Badass Best of 2014: YA & NA Speculative Fiction

 

Best of 2014

Continuing with our Badass Best of 2014 in Young Adult and New Adult fiction, we have some of our favorite speculative fiction novels to share with you in the science fiction/dystopian, fantasy, and paranormal categories. Take a look below for our favorite novels from each of these genres and be sure to let us know your favorites in the comments!

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Best of SFD
SFD Books
UnDivided by Neal Shusterman (Book #4 in Unwind Dystology) || Published October 14th 2014 by Simon and Schuster ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman. Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

Why We Love It: Usually in a final book, the anticipation is so high that the book can’t measure up. You feel like something is missing, or glossed over, or rushed through. We thought it likely that we would just read it and then move on, unaffected. The reality is that, while we don’t think it was the best we’ve read in the series, it did make a statement. At about 75% the tears started, and it continued that way off and on until the end of the book. So much sacrifice. We don’t want to give anything away, just take away from this review that it was so good. It was worth it all.

Avalon by Mindee Arnett (Book #1 in Avalon) || Published January 21st 2014 by Balzer & Bray ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett. Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light. Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.

Why We Love It: We loved Mindee Arnett’s debut novel, The Nightmare Affair, so we were very excited to see that she was writing a science fiction series as well. Though the book started off a little slow, it soon picked up speed and became a very engrossing read. Whoever wrote the descriptive copy for Avalon was right on the money with the Firefly reference. This book read just like a YA version of the TV show and yes, that’s a good thing.

The Troop by Nick Cutter || Published February 25th 2014 by Gallery Books ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½ || Review

Synopsis: Boy Scouts live by the motto “Be Prepared.” However, nothing can prepare this group of young boys and their scoutmaster for what they encounter on a small, deserted island, as they settle down for a weekend of campfires, merit badges, and survival lessons. Everything changes when a haggard stranger in tattered clothing appears out of nowhere and collapses on the campers’ doorstep. Before the night is through, this stranger will end up infecting one of the troop’s own with a bioengineered horror that’s straight out of their worst nightmares. Now stranded on the island with no communication to the outside world, the troop learns to battle much more than the elements, as they are pitted against something nature never intended…and eventually each other.

Why We Love It: What appears to be a routine camping trip for five teenage Scouts and their leader becomes a nightmare in the style of a classic Stephen King horror book. The Troop will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a fast paced character driven survival story. It’ll make you think twice before you set off on a camping trip on a remote island.

The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel (Book #1 in The Book of Ivy) || Published November 11th 2014 by Entangled: Teen ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

SynopsisAfter a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual. This year, it is my turn. My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power. But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy. Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

Why We Love It: We didn’t expect to enjoy Book of Ivy as much as we did.  It seems like this theme has been done – post-apocalyptic young adult, fighting factions and a strong feisty heroine.  But that is where the “it has done” feeling ended.  Book of Ivy is an engaging book, well written with beautiful writing. Within the first 10%, the reader is pulled in and invested in the book.  The set-up is haunting and akin to the concept of “she is sleeping with the enemy”.  There is some intrigue and readers will be wondering — who can Ivy trust? Her family? Her new husband that she was forced to marry? Her new friends at work? Warning, the book ends with a cliff hanger.  But do not let that dissuade you, the book is worth the ride and the anxiety.  We listened to the audio version and it was very well done.

After the End by Amy Plum (Book #1 in After the End) || Published May 6th 2014 by HarperCollins ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future. World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there. At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life. When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie. Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she’s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

Why We Love It: This is a fun story where our main characters learn about themselves and begin to question their upbringing. We did enjoy the road trip and how the two learned to work together. There is a mystical aspect to this book and we are looking forward to reading the next installment to see how that pans out.

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Fantasy books
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Book #1 in Shattered Sea) || Published July 15th 2014 by Del Ray ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: “I swore an oath to be avenged on the killers of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.” Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand. The deceived will become the deceiver. Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge. The betrayed will become the betrayer. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could. Will the usurped become the usurper? But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…

Why We Love It: We loved Joe Abercrombie’s Half A King. Seriously, loved it, loved it, just want to hug it! You can jump right into it without having read any of Joe Abercrombie’s other novels and you will completely lose yourself to the story. Yarvi was a wonderful character and he grows so much in these 350 odd pages. The character at the beginning of the book is certainly not the same character we get at the end. His transformation was truly amazing and we loved seeing him fulfill his potential, especially because it wasn’t what we were expecting.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (Book #3 in The Raven Cycle) || Published October 21st 2014 by Scholastic Press ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½ || Review

Synopsis: There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up. Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost. Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead. Certainties can unravel.

Why We Love It: Blue Lily, Lily Blue is where everything is going to chachanges. It’s the installment where you can feel everything coming together, and yet unraveling at the same time. With Maura missing and all the revelations from the previous books Blue Lily, Lily Blue starts off with everything in turmoil. Gansey is hiding his feelings for Blue from Adam and Roland, Roland is wrapped up in the Graywaren, and Adam is realizing that sometime over the last 9 months he’s somehow alienated himself from the rest of his friends. This story is meant for savoring. We truly believe that those who aren’t reading it are missing something so very very special.

The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain (Book #1 in Into the Dark) || Published March 11th 2014 by Egmont ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

SynopsisHaden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, has been sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead. Posing as a student at Olympus Hills High—a haven for children of the rich and famous—Haden must single out the one girl rumored to be able to restore immortality to his race. Daphne Raines has dreams much bigger than her tiny southern Utah town, so when her rock star dad suddenly reappears, offering her full tuition to Olympus Hills High’s prestigious music program, she sees an opportunity to catch the break she needs to make it as a singer. But upon moving into her estranged father’s mansion in California, and attending her glamorous new school, Daphne soon realizes she isn’t the only student in Olympus who doesn’t quite belong. Haden and Daphne—destined for each other—know nothing of the true stakes their fated courtship entails. As war between the gods brews, the teenagers’ lives collide. But Daphne won’t be wooed easily and when it seems their prophesied link could happen, Haden realizes something he never intended—he’s fallen in love. Now to save themselves, Haden and Daphne must rewrite their destinies. But as their destinies change, so do the fates of both their worlds.

Why We Love It: The Shadow Prince was a solid start to an exciting new series. If you enjoy a clever use of Greek mythology, then this book should appeal to you. Fans of the Percy Jackson series should enjoy this series as well. Can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Book #1 in The Winner’s Trilogy) || Published March 4th 2014 by Farar Straus Giroux ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

SynopsisWinning what you want may cost you everything you love. As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Why We Love It: The Winner’s Curse is somewhat difficult to describe. It’s obviously a Young Adult novel, but it has both historical and fantasy leanings. It’s almost like a YA Game of Thrones without the dragons and magic — it definitely feels like it is set in the past, but there isn’t any one time period it seems to be based upon. Also, the world building and characters’ fates seem “high fantasy” in scope, but, like we said, there is nary a dragon or elf or orc or even a lone Merlin to be found. There is a romance running throughout this novel, but it didn’t feel like the focus of the story to me. So, how to describe this book? Young adult sort of-historical fantasy with no magic but a light romance plot and lots of intrigue… that sounds about right!

Stolen Songbird by Danielle Jensen (Book #1 in The Malediction Trilogy) || Published April 1st 2014 by Strange Chemistry ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined. Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity. But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader. As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Why We Love It: Stolen Songbird was a captivating read. Once we got into the book, we really could not put it down. We enjoyed it because it was told from the main characters’ points of view: Cecile de Troyes and Prince Tristan. Most of the first part of the story is told from Cecile’s point of view as she is kidnapped and sold for her weight in gold to the trolls. We learn a lot about her character. Cecile is a talented soprano, destined to join her mother in the big city to sing for large audiences. She’s smart, compassionate, and caring. What we like most about Cecile is her ability to take a horrible situation and see the good. She takes advantage of her captivity in Trollus to learn more about the world and the people around her. In doing so, she forms some very useful friendships.

 

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Best of Para
 
Para Books
The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa (Book #3 in Blood of Eden) || Published April 15th 2014 by Harlequin Teen ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Vengeance will be hers. Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer. Monster. Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions – her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost – the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie. In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone. The final hunt is on.

Why We Love It: Kanin remains one of the best characters we’ve encountered in a series. He is strong and has almost a regal presence. He is in control and guides his “children” well. Kanin is a true master vampire. The Forever Song was a fantastic conclusion to the Blood of Eden series. These are not your regular shiny and sparkly vampires from young adult novels. These vampires are bloodthirsty, brutal, and kick-ass fighters. The Forever Song was beautifully written and it kept us on the edge of our seats throughout.

Crushed by Eliza Crewe (Book #2 in Soul Eaters) || Published August 5th 2014 by Strange Chemistry ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Meda Melange has officially hung up her monstrous mantle and planted her feet firmly on the holy and righteous path of a Crusader-in-training. Or, at least, she’s willing to give it a shot. It helps that the Crusaders are the only thing standing between her and the demon hordes who want her dead. The problem is, the only people less convinced than Meda of her new-found role as Good Girl are the very Crusaders she’s trying to join. So when a devilishly handsome half-demon boy offers escape, how’s a girl supposed to say “no?” After all, everyone knows a good girl’s greatest weakness is a bad boy.

Why We Love It: Crushed was so much fun to read. Meda is a wonderful character. She’s deliciously evil and a little bit good, but mostly she’s badass and we love her. Meda’s inner dialogue is entertaining, especially when she is dealing with her traitorous hormones. Meda’s view of the world is practical and hilarious at the same time. She’s self-assured and she knows what she wants. Meda is a force to be reckoned with and you probably want her on your side.

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier || Published February 4th 2014 by Strange Chemistry ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge–the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases–like for Natividad’s father and older brother–Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers. But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure. In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them. Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate. But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

Why We Love It: Black Dog is a very interesting take on werewolves and the supernatural. The dynamic between the characters was interesting and natural and the story built slowly but not obviously so.  The heroine is great and it is an exciting story. Highly recommended.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins (Book #1 in Rebel Belle) || Published April 8th 2014 by Putnam Juvenile ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

SynopsisHarper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth. With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

Why We Love It: The main character, Harper Price,  starts off as a character you love to hate, but you soon find out just how damaged she is and the pain she’s hiding behind her perfect veneer. Rachel Hawkins has created a completely unique urban fantasy world and filled it with characters so colorful and wit so sharp they could have stepped out of an episode of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. Rebel Belle is like a cold glass of sweet tea on a hot day and I highly recommend it to those looking for a cute read.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn || Published June 10th 2014 by HarperTeen ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Welcome to Gardnerville. A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies. Except… There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them. Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.

Why We Love It: (Don’t You) Forget About Me was a strange, compelling, mind-boggling, mysterious good time. If you enjoyed Ms. Quinn’s previous book, Another Little Piece, I think you will like this one as well. The story is a bit disjointed and the narrator turns out to be very unreliable, but this crazy world was certainly entertaining. Not for the faint of heart, (Don’t You) Forget About Me was chalked full of creepy and, even now, is a little hard to explain.

 

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Other Badass Best of 2014 Lists:
Urban Fantasy
Speculative Fiction
General Fiction
Romance (Part One)
Romance (Part Two)
YA & NA Romance
YA & NA Contemporary Fiction
Our Best Discoveries
Our Literary Slambook
Our Most Anticipated Reads of 2015

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