These books have speculative elements that are explained as scientific or futuristic. They are divided into dystopian, space-based, and other settings and then organized by the author’s last name. For your reference, the asterisks indicate the number of times I’ve reread a book or series and kept it on my favorites list!
*Razorland by Ann Aguirre: A well-researched teen sci-fi dystopian quartet featuring a tough female character struggling to break from how she was raised, difficult cultural clashes overcome through interpersonal connection, and recovery from intense traumas.
*Loop by Karen Akins: This romantic teen science fiction duology is like the quirky dystopian little sister of The Time Traveler’s Wife–so much clever personality!
Munmun by Jesse Andrews: This speculative teen novel sounded like a unique, silly premise, but it turned out to be a brilliant and affecting allegory for class in our society, worthy of the epigraphed Jonathan Gulliver.
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman: This teen sci-fi/fantasy series starter is full of stuff I love: AI characters, the afterlife, societal intrigue, and the power of compassion and empathy.
Your One & Only by Adrianne Finlay: This is a super interesting teen sci-fi romance that takes place in an unexpected future, both lovely and brutal.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He: A stunning, enthralling teen science fiction novel about a future created by human cruelty, human passion, and most of all, human interdependence. I agree with so much of this, like–wow. There’s also a neurodivergent main character!
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: This adult sci-fi/fantasy series starter is a hard, insightful look at human trauma and injustice amid a world ravaged by ecological disasters.
*The Giver by Lois Lowry: A fascinating children’s quartet that balances between science fiction and fantasy, the real and the impossible, in its quest towards overcoming dystopian society with multiple characters full of imagination and heart and some lovely disability representation.
*Legend by Marie Lu: A skillful teen science fiction trilogy set in a rigidly structured dystopian world.
Skyhunter by Marie Lu: An unnerving teen dystopian science fiction series starter that confronts the brutality of imperialism and the struggle of refugees.
The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden: An enthralling and thoughtful teen science fiction novel that promotes forgiveness and fairness through interesting and engaging characters, an appropriate nontraditional format, and relevant political aspects.
#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil: An engrossing near-future teen horror novel, with some absurdist dark humor, that’s surprisingly believable.
#MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil: This near-future teen horror novel set in the same world as #MurderTrending has the same gruesome absurdism stemming from honest reality, though it falls a little harder on the ridiculous gory end of things.
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: A fascinating teen science fiction series starter with a lovely Persuasion-inspired romance that takes place amidst a world destroyed by eugenics and religion-supported classism.
Want by Cindy Pon: This teen science fiction series starter presents a dystopian future Taiwan quite different from the world I know as a white girl living in prosperity in the modern U.S., and yet it’s completely believable as well as interesting.
*Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman: This is a phenomenal example of Shusterman’s work: A brilliant and relevant teen science fiction quartet based on a truly wild premise and executed in a way that touches on so many different facets of society–including disability–while also delving into deep issues of the human soul.
Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young: An unsettling and empowering teen science fiction series starter that reveals both the cognitive dissonance caused by sexism and the strength of women’s love for each other.
*Red Rising by Pierce Brown: This atmospheric teen science fiction trilogy is fascinating in a lot of ways: brutal and sometimes gruesome, with Hunger Games moments, but also a intensely bright spark of its own.
Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler: This is an absolutely fascinating adult science fiction trilogy by a core Black female author in speculative fiction–both relatable and disturbing.
Once & Future by A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy: A vibrant teen science fiction duology that retells Arthurian legend with a plethora of queer representation, a sapphic romance, and a female main character.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud: A stunning teen science fiction series starter that examines politics and power on an India-inspired planet ravaged by imperialism.
*Earth Girl by Janet Edwards: The main character is like a fictionally disabled science fiction Hermione, though a bit warmer emotionally, with a fantastic boyfriend, amidst a well-created trilogy that’s so much fun to read.
Starswept by Mary Fan: A teen science fiction series starter true to my heart, featuring a very relatable Asian-American main character, lots of art, and a galactic, star-crossed romance.
Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson: A fascinating and twisty teen science fiction duology that inspires speculation, featuring linguistic exploration, AI characters, and a touch of fantasy.
Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston: In this teen Star Wars book, E.K. Johnston does an amazing job depicting Padme Amidala, her handmaidens, and the political complexities of the universe they live in with detailed accuracy and intelligence.
Toxic by Lydia Kang: A teen science fiction novel set on an isolated space ship and populated by sad and broken people, with a lovely romance at the center.
The Aurora Cycle by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: In this teen science fiction trilogy, a unique found family undertakes a vibrant adventure across a strange and overwhelming galaxy.
*Starbound by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner: A beautifully written, romantic teen science fiction trilogy with a strong, original base and the typical Kaufman disdain for corporate corruption.
**Insignia by S.J. Kincaid: A thoroughly enjoyable, brilliant trilogy with relevant science fiction worldbuilding, vibrant characterization, disability representation, realistic teen behavior, and a snarky and intelligent main character who has a great sense of humor.
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee: A thrilling and unusual mix of children’s science fiction and Korean fantasy mythology features a vibrant main character at the beginning of a series about a space-centered quest.
*Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis: This is the most hardcore, sci-fi-ed up teen “Snow White” I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and I love how wonderfully and exactly the author managed to tie it to the original fairytale.
A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna: An India-inspired teen series starter that straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy (which I always love) with a wonderfully imperfect main character.
*The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: This romantic teen quintet has all the power of science fiction with the beauty of various fairytales, full of wonderfully imaginative pieces that give it greater depth and some diverse disability representation.
*Across the Universe by Beth Revis: A beautiful, interesting teen trilogy that combines space travel science fiction and murder mystery with a lovely romance.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson: My favorite thing about Sanderson’s writing is that his characters are just weird, and that aspect of his work is on full display in this epic, space-centered teen science fiction series starter.
The Cage by Megan Shepherd: Watching the stakes up themselves and the plans for the future unfurl in this thrilling, alien-centered teen dystopian science fiction series starter is pretty darn awesome.
The Generations Trilogy by Scott Sigler: There’s so much cool stuff in this teen science fiction trilogy, from the twelve-year-olds waking in adult bodies, to the symbols on their foreheads, to the otherworldly place where they are, to the horrifying reason they’re there.
Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan: A vibrantly original teen apocalyptic sci-fi duology with a half-Native Hawai’ian main character whose epilepsy proves to have epic repercussions.
Waste of Space by Gina Damico: This is a really fun, slightly off-kilter teen science fiction novel told in a nontraditional format, which is one of my favorite things.
The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis: An unusual teen science fiction novel with fantastical elements, featuring a heroine with anxiety and endometriosis and exploring heroism and the self.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power: A popular, fascinating teen sci-fi horror novel set on an island wilderness full of feral femininity and featuring body deformities and a sapphic romance.
The Legacy Human by Susan Kaye Quinn: A fascinating and original teen science fiction series starter taking place in a future world that explores art, technology, and the human soul.
Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan: This fun and forgiving venture into retelling Jules Verne’s science fiction in a diverse contemporary setting showcases Uncle Rick’s continuing greatness as a beloved children’s author.
Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury: An intriguing and unique Trinidadian-Canadian coming-of-age sci-fi/fantasy series starter about the generational consequences of suffering and violence.
The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen: I’ve always been drawn to the idea of empathetic/telepathic powers, and this adorable achillean sci-fi love story featuring a teen struggling with his mental health? *chef’s kiss*
The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera: This perfectly intense teen speculative fiction novel, set in the same world as They Both Die at the End, weaves together an achillean romance and a major world event.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera: This achillean teen speculative fiction novel featuring a character who has anxiety manages to make something beautiful of death, something heartfelt, and I can’t deny its thoughtfulness.