New Middle Grade & YA Sci-Fi and Fantasy
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With so many amazing sci-fi and fantasy publications, the mid-level (MG) and young adult (YA) literary scene is full of amazing options. For young readers, these books offer new, alternate, and expanded worlds to stretch their imaginations.
For those of us who grew up in a time when science fiction and fantasy (SFF) was stigmatized and categories like MG and YA were barely blips on the literary radar, the SFF offerings were slim. Sure, there were some great ones, but SFF books aimed specifically at younger audiences weren’t as prevalent as they are today. Fortunately, today is where we are.
Now the shelves are so full of fantastic SFFs for MG and YA readers (not to mention us adults!) that deciding what to read can be downright daunting.
Do not worry! I’ve unearthed amazing sci-fi and fantasy novels for intermediate readers and young adults to help you on your reading journey.
Of course, even if science fiction and fantasy are too often lumped together in the same category (ahem, SFF), there’s a lot of wonderful work being done in both genres. Although fantasy seems to be more prevalent than sci-fi, especially when it comes to MG books, I’ve tried to balance the books on this list so you can find options that work for whatever you’re looking for. want. Good reading!
New Intermediate Level SFF Books
Onyeka and the Sun Academy by Tọlá Okogwu
Onyeka doesn’t just have great hair; she has magical Hair. This has always brought unwanted attention in her path, but when her best friend Cheyenne nearly drowns, Onyeka’s hair saves her. Literally: he reaches out and pulls Cheyenne out of the water. This is how Onyeka learns that she is a Solari – a Nigerian with superpowers – and ends up attending Sun Academy so she can be trained in the use of her powers. But soon after arriving at the Academy, Onyeka finds herself caught up in a much larger conflict.
The tundra by David A. Robertson
The tundra is the first volume of the Misewa Saga trilogy (and volume two, The Great Bear, was released earlier this month). It centers on Morgan and Eli, who meet at a foster home. The two children try to navigate their native identities and their new life situation when they discover a magical portal in the attic. It’s not a wardrobe for Narnia, but this portal takes them to a frozen land called Askí, where they encounter a hunter called Ochek who is trying to save his community, Misewa, from starving. As winter descends on Askí, Morgan and Eli must help Ochek before it’s too late for them all.
witches by Claribel A. Ortega
Seven Salazer is 12 years old and she is ready to participate in the black moon ceremony and be placed in a coven. Unfortunately for Seven, she is not placed in a coven like all the other wizards. This makes her a stash, which means her magic won’t be as strong and she’ll be ostracized by the community. But Seven is determined: she tries to form her own clan with other Spares, and when that doesn’t work, they are given an “impossible task” that they must either complete to become full witches, or fail and fail. lose all their powers. witches will make you laugh even if it will make you root for the basic misfits.
The Wonderful by Dhonielle Clayton
The Arcanum Training Institute is a multicultural magic school located in the clouds (yes, you read that right!). Ella Durand is their first conjurer, and at age 11, she finds herself not just a new student at a new school, but a student whose power is mistrusted by her peers and teachers. Of course, a year at magic school wouldn’t be complete without an escaped criminal and a missing teacher to add to Ella’s woes. The first in the Marvellerverse series, The Wonderful is a true page-turner that will keep young readers captivated from start to finish.
Molly and the Machine by Erik Jon Slangerup
Molly and the Machine takes readers back to the 1980s in the small town of Far Flung Falls. The town has a problem: the children are disappearing. When Molly McQuirter’s little brother, Wally, is taken away by a giant robot, she is unwittingly drawn into a dangerous mystery. Slangerup’s writing is laced with humor, and Molly’s journey on her wonderfully named bike, Pink Lightning, will inspire readers to support her as she strives to get to the heart of the matter. Luckily, she’s not alone: her rather enthusiastic pets are on board!
Jennifer Chan is not alone by Tae Keller
Jennifer Chan is not alone talks so much about the social struggles of the college. He struggles with bullying… and aliens. Like, aliens of the UFO variety. Jennifer Chan believes in aliens, and as you can imagine, that doesn’t get her much attention. When she goes missing, Mallory Moss goes on a rescue mission. Mallory wants to find out what happened to Jennifer, but she also has some lingering guilt because of how she bullied Jennifer before she disappeared. As Mallory tries to solve the mystery of Jennifer’s whereabouts, she must deal with the impact of her actions.
New SFF books for young adults
The Nsibidi Scripts series by Nnedi Okorafor
The third book (but not the last) of Nnedi Okorafor’s famous book nsibidi scripts series, Akata Woman was released earlier this year. The series follows Sunny Nwazue, an American-born Nigerian who discovers she has magical powers and helps the world avoid an apocalypse. Now in Akata Woman, Sunny is more confident and powerful…which is good, since she’s faced with the task of finding a hidden object in another realm. It’s a perilous mission, which basically means you’ll be glued to the book from start to finish.
A snake falls to earth by Darcie Little Badger
This novel is at the same time fantastic, fable and perhaps something else. Whatever the genre, it’s an amazing read. It focuses on Nina and Oli. Nina lives in Texas and is a 16-year-old human girl; Oli lives in the spirit world and is a cotton person. Challenges in both areas bring them closer, including the impending death of one of Oli’s friends (caused by reckless human environmental activity) and the mysterious illness of Nina’s grandmother. Told in alternating chapters, A snake falls to earth is a fascinating YA read.
The lost dreamer by Lizz Huerta
First part of a duology, The lost dreamer is a work rich in what could be considered YA feminist fantasy. It follows Indir, a young Dreamer with some big secrets, and Saya, another clairvoyant who has never been trained as a Dreamer. As Indir struggles to keep her secrets and Saya begins to uncover the secrets her mother kept from her, the two characters find themselves in grave danger. Two of my favorite things about this book are the characters (especially Indir and Saya) and the amazing world building. Seriously, once you get in there, you won’t be able to stop.
The escape by Naz Kutub
Sy is 17, shy and gay. He’s also a Muslim, and his family isn’t exactly accepting of his sexuality – or his boyfriend, Farouk. When Farouk embarks on his own adventures, Sy’s life takes an unexpected turn: a client grants her three wishes in exchange for her help…and it seems she might just be a magical being. Together, they embark on a global adventure in search of Farouk. What follows is Sy’s journey of self-discovery – with a magical infusion, of course – making this subtle fantasy novel a powerful exploration of a character’s queer coming of age.
See you yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon
There are bad days, and then there are bad days like Barrett Bloom’s first day of college…and then Barrett wakes up the next day to find she’s caught in a time loop. It’s true, she’s kind of forced to relive her first day of college over and over again. And it turns out she’s not the only one! The obnoxious guy in his physics class has been stuck in the same day for months, and now the two must work together to figure out how to unlock each other in time.
Ash and glass by Melissa De La Cruz
Melissa De La Cruz’s YA reworking of the Cinderella story is an engrossing fantasy romance read. We are in 1682 and Cendrillon de Louvois, alias Cinder, hates her life. She lives in the classic Cinderella conditions (dead father, wicked stepmother, wicked stepsisters), and the series of fancy balls and other events intended to help Prince Louis find a bride are his only way out of his dire situation. To complicate matters further, the prince isn’t exactly a great guy and Cinder actually prefers his brother Augustus. Ash and glassThe tangled love triangle and compelling characters make this a hard book to put down.