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Fantastic(al) heroines of color

These new entries in YA speculative fiction series starring kickass young women of color explore perspectives on cultural and ethnic identity — while providing glimpses of (often frightening) potential futures and alternate realities grounded in our present.

Ambelin Kwaymullina concludes The Tribe, her fantasy trilogy of what she terms “Indigenous futurism,” with The Foretelling of Georgie Spider. It seems that at last the repressive government will do away with punitive restrictions on those with supernatural abilities like heroines Ashala, Ember, and Georgie. However, the insidious influence of powerful Neville Rose causes drastic damage. Action and event dominate the story, but Kwaymullina develops the imagery and relationships established in earlier volumes to undergird all with a web of loyalty, compassion, and commitment to connection between beings. (Candlewick, 14 years and up)

One minute Emika Chen is a hacker and bounty hunter in a futuristic New York City, struggling to make ends meet, and the next minute — after she’s hacked into Warcross, a phenomenally popular virtual reality game — she’s on a private jet to Tokyo to meet Hideo Tanaka, the game’s young inventor. It turns out she’s only the second person to hack Warcross, and Hideo promises her an outrageous sum to locate the first: the shadowy villain Zero. Written in a first-person, present-tense style with plenty of action, suspense, and romance, Marie Lu’s Warcross (the first entry in a projected duology) is sure to please her fans. (Putnam, 14 years and up)

Brooklyn teen Sierra Santiago, star of Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper, returns in Shadowhouse Fall. Sierra just wants her friends and family to be safe — but that’s complicated given that she is the leader of an artistic troupe of spirit-summoning renegades. Older intricately ties upheaval in the spirit world to the all-too-familiar dangers for black and brown teens in the alternate day-to-day world he’s created. This punch-packing sequel fills in gaps and expands the cast of the first installment while presenting a more focused and emotionally developed plot. (Scholastic/Levine, 14 years and up)

In Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior, sequel to Akata Witch, protagonist Sunny’s spirit faced is ripped from her by the malevolent masquerade Ekwensu. Separated from their spirit faces, most Leopard People would die, but Sunny survives; and her visions guide her to a place where the living world and the spirit world coincide — and where Sunny can defeat Ekwensu before she destroys the earth. Reader assumptions about contemporary Nigeria will be broadened by details showing, yes, traditional ceremonies but also flat-screen TVs, while the centuries-old (but-still-new-to-most-readers) West African mythological foundation will satisfy fans eager for more of Okorafor’s signature brand of magic. (Viking, 12–14 years)

From the January 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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