Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Science Fiction That Actually Takes Place in (Gasp) Space (a list with apparently 10 titles on it in honor of The Hitchhiker’s “Trilogy”)

When I was reading These Broken Stars, I was a little giddy because here was a science fiction title that actually took place in space.  There has been a lot of science fiction published lately, but a lot of it tends to be more Earthbound involving new tech (think the awesome BZRK series by Michael Grant) or speculating about grim post apocalyptic futures (every 3rd YA book title published in the last 5 years it seems).  So I loved that These Broken Stars had a genuine in space Science Fiction setting.  Here are a few other titles for you if you want to read more books that take place in space or on a planet other than Earth.

Here is the list, in no particular order what so ever.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

It’s a mystery.  In space.  And a very good one.  Check out this series.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

A group of teens are selected to go to the moon for 172 and bad stuff happens.  This book reminds me a lot of the vibe you get while watching The Ring or the Grudge.  In other ways, it’s a little scary and tense.  Which is good.

Feed by M T Anderson

They went to the moon for spring break, it turned out to suck.  That is actually a paraphrase of the first line of this epic book about a future world where you connect to the Internet directly into your brain.

Helium-3 series by Homer Hickam

The author of the Rocket Boys writes this series about a mining colony on the moon, a deadly mission, and secrets that can destroy it all.

Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

You have probably heard of this one recently.  Maybe you have seen the movie ads.  A boy.  Space aliens attacking.  Ender is our only hope. There is actually more to the story as it is the first book in a series if you want to keep reading.  Card also tells the same story from a different point of view in Ender’s Shadow.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A part of the Time Quartet, which is one of the best things ever written.  Ever.  Meg and crew journey through time and space to find her missing dad.  There is also now a graphic novel version.

Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis

Everyone knows he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia.  But did you know that C. S. Lewis wrote a space trilogy?  It begins with Out of the Silent planet in which Dr. Ransom is kidnapped to be a human sacrifice on another planet but when he escapes, he finds this planet is more alike than different than our own.  Not technically YA, but it is so good.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Addams

Don’t Panic! This is one of five books in this, um, trilogy?  Journey around the galaxy.  Meet dolphins and mice.  Learn the importance of the number 42.  Laugh a lot.  Don’t forget to grab your towel.

The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy

Rain boards a spaceship thinking she is set for the Edge, only to discover that the spaceship is a host for an underground slave ship.

Ever Expanding Universe by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

In the past, they used to ship pregnant teens off to an “aunts” house until they delivered.  What if we sent them to space instead?  Oh and hey, what if we stole their babies to repopulate?  Yeah, Elvie isn’t sure she wants to be a mother, but before she can decide she needs to find her way off this ship being attacked by aliens and her baby’s father?  Book 1 in the series is Mothership, funny.

Bonus: All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury
This is my favoritest short story ever.  And yes, favoritest is totally a word.  A group of kids live on a planet where the sun only comes out once every so many years.  One of the girls has seen the sun, she remembers what it looks like because she recently came from Earth.  The other students are jealous and bully her.  Then, the day the sun is supposed to come out, they doing something terrible.  You can read the story here.

Add your favorites in the comments.

Take 5: True Confessions of a Sci Fi Reader with Maria Selke

I’ve always been a science fiction reader.

Well, “always” if you count the fact that there wasn’t much science fiction available for younger readers when I was a kid. I got my start in fantasy with Narnia. I ventured into science fiction with A Wrinkle in Time, and never looked back. I continued to read fantasy and historical fiction, of course, but I also gobbled down science fiction like cyborgs were about to take over the earth. 

Recently, though, I realized that my passion for science fiction felt very past tense. Almost everything I read and reread was published before the dawn of the 21st century. The more I talked about my love for the genre, the more people came to me for reading suggestions. While Bradbury, Clark, and Herbert are fabulous, it was time to hit the books and update my repertoire.  I gave myself a SciFi Summer challenge.

I started by trying to express why I think science fiction is such an important genre. It really boils down to this – science fiction is the genre that helps us envision and create a better future. We may read about environmental catastrophes and plot a way out of the path of destruction. We may shiver in fear as humans turn on each other, and turn instead to compassion.  We may read about marvelous science that sparks our desire to cure or explore or explain. I’ve gone into more detail about “Why Sci Fi” on my blog, if you’d care for a more in depth discussion. http://www.mariaselke.com/2012/04/why-sci-fi-power-of-what-if.html

Since the start of June, I have read thirty-seven books that I classified as science fiction. While I’m trying to find newer titles, I did succumb to the lure of a Fahrenheit 451reread after the passing of Ray Bradbury. Let me tell you, that book is just as relevant today as it was when it was published. If you haven’t read it, or you haven’t read it lately, be sure to get a copy! It’s available as a graphic novel adaptation as well, but that doesn’t hold a candle to the original.

Science fiction is for everyone. It can be filled with adventure. It can include flirtation or outright romance. The protagonists can be male, female, both, or neither. There can be mysteries to solve. No matter what other elements it includes; the best science fiction lets us peer into the future. Science fiction can appeal to anyone, of any age, with any interest.

Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner


Stormy weather got you down? Are you in the mood for a near future climate science adventure? Eye of the Storm will hit the spot. Kate Messner’s tale of a world of terrifying storms seems even more likely after the past few months.

 Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill

Hankering for a trip to Mars after watching all the Curiosity Rover news? Black Hole Sun is quite a rip-roaring adventure tale, with just a hint of romance. I liked this book on a lot of levels. I enjoyed the Mars setting, and the hints at the history of the terraforming that has occurred. I enjoyed the repartee between the characters, especially between the main character and A.I. that lives in his head. It had the science fiction as well as a western feel to the tale. Since I am a huge fan of Firefly, this worked beautifully for me. 

Wishing you’d gotten another glimpse into The Matrix? Here are few great choices that keep the focus on computer technology.

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster


Kyle’s story is presented as almost an archaeological find, with his tale narrated on a series of analogue audio tapes. The futuristic society that discovered it jumps in with commentary and explanations as Kyle’s story progresses. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but this one had me wondering if I had taken the blue or the red pill. Great for middle grade on up. Even better news? There is a new book out this month!  (Karen’s notes: 1) I told her to read this book so bonus points for me.  2) The sequel is The Future We Left Behind and it was released last Tuesday.)

 Insignia by S.J. Kincaid


Imagine a world without war. Or at least, without war on Earth itself. Instead, combatants have been implanted with neural processors to allow them to control ships in distant space. How much technology can we inject into our brain structures and still remain human? The teenagers tasked with championing each side of World War III that is waging will soon find out.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Longing to get away from it all? I mean reallyfar away? How about sleeping for three hundred years while you travel to a distant world to begin a new human colony? The first few pages honestly almost made me ill. Not a terrible thing – the description of being prepped for cryo sleep were just exceptionally detailed and traumatic. There’s also mystery and romance; the perfect trifecta to appeal to many teenage readers.  

I can never get enough science fiction, and I plan to keep reading and reviewing for as long as my eyes hold out. I try to mix it up by hitting a variety of interest levels and spicing it up with some science nonfiction. Join me (most) Fridays at Maria’s Mélange for my Sci Friday feature or hit me up on Twitter -@mselke01.

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere: Beth Revis on the Real Fauxtographer

I am a huge fan of Margot Wood, the Real Fauxtographer.  Her photography is beautiful and I can’t help but think, it must be so amazing to be a novelist and stumble across something like this.  What must it be like to discover that you inspired someone in this way?  So I put out a call to artists that have inspired Margot and Beth Revis answered.  I am particularly glad that it was Revis that answered, because Margot’s pictures inspired by Across the Universe is hands down my favorite of them all.  It is a stunning portrait in and of itself and, if you know the story of Across the Universe, it brilliantly captures the essence of the story.  Margot talks more about her project in a previous post, but today I talk with Beth Revis to learn how she stumbled upon The Real Fauxtographer and what it is like to be someone’s muse.

Q & A with Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe

Photo by Margot Wood, inspired by Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Tell us a little bit about your novel Across the Universe and how you came to write it.

The short answer is that Across the Universe is a murder mystery in space. I think I ultimately wrote it because of a lifetime spent with awesome books. There’s a little bit of every book that inspired me in there–the setting came from Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (an enclosed space with a killer trapped with victims), the twist at the end came from reading Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (I adored Gen), and much, much more.

How did you come across Margot Wood’s picture inspired by Across the Universe?

I’ve been following Margot’s fauxtography since she posted the picture of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I thought it was brilliant how she combined a love of books with a passion for photography. When she posted some more pictures, a few people sent her tweets asking for some from the world of Across the Universe–and I totally jumped on board, excited by the possibility. Fortunately Margot was able to get a copy of the book and made the picture–it was so cool to see it come to life through photography!

What does it mean to you as an author to inspire other artists in this way? What kind of response do you have to something like this? What kind of response to people like your family and publishing house have when they see the photo?

I think it’s amazing. I’m constantly inspired by others’ arts–not just through music (which is the most common type of inspiration for me) but also film and visual arts. I get story ideas by looking at paintings or from scenes in movies; I try to evoke emotions or twist words in the same way as music does. So seeing something I’ve done help inspire someone else’s art is a amazing experience. It turns art into one big creative cycle: art begets art, and that is a truly wonderful aspect of the human experience.

Do you feel like her picture captures the essence of Across the Universe? How do you think it speaks about your novel?

She did a great job creating the feeling of Amy being frozen, the starkness and loneliness of it all. I love that she played with the visualness of the original book cover in the re-imaging of the scene, but I think the most important thing is the way she captures the coldness and pain of being so very alone.

What other types of feedback have you received about Across the Universe?

In terms of creativity and art, there have been some wonderful responses. I started a “Creative Contest” earlier in the year, and the entries were so varied and amazing, from a quilt to music to paintings to sculpture to jewelry and more. You can see a full gallery here: http://www.bethrevis.com/fan-art/

There’s also a Deviant Art fan page here: http://projectarkship.deviantart.com/gallery/

A Million Suns, the sequel to Across the Universe, came out in January of this year. Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to happen? Will the story continue beyond A Million Suns?

In Across the Universe, Amy and Elder discover that Godspeed is fueled by lies–there are secrets and conspiracies that they must uncover to find the truth of the society aboard the ship. In A Million Suns, Elder learns just how dangerous it is to rule a society in a space ship. Chaos abounds–and in the third and final book of the trilogy, Shades of Earth (January 2013), they discover what’s waiting for them outside of the spaceship Godspeed…

I want to extend a special thank you to the talented Beth Revis for taking the time to participate in this Q&A.  You can visit Beth Revis at her website.  Her debut novel, Across the Universe, has appeared on the New York Time’s Bestseller list. You can also follow her on Twitter @bethrevis.

And, of course, you should keep your eye on the Real Fauxtographer to see what she does next.  Visit the Teen Programs in a Box table of contents (TPIB TOC) to find a variety of art project and programs you can do with teens to turn their love of lit into art.  You can also visit my post where I discuss how the Real Fauxtographer reminded me how I turn my photographs into lit inspired art.