So your teenager finished reading all the hottest science fiction books on the market: Hunger Games, Divergent and the Scorch Trials. Science fiction used to be nerdy. Very nerdy. Funny how times have changed! Now that nerdy is the new cool, they’re probably wondering what other YA sci fi books are out there. Why not read science fiction books from yesteryear and learn the nerd-lingo? Before your teen downloads that next book to their tablet, here are some suggestions that will help them get street “cred” with actual nerds.
In this article you’ll find six “historical” sci-fi books that will appeal to teens, plus three current YA books. And these books are a fun read – so fun, indeed, that most of these favorites are now movies. But, movies are never as great in the books (according to this literary nerd); so read the books!
#1: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (1963)
A Wrinkle in Time is a great book for nerd-beginners. Get introduced to basic “must know” concepts such as a “tesseract” and Time and Space science. As with many science fiction books, this one has elements of magic, too. This Newbery Award winning book focuses on love of family and concepts of good versus evil. Despite its younger reading level, many adults read this book over and over again.
A Wrinkle in Time paved new roads for female protagonists. Today, readers are comfortable seeing Katniss and Tris take center stage, but it may be because L’Engle laid the groundwork. Many consider Meg Murry the first female sci-fi protagonist of note.
#2: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
This book has a dry, snarky sense of humor. Don’t start reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with your serious-hat on. But, even though this has much silliness, it’s a serious “must-read” for sci-fi nerds. This story takes place after Earth is destroyed. Fortunately, the main character, Arthur, has a friend who is secretly an alien from another galaxy who helps him hitchhike off the planet just before the Earth is destroyed for a space highway. There’s danger, treasure and political snafus… just in the first quarter of the book! Most importantly, you’ll see where the nerdiest sci-fi catch phrases come from, such as “42!”, “Life, don’t talk to me about life,” or Don’t panic!”.
Speaking of 42, read the 42 best lines from Hitchhiker’s Guide on BookRiot!
#3: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985)
If you write a book so awesome that decades later Hans Solo…er, I mean Harrison Ford, jumps on the project, you know you have a classic sci-fi book worth its salt. Ender’s Game is considered one of the seminal science fiction books of all time. Card worried that getting readers to buy into the premise would be difficult; he wanted to create a world where people would think it was normal to train children as soldiers. He did it brilliantly and created a blockbuster concept that stood the test of time.
Ender’s Game, like The Hitchhiker’s Guide and A Wrinkle in Time, are the first in their series’, but they’re by far the most popular.
#4: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990)
All you need do is look at the many times Jurassic Park has inspired movies about “what would happen if dinosaurs were on the Earth today” to see the long-lasting appeal of this book. Jurassic Park book isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s gory! Might I suggest reading this in the daytime?
When the sun is out.
When parents are home.
Michael Crichton’s many popular books (and television shows like E.R.) put the science in science fiction. Crichton was a great storyteller, but he took it up a notch because his fiction stemmed from the science he knew and loved; Crichton received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and he later taught anthropology at Cambridge.
#5: The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
The Giver is my personal, hands-down favorite nerd book of all time, despite its apparent trend-setting-ness. I loved watching the seemingly perfect social constructs being blown apart by a child who realized how wrong, wrong, totally wrong they were. Sound familiar? That’s because The Giver is said to be the first YA dystopian book ever written. Bam. Read it.
#6: The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld (2005)
The Uglies series explores our culture’s need to be pretty…all the time. In this series, characters undergo a mandatory surgery at 16 that will make them beautiful. What if someone wants to keep the face they were born with? Too bad. The government takes issue with that. This author not only exposes the folly of perfection, but takes it to another level that will draw teens into the story and keep them reading.
Don’t be fooled though, despite the fluffy-sounding topic, Scott Westerfeld is a solid writer. He’s got skillz! This series has been called a “thoughtful adventure” meaning it’s fun, but warning…introspection may be required. This is a trilogy, plus a companion guide.
#7: The Saving Mars series by Cidney Swanson (2012)
Saving Mars, a six-book series, tells about Jess, the red-headed Martian pilot (and rule-breaker) and her experiences on Earth. One thing I like about this book — whoa — no love-triangle! Jess’ primary goal isn’t even to “be with the boy she loves.” How refreshing! In this action-adventure story, Jess’ desire is to save her people on Mars from starvation.
#8: Dangerous by Shannon Hale (2014)
If you’re looking for a non-series book, Dangerous is for you. This adventure story focuses on Daisy, a bright young woman. The story kicks into high gear when she receives an invitation to space camp. Daisy gets more than she bargained for, of course! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that beyond the space elements of the story, there is a superhero component and a heavy thread of romance.
If you know Hale from her previous fantasy writing, including her Newbery Award winning book, Goose Girl, you’ll need to put aside your preconceived notions of a chapter book. This book is for teens and is a fast-paced adventure with teenage-level abilities for plot comprehension. Hale does keeps this book PG to PG-13 (much less violent and romantic than most of the YA sci-fi books on the market today).
#9: Steelheart (Reckoners series) by Brandon Sanderson (2014)
Brandon Sanderson’s book, Steelheart, starts off the Reckoners series, where you’ll be introduced to a futurist Earth society ruled by epics, evil superheroes. But, plenty of regular-folks remain on the planet, too, including the main character of the series. As epics fight for world domination, the non-epics watch their cities get torn apart (and hope their loved ones don’t get caught in the cross-hairs).
Many high school readers who love sci-fi haven’t heard of Sanderson because he’s known for his epic fantasy books for adults. This is his first crossover into mainstream YA sci-fi (while still keeping one foot firmly in the fantasy camp). Sanderson strips away some of the trademark depth we see in his adult novels, but he develops an amazing concept as he writes for this younger audience. Crossing over is hard; the land “in-between” genres is littered with the bones (or reputations) of many an exemplary author trying to make the leap. The Reckoners is such a fun read that even those who didn’t want to love it (cough *fantasy nerds*) gave it excellent reviews.
The last installment in the series, Calamity, hit the shelves Feb 16, 2016.
Share Your Favorite YA Sci Fi Books!
Although I ‘d like to list every great YA sci fi book ever written, I had to narrow it down to my favorites for teens. Share your favorite science fiction books! I’m looking for new ones to add to my TBR (To Be Read) list!
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It doesn’t need to be summer time to make your child a reading star! Check out these fun FREE printables to get them started: