final book in the trilogy, OBSIDIO, will be out in 2018.

Joshua David Bellin, FREEFALL. Oh, come on, I can put my own book on my list, can't I? But seriously, I'm a fan of this deep-space colonization novel that features a class-divided Earth, a revolutionary teen prophet from the global underclass, and frightening outer space monsters--both human and otherwise.

Happy reading, everyone! See you in 2018!

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