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Phoebe’s 2011 Norton Picks

by ◊ 3 years ago 7 Comments Switch View

2011 has almost come to a close, and that means it’s time once again for a thousand blog best-of posts, not to mention yearly awards. There aren’t any awards which focus specifically on young adult science fiction, but one–the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Andre Norton Award–comes close. Though this award is open to both fantasy and science fiction titles, past nominees have included The True Meaning of Smekday, When You Reach Me, Ship Breaker, and Mockingjay.

Titles for the Norton Award (which is named for prolific fantasy and sci-fi writer Andre Norton, who was famed for her coming-of-age tales) are selected by a jury of active SFWA members–but I’m not going to let that stop me from musing about what sci-fi titles I’d love to see honored with a Norton. Of YA speculative titles published in 2011, here’s what I’d pick:

Tankborn by Karen Sandler

Sandler’s debut YA novel (one of the lead titles of Tu Books, a new imprint focused on diversity in YA and middle grade) is a beautiful sociological sci-fi tale. Though the science fiction is “soft,” the approach isn’t–Sandler creates a complex, vividly rendered world and fully explores the impact of the caste system utilized there.

See my review of Tankborn here, and an interview with Karen Sandler here.

The Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout

Van Eekhout’s work is complex. Concepts like genetic engineering, robotics, and the singularity are all covered–and yet its totally accessible for its intended audience. Even better, it’s funny. Though it’s technically a middle grade title, so was Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, a previous Norton nominee. Work of this caliber really transcends age divisions, anyway.

See my review of The Boy at the End of the World here.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Mullin weds a fresh, gritty realism with the post-apocalyptic themes which have been so popular in recent years. There’s also an astute commentary on our government’s handling of recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina embedded beneath the surface. And yet the teenagers at the center of his novel are very real–not just adults in kid clothing. Highly recommended!

See my and Sean’s co-review of Ashfall here.


What 2011 YA sci-fi novels would you like to see honored with a Norton?

About the Author


Phoebe North is a twenty-something writer of YA speculative fiction. She lives in New York State with her husband and cat (who may be the most intelligent being in her household). Visit her website at View all posts by Phoebe »

Discussion - 7 Comments:

  1. Way too hard to make Norton picks for me – I don’t feel I’ve read nearly enough YA books this year.

    I’ve never thought of Norton’s books as coming-of-age books. Space adventure, finding your place in a hostile world, the trials of the outsider, alien relations, yes. I think she’s a tremendously overlooked author (honoured as a grandmaster, true, but I rarely see her on lists of favourite or important books).

    Reply Quote

    • Phoebe

      She’s actually my mom’s favorite author, if it counts for anything. ^_^ When I told her about the Norton award, her response was, “ANDRE NORTON HAS AN AWARD!!!?!” Was pretty awesome.

      Reply Quote

  2. Aurora Celeste

    You have a great list there, but I’d add in Across the Universe by Beth Revis and Blood Red Road by Moira Young.

    Reply Quote

    • Phoebe

      You know, originally I had AtU in there but I wanted to limit myself to 3 and I just loooooved Boy at the End of the World SO MUCH. But Across the Universe is definitely great, classic space opera.

      Still haven’t read Blood Red Road. :(

      Reply Quote

      • Aurora Celeste

        Blood Red Road started a little odd, but worth pushing through. Boy at the End of the World is the one here that I haven’t read, I’ll have to look for it :D


  3. I bought The Boy at the End of the World for my son for Saturnalia, on your recommendation. We’ve been slow getting to it, but we’re a few chapters in now and he’s loving it. He was skeptical after the first chapter because he really hasn’t had much exposure to SF, so he was like, “People aren’t born from gel, and they don’t know things when they’re born! This is ridiculous!” I kept saying, “It’s a mystery. Fisher is going to figure it out, and so are you,” but he didn’t believe me. Fighting the rats in the next chapter, however, totally won him over.

    Reply Quote


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