What is this place?
The wind hits her then, a gust of chilly-fresh air that takes her breath away for a second, and she leans into it, pushing the door out until it’s flat against the outer wall and it latches into place.
That’s when she sees it. Over the horizon way off to her left, low over the distant cliff wall, looms a second sun.
A girl wakes up in a darkened room, with no memories and no idea where or who she is. The room is actually a compartment in a spaceship on a distant planet—thanks to a mysterious note, the girl knows that her name is Ana, and that the planet is called Paradox. All Ana’s given is a clock, counting down 28 hours until some unknown 00:00:00 event, a map, and a simple directive: Experience. Discover. Survive.
The new book from author A.J. Paquette, Paradox, is a fast-paced YA science fiction novel (one of the newest in an increasingly popular subgenre). Unfortunately, fast-paced doesn’t necessarily equate to good—while Paradox is a quick and mildly entertaining read, it is overwhelmingly silly. I tend to agree with the review here at Kirkus: The science behind the science fiction is patently ridiculous. (Long story short, attempting to keep spoilers at a minimum, there’s a deadly alien plague spread by brain waves that may or may not be tied to the physical/mental manifestation of a giant carnivorous worm.) The writing is bland and repetitive (for instance, take the many iterations of phrase “watery yellow sun”), the vocabulary simplistic and the narrative style—in that dreaded third person present tense—as irksome as Paradox’s flat characters.
Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed with the novel.
That said, there are plenty of other science fiction YA novels out there—and if you’ve read Paradox and are looking for something a little more engaging, here are a few other titles to sate your appetite.
Losers in Space by John Barnes
Surprisingly serious, hard science fiction complete with diagrams & physics (for those that are interested); plus an engaging ensemble cast and plot to boot.
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
A far-future science fiction retelling of sleeping beauty, with a heartbreaking twist: One of my favorite YA SF books, period.
The Inferior by Pedar O’Guillin
Think The Truman Show plus cannibalism. Yes.
Patrick Ness’ multiple award-winning trilogy about a far world in which “Noise” has infected the male population, and females have died off (or have they?).
This book is the most similar to Paradox in terms of premise and content (Hughes’ The Game is a much more successful novel, in my opinion), featuring a group of teens vying for an invite to play a serious virtual game set on a distant planet.
Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes
A gem from the ’80s, Hughes’ Isis trilogy begins with an insightful story about a young human girl left to watch over the guiding beacon on a colonizable planet called Isis.
Linked by Imogene Howson
Holy smokes, people—I finished this book earlier this week and it is phenomenal. A story about twin sisters on a planet where “Spares” (i.e. twins) are government property, Linked is a science fiction novel with depth, nuance and wonderfully flawed, human characters.
To close out this list, I have to give a hat tip to a few books that I’m excited for, but haven’t yet read: Starglass by Phoebe North, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner and The 100 by Kass Morgan (soon to be a CW show).
Any other recommended strong YA outer space–focused science fiction novels?