The best YA fantasy & science fiction books featuring diverse perspectives

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author of young adult fantasy and science fiction, I’ve read many books that fall within that rubric. This list captures the most exciting young adult novels I’ve read over the past few years. All have aspects of storytelling and themes I strive to capture in my writing. One thing I love about the young adult genre is the characters go on an adventure full of excitement and danger. The adventure is a metaphor for growing up. So if reads chock-full of death-defying odds, mystery, wonder, and a sprinkling of romance are your jam, the books in this list are for you.


I wrote...

Dragons Walk Among Us

By Dan Rice,

Book cover of Dragons Walk Among Us

What is my book about?

Shutterbug Allison Lee is trying to survive high school while suffering the popular girl's abuse. Her life is often abysmal, but at least her green hair is savage. Her talent for photography is recognized by the school paper and the judges of a photo contest.

While visiting her friend Joe, a homeless vet, Allison's life irrevocably changes after an attack leaves her blind. All her dreams are dashed as she realizes she'll never see again. Despair sets in until she is offered an experimental procedure to restore her vision. But there are side effects, or are they hallucinations? She now sees dragons accompanying some of the people she meets. Can she trust her eyes, or has the procedure affected her more than she can see?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Victories Greater Than Death

Dan Rice Why did I love this book?

I was blown away by how good Victories Greater Than Death is. It reminds me of the original Star Trek with its optimism and inclusiveness. Charlie Jane Anders puts inclusiveness front and center with the sheer diversity of her characters in ethnic origin, neurodiversity, and LGBTQA+ identification. This is done brilliantly in a manner that is in your face, lighthearted, touching, and nuanced. All this is accomplished without sacrificing the yarn's sci-fi suave.

The protagonist is Tina, a teenage girl destined to transform into an alien superhero. Her story thrums with fantastical adventure while exploring questions of identity and purpose with gravitas. I explore similar themes in my writing and hope I handle them with the aplomb Charlie Jane Anders does.

By Charlie Jane Anders,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Victories Greater Than Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Outsmart Your Enemies. Outrun the Galaxy.

“Just please, remember what I told you. Run. Don’t stop running for anything.”

Tina never worries about being 'ordinary'--she doesn't have to, since she's known practically forever that she's not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She's also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it's going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina's legacy, after all, is intergalactic--she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a…


Book cover of Seraphina

Dan Rice Why did I love this book?

Seraphina is one of the most unique young adult novels I've ever read. The story follows the eponymous protagonist as she navigates a Victorian-Esque fantasy world where she struggles to fit in because she has a secret. Seraphina is a human-dragon hybrid.

When Seraphina uncovers a plot to overthrow the kingdom, an adventuresome detective story unfolds. Hartman threads themes of feminism and the importance of diversity throughout the tale. Although dragons, humans, and other intelligent creatures live side-by-side, they do not live as equals. The struggles Seraphina and other characters face due to inequality add complications to the plot that mirror the social issues of today.

By Rachel Hartman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Seraphina as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The kingdom of Goredd is populated by humans and by dragons who fold themselves into a human form. Though they live alongside each other, the peace between them is uneasy.

But when a member of the royal family is murdered, and the crime appears to have been committed by a dragon the peace and treaty between both worlds is seriously threatened . . .

Into this comes Seraphina, a gifted musician who joins the royal court as the assistant to the court composer. She is soon drawn into the murder investigation and, as she uncovers hints of a sinister plot…


Book cover of Exo

Dan Rice Why did I love this book?

On the surface, Exo is a tale of Earth occupied by aliens. What makes this story interesting is the protagonist, Donovan, is trapped between two worlds. He is the son of a prominent liaison between humanity and the aliens, and he is a member of the police force employed by the aliens to keep the recalcitrant humans in line. But when human freedom fighters capture him, he identifies with aspects of their cause while disagreeing with their tactics and believing the aliens are not evil.

Lee does an excellent job of creating a world where nothing is black and white. Donovan is a sympathetic character trapped by his divided loyalties without easy solutions to his conundrums.

By Fonda Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Exo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

“A deeply immersive story that balances fantastic, original world building with spine-tingling adventure.” —Sabaa Tahir, #1 New York Times–bestselling author

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a…


Book cover of Zoe's Tale

Dan Rice Why did I love this book?

Scalzi transports us to his ever-exciting Old Man's War universe for a retelling of the novel The Last Colony from a teen's perspective. Aliens, adventure, and young love abound in Zoe's Tale, a story sure to delight Scalzi fans and is an excellent entry point for young adult readers interested in his brand of witty sci-fi.

With Zoe's Tale, Scalzi demonstrates one key to a compelling story is a fantastic protagonist. Zoe is just that. She is engaging, stubborn, snarky, a true friend, an angsty teen, and brave. Readers who enjoy Scalzi's clever prose will find the fact Zoe's Tale is a retelling of The Last Colony immaterial. That's how captivating a character Zoe is.

By John Scalzi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zoe's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hard-core, fast paced science fiction, John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale is the fourth in The Old Man's War series.

She won't go down without a fight.

It's not every day you up sticks and move to another world. But then, Zoe Boutin-Perry's life has never been ordinary. She's the adopted teenage daughter of two former super-soldiers. She's also a holy icon to a race of alien warriors who track her every move. So she's used to the quirks of being a human in space.

However, this time something's different. Betrayed by the authorities, Zoe - along with her parents and fellow…


Book cover of The Witches of Vegas

Dan Rice Why did I love this book?

The Witches of Vegas is a bewitching read that is hard to put down. Mainly, the narrative is divided between two high school-aged teens, Isis and Zack. Isis is a young witch kept in relative social isolation for her safety and the safety of others. The magic system in this world stems from emotion, and a young witch unable to control their feelings might magically lash out by accident. Zack is an apprentice magician, practicing card tricks and sleight of hand under his Uncle Herb's tutelage.

The Witches of Vegas is an enjoyable and quick read with a unique premise. I found Rosendorf's insight into how street performers pull off their tricks of particular interest.

By Mark Rosendorf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Witches of Vegas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Where can Witches and their vampire mentor practice their powers without being discovered or persecuted?

By using their magic, the Witches of Vegas become the number one act performing on the Las Vegas Strip—a great achievement for them, but not so much for the magicians—who can't possibly keep pace.

Isis Rivera is the adopted fifteen-year old daughter of The Witches of Vegas. Zack Galloway is the teenage nephew and assistant to the last magician left in the city. Although they should be rivals, when Valeria, a four-hundred-year-old witch with a long-seeded grudge against humanity arrives in Sin-City, both teens act…


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Price of Vengeance

By Kurt D. Springs,

Book cover of Price of Vengeance

Kurt D. Springs

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Teacher Cook Barista Guardian

Kurt's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Liam was orphaned at the age of two by a group of giant carnivorous insects called the chitin. Taken in by High Councilor Marcus and his wife, Lidia, Liam was raised with their older son, Randolf in New Olympia, the last remaining city on the planet Etrusci.

As an adult, Liam becomes a soldier. After being cut off from the city, Liam finds that there is an alien intelligence behind the chitin. To defeat it, he must discover who he is and how to use his powers. Then, Liam discovers that a traitor, responsible for his birth parents' deaths, had murdered his beloved foster parents. Will the price he has to pay in his quest for vengeance prove to be an even more unbeatable foe?

Price of Vengeance

By Kurt D. Springs,

What is this book about?

"From the cover to the opening pages, Price of Vengeance grabs the reader and takes them on a wild ride. Fasten your seat belts for this book." -S. J. Francis, author of Shattered Lies

What is the Price of Vengeance? One could understand why Liam was angry. He was orphaned at the age of two by a group of giant carnivorous insects called the chitin. Taken in by High Councilor Marcus and his wife, Lidia, Liam was raised with their older son, Randolf in New Olympia, the last remaining city on the planet Etrusci.

As an adult, Liam becomes a…


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