Young Adult Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels That Gave Me Hope Through 2017 – A Smugglivus list by Eric Smith

Welcome to Smugglivus 2017! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2017, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2018, and more.

Today’s Smugglivus guest is Eric Smith – author, agent, geek and all-around awesome person. We are in tenterhooks for his upcoming novel The Girl & the Grove.

Please give it up to Eric!

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I wonder, as I write this post, how many other writers are thinking about the same thing. The stories that helped them through a rough year of political and world turmoil. Or, are maybe questioning their work in the face of it all.

I’ve seen this happen amongst my writer friends, and even my pals in the industry. Wondering, just how their work is going to make an impact, make a difference, in the face of whatever might be happening at the time. The fear of a terrifying political climate, the horrors of natural disasters… the year was a laundry list of awful.

It can be hard, trying to see a point in writing, in creating, when the world seems to be going to hell.

But honestly, that’s when we need stories the most. Your stories.

Not just to escape what we’re seeing in front of us, but to hope for what’s to come. To see our world reflected back at us, in a way that tells us, yes, everything is going to be okay. To give those who are feeling underrepresented and looked over, a chance to feel acknowledged. To know that they matter. That they are seen.

These are the books that did that for me this year, and I hope you’ll pick them up, whether they are out now making a difference for readers, or coming out soon, ready to find themselves in the hands of teenagers who need them most.

Want by Cindy Pon

Set in a maybe-not-so-distant future Taipei, Cindy Pon’s first book in her dystopian sci-fi duology introduces us to a world that’s being ravaged by pollution, where only the rich can live comfortably. They wear exo-suits that filter their air, and have these extravagant lifestyles, while those who can’t afford the technology are left to choke on the air and die from disease.

The novel centers around a teenager who rises up with his band of rebellious friends, to infiltrate the wealthy class, and get to the bottom of what’s been going on. Because the city is corrupt, and maybe, just maybe the pollution plaguing their city is getting worse… on purpose.

It’s a book about standing up to those in power and fighting for what’s right, not just for yourself, not just for those close to you… but for everyone.

It’s easily my favorite YA novel of the year, regardless of genre.

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

The paperback of this excellent steampunk-fantasy-romance genre mash of a novel came out this year, while the hardcover hit in 2016.

The story of a brilliant teen engineer who can fix the clocks that tower above towns… clocks that control time. If one breaks, a town can freeze. If it’s skipping, the people can lurch forward. He’s called on to help, and he’s determined to one day fix the clock that’s left his father trapped and frozen in time.

It’s not just a story full of lush world building and gorgeous prose, though it certainly has that. At the core of the story is this beautiful paranormal LGBTQ+ romance between our beloved clock-fixing teen, and the clock spirit who inhabits one of the towers he has to fix.

Keep a look out for the sequel, Chainbreaker, due out with Sky Pony Press next year.

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Reading like a delicious mashup of The Time Traveler’s Wife and… well, a YA novel, Cole’s debut shifts back and forth in time, from the present to the past, with a teen who can’t stop traveling. And unfortunately for him, he keeps traveling back to the frontlines of World War II, where he’s seeing his friends blown apart, only to come back to the present and wrestle with PTSD for something no one will ever believe him about.

Until he meets a girl. Who starts to unravel the mystery behind what’s going on, and fights to save his life before he gets killed in World War II. Because she’s found proof that he does.

It’s this stunning novel about the horrors of war, the trauma that it leaves us with, and the hope of recovery.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Wait, wait. How can a YA novel about characters who are going to die, give you hope? Well, that’s one the things Adam Silvera is so gifted at. Writing stories that break your heart, while simultaneously lifting you up.

This contemporary with a splash of sci-fi making for a moving LGBTQ+ story of two teens who know when they are going to die (thanks to an alert from a handy app), and decide to spend their final day together.

I’m so eager to see more LGBTQ+ YA novels in sci-fi and fantasy, giving teens a place to see themselves, and thrilled that kids have someone like Adam Silvera fighting for them with his prose.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

This book doesn’t come out until next year, but I was lucky enough to get an ARC of it. And, if you’re extra curious, you can read a wonderful teaser of a short story from the Dread Nation world in Three Sides of a Heart, an anthology that comes out this month.

A YA mashup of alternate-history, fantasy, and horror, Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation throws you back to the American Civil War, only here, zombies walk the country. And Jane, a biracial teen girl, is being raised to be an “Attendant”, someone who can fight the walking dead and protect those who are wealthy.

It’s an epic tome of a novel that smartly talks about racism alongside unbelievably kick ass action, in a world that feels so very real and so very terrifying. It’s my favorite book of 2018, and it isn’t even here yet. It’ll hit bookstores everywhere in April 2018.

Justina is a powerful voice, and we are so lucky to have her.

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Eric Smith is a literary agent and author of Young Adult books. His next novel, The Girl & the Grove, will be out in 2018 with Flux.

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