The Teen Speculative Fiction was the category of the Cybils where I’d already read half of the finalists (at least, half of the ones that I wanted to read). Naturally that makes it the one category I was trying to finish reading before the winner was announced but failed. But since they’re still good books, I’m sharing them anyway.
Here are the three finalists I’d already read:
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
I loved all of them. I also went around annoying all of my colleagues with my excitement over my nominee making the finalist list.
I elected not to read Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, because horror isn’t really why I read spec fic, and I do need my sleep. So, on to the ones I did read:
Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet. Clarion Books, 2015.
16-year-old Hallie and her ten-years-older sister Marthe are struggling to keep their family farm running in the wake of the war which all the local men went off to fight. Marthe is pregnant, and her husband hasn’t come back. They’re also struggling with the heavy weight of inherited family abuse and dysfunction – Hallie is desperately afraid that this experience will be echoed in her generation. But when a broken soldier shows up at the door looking for work, she can’t turn him away, even as his coming brings a new flood of Twisted Things – deformed animals that catch burn everything they touch. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, this takes a deep look at inherited arguments, reconciliation, and a broken war. It’s tough and beautiful with the possibility of redemption.
The Walls around Us by Nova Ren Suma. Algonquin, 2015.
On the inside: Amber has been in a girls’ penitentiary for years. The night the power goes out and the guards are all gone, everyone goes crazy – and Amber sees echoes of the past and the future, knowing that a girl named Ori will be joining them soon or maybe already has. On the outside, Violet is an 18-year-old ballerina preparing to go to Julliard, remembering her best friend Orianna. With deliberate echoes of Chicago, this is a meditation the innocence under the guilt as well as the guilt under the innocence. There are also very tight relationships both in and out of the prison – this made Maureen at By Singing Light’s list of favorite book friendships. It’s told in poetic prose that deliberately left me not quite sure what happened at the very end. Definitely not something I would have picked up on my own, and then I couldn’t put it down and immediately passed it on to someone else when I was done. This was the final winner in the category!
The Six by Mark Alpert. Sourcebooks Fire, 2015.
Adam knows he has only a few more months before his muscular dystrophy will kill him. His father is a brilliant scientist who’s determined to save his son’s mind, even if Adam’s body is doomed. Adam and a bunch of other terminally ill teens join the military and become robot weapons, just after a super-intelligent AI has gone rogue and escaped, threatening the existence of humans everywhere. This could actually happen – it’s quite close future sci-fi, and I’ve just been reading articles about scientists’ fear of rogue AIs. I ended up not finishing it myself, as military sci-fi is something I often struggle to find interesting. I’d still absolutely recommend this to teens who are interested in military thriller sci-fi and not yet jaded by the whole rogue AI idea. I’ll stick with Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War (published for adults) for a meditation on artificial intelligence and humanity.