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Foreseeable futures

Speculative fiction can provide an effective vehicle for authors to comment on and critique the state of our own world. The following new YA novels examine timely social issues in new settings, whether far-flung galaxies or uncomfortably close-to-home dystopian societies. (And by the way, did you know The Hunger Games just celebrated its tenth publication anniversary?)

A major drought in Southern California has been going on long enough for everyone to adjust — but one day taps are completely dry. As people become increasingly desperate and institutions begin to break down, Alyssa, her brother Garrett, and their doomsday-prepper neighbor Kelton wind up on a road trip to survive, picking up strangers along the way who may or may not be allies. Neal and Jarrod Shusterman’s compulsively readable and unnerving novel Dry raises important questions about how we will handle the crises we have created. (Simon, 14 years and up)

Eighteen-year-old Amani lives in an impoverished village on a moon of the planet Andala following its conquest by the tyrannical Vath. Abducted by imperial droids, Amani is forced to act as Vathek Princess Maram’s body double. She endures physical modifications, intensive training, and the loss of her family, her home, and all aspects of her culture and faith. But determined, resilient Amani is more than the Vath bargained for. Somaiya Daud’s sci-fi adventure Mirage is most notable for its stunning world-building, with its Moroccan-influenced setting, culture, and religion evoked in rich detail. (Flatiron, 14 years and up)

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith is set in a gonzo, sardonic version of future America where all work is done by uber-realistic robots called cogs. When narrator Cager and his best friend, both heirs to cog fortunes, hijack a super-luxurious spaceship, the passengers they meet — cog, alien, and human — make Cager question everything he’s been taught about being human. Smith’s ambitious world-building features extended metaphorical riffs on consumerism, class, social media outrage, sexual harassment, and violence. (Simon, 14 years and up)

In a city ruled by despotic elders who can see the future, four teen rebels are condemned to death for breaking into the citadel. On their attempted escape, they meet their would-be executioner — who wants their help. In Beneath the Citadel, Destiny Soria plays with themes of prophecy, memory manipulation, and unstable trust, keeping readers off-balance. The protagonists are drawn in strong lines, their personalities bold and distinct with some swoony same-sex romance and welcome diversity regarding body shape and sexuality. (Abrams/Amulet, 14 years and up)

From the November 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. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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