Fast-paced, exciting science fiction: 5 favorites for tweens & young adults (ages 12+)

Science fiction stories continue to captivate tweens and young adults–providing an avenue to escape our world, feel a rush of adrenaline, and wonder about what the future might hold. Here are five fast-paced sci-fi stories I highly recommend for tweens and young adults.

Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen: Emmett is one of 10 teens who sign onto Babel Communication’s space exploration project, heading out into space to mine a rare substance, Nyxia. As the teens are put through a brutal competition to see who is best suited for the task, they discover secrets about the corporation and one another. Readers in my high school have loved this fast-paced story and can definitely think it should get made into a movie.

Once and Future, by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy: This exciting story takes King Arthur’s timeless hero’s journey wielding Excalibur, sets it in outer space, and casts a teenage girl as Ari, the reincarnation of King Arthur. As Ari wrestles with her power and duty as “the one true king,” she embarks on a dangerous quest to save her family and battle a power-hungry corporation from dominating the universe. I especially appreciate the way this stories re-envisions a classic with a racial diverse queer and trans ensemble of characters.

Want, by Cindy Pon: Set in a futuristic Taiwan where the ultra-rich wear suits and helmets to keep the pollution at bay, Jason Zhou and his friends decide to take down a corrupt, murderous CEO as they agitate for cleaner air. Jason poses as a young gambler and playboy, kidnaps the CEO’s daughter and breaks into the corporate headquarters. Teens have liked the fast-pacing, immersive descriptions and social commentary — and they quickly ask for the sequel, Ruse.

War Girls, by Tochi Onyebuchi: In a post-apocalyptic Nigeria ravaged by nuclear war, child soldiers fight to reclaim the future. The novel alternates between Onyii, an air pilot captain who agrees to fight for the Republic of Biafra, and her younger sister Ify, who has been kidnaped by the Nigerians. Intense action scenes pull readers into this complicated political drama that highlights the arbitrary nature of war.

The Last Cuentista, by Donna Barba Higuera: I have yet to read this new sci-fi novel, but I’m so excited (it publishes in October). When Petra wakes hundreds of years after escaping the destruction of Earth, she discovers that she’s the only person who remembers Earth and humanity’s past. The Collective has taken over and purged everyone’s memories. Petra’s plan: share cuentos with other children, stir their memories, and come up with a plan to escape. Kirkus starred review sums it up: “With poetic use of startling imagery and unabashed nostalgia, Higuera spins a tale that crosses the depths of space, interweaving Mexican folklore with a mystical strand of science fiction.”

The review copies came from both my public library and from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books