Top 23 Speculative Fiction Books To Spark YA & NA Minds
Fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, horror these are few of the many genres young people fall in love with these days. It does not matter if we love the books or the film adaptations, as long as the stories are great, we automatically add them to our “list”. Most of the books created by this generation’s writers are notable and well-received. However, we do not understand most of the genres they fall into, one of which is the so-called “speculative fiction”.
What are speculative fiction books?
If you are still unfamiliar with what speculative fiction is, it is basically a story that takes part in another world or dimension. The main genre may focus on horror, sci-fi, or anything fictional, but the main point of the story is that it takes place in another universe. If you are interested in reading one of these and you have nowhere to go, you are in the right place at the right time! Today, we are going to dive in this list of the best speculative fiction books for both young adults and new adults.
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, by Janelle Monáe (2022)
Janelle Monáe and other gifted storytellers have constructed a collection of LPs focused on Janelle's bold vision.
‘Dirty Computer' introduces a future where human minds could be controlled by a selected few. The life and fate is also determined, no place for free will at all. Until Jane 571821 remembered and picked up, she determined to get out of ‘the prison'.
Expanding from the original concept, these stories discover how everyday life would look like in a totalitarian regime. Anyway an interesting theme for a speculative story collection.
Tell Me an Ending, by Jo Harkin (2022)
For NA Psychological Fiction lovers
Finn, an architect from Ireland who lives in the Arizona desert, worries that his enchanting wife is having an affair. Mei, a troubled college dropout in Kuala Lumpur, ponders why she remembers a city she's never visited.
On top of all of his ailments, William, a former inspector with Scotland Yard, suffers from PTSD, a breakdown of his relationship, and his own familial secret. Oscar, a handsome man who has almost no memories left, has no confidence in himself or his tranquility.
Never Let Me Go meets Black Mirror in this thrilling dystopian debut about a tech company that deletes unwanted memories.
The Influencer, by Abhaidev (2021)
For New Adults
The Influencer is not just a speculative book to challenge your thoughts, but also a soft thriller that floats between different genres. There is a bit of science fiction, as well as a bit of action. You have fantasy and you have adventure. If you are about a deep conversational story, this book is for you.
Every character in this book has a story behind their actions. There are different people with strong opinions – while you may not always agree with them, you will certainly love the depth. Action starts on the first page and will hook you in straight away in a book that can be described as a whole universe.
The story follows Aditya, an actual influencer who can change people’s minds and points of view. His role is to help the prime minister gain as much as possible from every possible deal. Until one day, when his secret is discovered and things take a wrong turn…
Jade City, by Fonde Lee (2017)
For NA Historical Asian Thriller lovers
We love speculative fiction books, because of their wide range of story and theme picks.
The Jade gemstones are the unique treasure of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and sacrificed for for millennia by honorable Green Bone Warriors like the Kaul family.
The revolution has come to an end and now a new generation of Kauls controls the imperial Kekon's capital city. They prioritize protecting their jade trade entirely at the expense of all other concerns. Now old traditions have little place in this rapidly changing country.
The simmering tension between the Kauls and rival Attuks erupts into open violence soon after a powerful new drug emerges available to anyone who used to use Jade. The outcome of this struggle means the conclusion of the Green Bones and Kekon itself.
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood (1986)
For Dystopia lovers
Enjoy a mix of horror, fun and unexpected plot twists in one of the best speculative fiction books out there. The story follows Offred, who lives in the Republic of Gilead and works as a handmaid. The only time she leaves the Commander’s house is when she has to go for food.
Shopping is different in this world – there are pictures, rather than words. Women are not allowed to read, so stores had to adapt. Declining births in the republic make many women more than just handmaids. She needs the Commander to leave her pregnant as well and she tries hard once a month.
But Offred has lived better times too and her memories are not gone. Back in the day, she could spend time with her husband Luke and look after her daughter. She was allowed to read and she actually had a job. All those things are gone now, in a reality that often makes no sense.
The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin (2014)
For New Adults Sci-fi lovers
The Three-Body Problem has gained a few awards soon after its release and for some good reasons. It is one of the most intriguing speculative fiction books, especially as it comes from China and analyzes the local cultural revolution from some points of view.
All in all, a secret military project in China has the simple purpose of getting in touch with aliens by sending space signals. Surprisingly for everyone, an alien civilization actually gets the signal and decides to invade the planet, seeing it as an easy target.
On Earth, the government comes up with different camps, not knowing what to expect. Some people expect to welcome the aliens, while others are getting ready for an invasion. No one knows their goal, but things are about to escalate in no time.
Before The Origin, by F.S. Bala (2020)
For Young Adults
Amy Taff was just a simple girl, enjoying her life in the world she set herself in. However, as she experiences an unfamiliar disturbance, Amy sets a personal mission to protect her perfect utopia. Her expertise in this area could be widely used for this new adventure, but she doesn't know what is waiting for her at the end of the line.
After being hurled in another world full of magic and mystery, Amy notices the familiarity of African folklore within the place. She then encounters Scythe, a secret organization devoted to saving the crumbling world that she just encountered. Now, Amy’s adventure has only begun, but the continuous threats on her life are making every second worth to live in. The fate of the entire world rests in her hands, and of course, the small group of people that she can definitely rely on.
We Hunt The Flame, by Hafsah Faizal (2019)
For Young Adults Fantasy lovers
What would you do if you had a reputation that you did not want? That is exactly the case of Zafira and Nasir. Being the Hunter and provider of her people, Zafira always goes out of her way to take care of them, even if that includes disguising herself to be a man. Being the son of an autocratic sultan, Nasir (The Prince of Death) is required to have a firm and deadly hand, especially because he is an assassin. Zafira cannot be caught as a woman since she would be rejected by society, and Nasir cannot show compassion because his father would punish him.
As the war continuously rages, the cursed forest (Arz) is slowly consuming the land. Their only hope is for Zafira to successfully get the ancient artifact that can get rid of Arz once and for all. However, the sultan wants his son to get there first, and Nasir is tasked to kill Zafira before getting the artifact. What they did not know is that the more they keep on playing this game, the ancient evil grows faster and stronger underneath them.
Chain of Gold, by Cassandra Clare (2020)
For Young Adults
Cassandra Clare is arguably one of the best writers of this generation. In this book, we will be diving once again into the world of the Shadowhunters, wherein we will find Cordelia Carstairs, a woman who has been trained as a warrior since she was a child.
After the terrible accusations towards her father, Cordelia travels to London with her brother in the hopes of saving her family. Their mother always wanted to marry Cordelia off, but she is determined to be a warrior rather than become a bride. After encountering her childhood friends and rediscovering the mythical world of the Shadowhunters, Cordelia starts to enjoy the other half of her life with a more welcoming attitude. However, all of these changes when a new breed of demons start to attack London, spreading chaos all around and triggering Cordelia’s fighting spirit.
The Elements of the Crown, by Kay L Moody (2019)
For Young Adult Fantasy lovers
Talise has lived her whole life in an unjust empire wherein society is divided into three rings. As a citizen of the outer ring, she is accustomed to facing danger on a daily basis. That is why she is determined to finish her training in the elite academy, wherein she constantly practices her skills of controlling the elements. However, her competitor Aaden is a pretty sly fellow, and he is willing to do everything to ruin Talise’s goals.
As they approach the emperor to become the Master Shaper, he is amazed by the skills both of them possess. This is where their trials take place, and they must now finish these quests within the palace walls. Talise is determined to finish this mission, but she is continually discovering the dirty secrets inside the palace, making it a lot more dangerous than her home in the outer ring. Now that she uncovered an unexpected enemy, she has no other choice but to go through with the emperor’s games, unless she wants to die in that horrible place.
The Passage, by Justin Cronin (2010)
For New Adults
A gripping and intricate narrative about survival of Amy, who was removed from her home when very young, followed and captured by a mysterious government agency.
But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman in charge of tracking her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. Unfortunately, as the experiment goes horribly wrong, Wolgast is unable to secure her escape. Amy walks alone, across miles, and into future years full of violence and suffering, and she is imbued with the frightening conviction that only she has the power to preserve devastated worlds.
Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi (2018)
For Young Adults
Juliette Ferrars is probably the most extraordinary human you will ever meet. Imagine a living weapon, running free and able to get rid of anyone with just one touch. That is how her life goes.
She did not want this power at all, because for her, it seemed to be more like a curse than a blessing. However, The Reestablishment wanted her “gift” for something else – they want to use her as a deadly weapon. Despite her extreme capabilities, Juliette never had the chance to fight for herself in her entire life. That is why when she reunites with the person who cared for her the most, she is able to summon the type of strength that was not even there to begin with.
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (2018)
For Dystopia loving New Adults
Maggie Hoskie has a dangerous job. She is a monster hunter and she has chosen this career because of her supernatural abilities. A small town calls for help after a young girl disappears. However, as she starts investigating, she realizes that the monster is more powerful than what she had to deal with before.
Maggie teams up with Kai Arviso – an unconventional doctor – in order to solve the mystery. They have to find clues, solve mysteries, deal with all kinds of unscrupulous individuals and battle witchcraft trying to stop them.
However, as they get closer to the truth, Maggie realizes that everything is related to things from her past. She knows that she must confront this issue if she wants to solve the case and – more importantly – stay alive.
Crown of Feathers, by Nicki Pau Preto (2019)
For Young Adults
How cool would it be to ride on the back of a Phoenix? Soaring up above the sky, spreading fiery embers with their majestic wings – that is the only dream Veronyka had ever since she was a child. However, when her sister betrays her for personal gain, she sets out to join the Phoenix Riders alone. Of course, that means she has to go through the task of disguising herself as a boy to enter their ranks.
Veronyka eventually succeeds in joining the Riders. She goes out on adventures with them, until finally, her sister returns to the scene. As she began to untangle the series of lies that came between them, everything seemed to change in an instant. Aside from that, the Riders now have to face the threat of a new empire that is looking to destroy them permanently.
The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (2018)
For YA Fantasy lovers
What would you do when your parents get murdered while you are only seven years old? Nothing much, right? That is exactly the case when Jude and her sisters were forcibly abducted by the Faerie. But then, after ten years of living in the cruel place, Jude actually adapted to the environment. Now, she does not want to leave the High Court at all, despite the dirty looks she gets from the locals because of her mortality.
In order to win a position in the High Court, Jude must defy the wishes of the cruel Prince Cardan. She then embarks on an unbelievable mission to go through the palace’s secrets. While doing this, she discovers that she has a unique talent for bloodshed, and she will use this with her other talents to create a life-threatening alliance. Jude must save her sisters and Faerie itself, no matter how hard it may seem.
The Cruel Prince is one the top speculative fiction books on Amazon.
Sorcery of Thorns, by Margaret Rogerson (2019)
For Young Adult Dark Fantasy lovers
Sorcery has always been evil in Elisabeth’s eyes. She believed that even before she discovered her skills. However, she has no choice but to take part in their ways because she is raised as a novice sorceress in the Great Library of Austermeer. She grew up witnessing the magical items all around her, from the whispering grimoires in the shelves to the rattling chains that have minds of their own.
However, when an unknown saboteur releases a dangerous grimoire from the library, Elisabeth becomes implicated. She has no one to turn to but her nemesis, Nathaniel Thorn, and they must work together to unravel the footsteps of their enemy. However, as they go deeper within the library, they discover a lot of conspiracies that puts the entire world at risk.
The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin (2015)
For New Adults
One day and three dramas. Essun lives in a small town. She gets home one day, only to realize that her husband has just killed their son. At the same time, he has kidnapped their daughter. The story flows to Sanze, an empire raised on technology and innovation, which collapses when many of the citizens are murdered.
As if all these were not enough, the continent of Stillness is about to get covered in dark ash for ages. The story goes back to Essun, who needs to figure out what happened. Her family is wrecked now and her future seems insecure.
There is no sunlight. Clean water is hard to get and supplies are limited. Everyone is expecting a war between all nations – not for land, but for resources. Essun only cares about her daughter though – everything else is irrelevant for her.
Chosen, by Kiersten White (2020)
For Young Adult Superhero Fiction lovers
Most people think that all demons are evil, but that is not the case for Nina. She has the ability to detect lonely and hurt demons, and she takes them back to Watcher’s Castle so that she can take care of them. Of course, she has to look out for her family as well, meaning that these tasks are taking up too much of her time. Aside from that, she just regained the Slayer powers she once had, and it seems like they are malfunctioning.
As Nina continues to take care of her internal struggles, a new threat brews up outside the Castle. Strange triangular symbols keep popping up everywhere, piquing her interest and introducing her to a whole new deadly adventure.
Ship of Smoke and Steel, by Django Wexler (2019)
For Young Adult Pirate Adventure lovers
Isoka is probably the best eighteen-year-old fighter you will ever see. By using Melos’ power from the Well of Combat, she can enforce the will of her masters anytime she wants. Of course, when the government finds out about her magic, she gets arrested and brought in front of the Emperor’s notable spymaster. He then assigns an almost impossible mission to Isoka, and that is to steal Soliton – the legendary ship from history in which no one ever came back.
Her journey to Soliton seems to be a bit easy. However, new adventures are waiting for Isoka in this ghost ship, and the twists and turns she will face would only keep on getting worse.
1984, by George Orwell (1949)
Dystopian Classics for New Adult
This speculative fiction book is also a prophecy. Released over seven decades ago, it has become a classic. The author tried to express his points of view about the future and one of them involved a government that will try anything to control the people. He was not far from the reality…
Winston Smith is part of the party and his role is to meet the demands coming from the Ministry of Truth. He is pretty good at what he does and can change destinies around. However, the more he has to lie to make the party look great, the more he gets to hate it as well.
Winston is now thinking for himself, rather than letting the party tell him what to believe. However, someone is watching and his points of view cannot really be expressed. The story is haunting at times, but it is also quite convincing and gets fairly close to the reality today.
The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert (2018)
For Young Adults
For seventeen years, Alice has been living on the road with her mother. She spent her life playing a constant game of tag with bad luck, and it seems to be winning every time. The source of this bad luck soon reveals itself in front of them, in the form of her grandmother, who suddenly died in her estate (the Hazel Wood). As the menacing stories come to life in front of Alice’s eyes, she then sets out on a mission to rescue her mother from the evil creature that originated from her grandmother’s dark fairy tales.
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)
For New Adults
Action, speculation, science fiction and plenty of plot twists – this is what you need to expect from one of the most appreciated speculative fiction books out there. The book tells the story of a human with a simple goal.
The character is an emissary to Winter. Winter is a new world where inhabitants can choose or change genders. His role is to help Winter get included in a growing civilization that covers more galaxies.
The job is easy in theory, but it asks for plenty of self control. The character must find a balance between maintaining his points of view and dealing peacefully with others who are completely different. Human emotions and psychology make this book a masterpiece.
This Vicious Cure, by Emily Suvada (2020)
For Young Adult Mystery, Thriller lovers
Humanity is on the brink of extinction, and the more they try, the more the threat seems to grow stronger. Cat and her hacking skills are not doing well enough, and now everything has been taken away from her. Even though she is trapped in an unfortunate situation, she will continue to fight on. If there’s one thing Cat always believes, it’s that she’s a fighter.
After containing the virus outbreak, a new threat suddenly pops out of the blue, attempting to start a worldwide war. How will Cat manage to contain the genetic technology that is apparently “the root of all evil”? Join her and tickle your brain in this amazing futuristic adventure.
Speculative fiction is something that almost everyone appreciates. Aside from the amazing storylines and interesting twists and turns, we could never get enough of these fantastic books. It does not matter what age bracket you are in. If you have a playful imagination or maybe a mind that loves to wander, these stories can take you on a whole new adventure.
If you are torn between choosing the right book, you do not have to worry. Just take your time and let things run their course. Also, do not forget to go through this list of the best speculative fiction books for young & new adults. This way, you will always get to read a detailed guide on picking out your first book in this genre.
If you are looking for the top sci-fi novels, check our all time best sci-fi book list.
Updated on the 15th of February 2022