Search Results for: label/genre fiction

Get Genrefied: Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi)

Every month, we’ve been highlighting a genre or subgenre within YA and offering up a definition, a discussion, and a thick reading list featuring titles that fit. All of the guides can be found here under the tag genre fiction.

This month, rather than tackle a traditional genre or subgenre, I thought it would be worthwhile to tackle an emerging theme in YA fiction that could easily become a category, if not a full-blown genre within itself: climate fiction. Climate fiction, or cli-fi for short, has been making waves throughout the adult literary world. What is cli-fi? It’s exactly what it sounds like — fiction that features climate change at the core of the story. The events within the story are caused by or impacted profoundly by the changing climate on Earth. It’s meant to be both a key component of the story, as well as offer a bigger message about the impact we’re leaving on the planet now. Over the last few years, it’s hard to ignore the number of YA titles that could be classified as cli-fi.  

The term cli-fi was coined by a climate activist in 2007 named Dan Bloom. You can read a bit about how the term arose and the history behind it here. It’s noted there that Bloom believes, at least at this point, it’s best a subgenre of science fiction. But because it’s an evolving idea and one that could easily play out beyond science fiction, there’s still growth and change to happen with it. He notes, too, that it’s up to those outside the science fiction sphere to see whether it’s got a lasting power or not. 

What makes cli-fi different from other genres, and why it may not even be a traditional genre at all, is that titles which fit the category — or may fit the category in the future — fall across a range of genres and subgenres. Climate fiction could easily include appropriate contemporary realistic fiction, fantasy, and, as has been seen most frequently within YA, dystopia (which we know is a subgenre of science fiction but which seems to operate in YA as its own genre). I haven’t seen it, but I suspect there could be an argument that a historical novel could also be cli-fi, and perhaps there already is but it hasn’t popped up in my searching. No doubt horror is a ripe arena for cli-fi, too.

The discussion of cli-fi as a genre exploded in the last year and a half, but the bulk of writing about it so far has focused on adult fiction, rather than YA. Although Bloom noted in the article above he was disappointed that major outlets who talked about cli-fi didn’t credit him appropriately as the term’s creator, he thinks that the fact it’s out there and people are talking about what it is and what it could be really important. Here’s a look at some further reading on the topic: 

  • VOYA Magazine did a feature on cli-fi in February of this year, and though the magazine focuses on youth topics, the bulk of the piece featured adult titles with teen crossover appeal. You can access it as a .pdf here
Because this is such a new area of fiction — or at least the term we used to describe this kind of fiction is so new — there aren’t many dedicated sites to these books. But the one that does exist is constantly growing and expanding: Nature Fiction and Cli-Fi Books. Keep this one on your radar if this is a genre that interests you. I think that as we think more about how we label and discuss books, cli-fi is going to become a really worthwhile term and concept to have in mind. Less from the standpoint of organizing books but more from the standpoint of how to recommend and connect different books to one another. If cli-fi is a wider swath of books beyond science fiction — and I think it is — it’s a really valuable means of offering new books to readers hungry for books that explore the effect climate has on not just the globe, but the people living on it. 

Here’s a look at a pile of YA titles that could easily be categorized (or genrefied!) as cli-fi. The bulk have published in the last couple of years, though a few come before that. Any additional titles you can think of that would fit, I’d love to hear about, especially if it’s something outside of science fiction or dystopia. All descriptions are via WorldCat. 

Not A Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis: Sixteen-year-old Lynn will do anything to protect her valuable water source, but the arrival of new neighbors forces her to reconsider her attitudes.

H2O by Virginia Bergin (October 7): When a strange rain falls bearing a fatal, contagious disease, Ruby finds herself alone with the only drinkable water quickly running out. 

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block: After a devastating earthquake destroys the West Coast, causing seventeen-year-old Penelope to lose her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother, she navigates a dark world, holding hope and love in her hands and refusing to be defeated.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta: In the far north of the Scandinavian Union, now occupied by the power state of New Qian, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio studies to become a tea master like her father. It is a position that holds great responsibility and a dangerous secret. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that once provided water for her whole village. When Noria’s father dies, the secret of the spring reaches the new military commander. and the power of the army is vast indeed. But the precious water reserve is not the only forbidden knowledge Noria possesses, and resistance is a fine line. Threatened with imprisonment, and with her life at stake, Noria must make an excruciating, dangerous choice between knowledge and freedom.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 (and its sequel, The Carbon Diaries 2017) by Saci Lloyd: In 2015, when England becomes the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rationing in a drastic bid to combat climate change, sixteen-year-old Laura documents the first year of rationing as her family spirals out of control.

Exodus by Julie Bertagna: In the year 2100, as the island of Wing is about to be covered by water, fifteen-year-old Mara discovers the existence of New World sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising waters, and convinces her people to travel to one of these cities in order to save themselves.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi: In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher: In a world where water has become a precious resource, Vera and her brother befriend a boy who seems to have unlimited access to water and who suspiciously disappears, prompting a dangerous search challenged by pirates, a paramilitary group, and corporations.

Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen: In 2250, water is scarce and controlled by tyrants, but when sixteen-year-old Luca descends to the domain of the Water Rats, he meets one who captures his heart and leads him to secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself.

The White Horse Trick by Kate Thompson: In the late twenty-first century, dramatic climate change has made life in Ireland almost impossible, and soon Tir na n’Og is faced with a refugee problem, partly because of a warlord who is a member of the Liddy family.


Ashfall by Mike Mullin (series): After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, fifteen-year-old Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.

Survival Colony 9 by Joshua Bellin: In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.Querry is a member of Survival Colony Nine, one of the small, roving groups of people who outlived the wars and environmental catastrophes that destroyed the old world. The commander of Survival Colony Nine is his father, Laman Genn, who runs the camp with an iron will. He has to–because heat, dust, and starvation aren’t the only threats in this ruined world. There are also the Skaldi. Monsters with the ability to infect and mimic human hosts, the Skaldi appeared on the planet shortly after the wars of destruction. No one knows where they came from or what they are. But if they’re not stopped, it might mean the end of humanity. Six months ago, Querry had an encounter with the Skaldi–and now he can’t remember anything that happened before then. If he can recall his past, he might be able to find the key to defeat the Skaldi. If he can’t, he’s their next victim. (Description via Goodreads) 

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith: Set in a futuristic, hostile Orleans landscape, Fen de la Guerre must deliver her tribe leader’s baby over the Wall into the Outer States before her blood becomes tainted with Delta Fever.

Some Fine Day by Kat Ross: Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She’s smart and deadly, and knows three things with absolute certainty: 1. When the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface. 2. The only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak. 3. There’s no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades. Jansin has been lied to. On all counts. (Description via Goodreads). 

After the Snow by S. D. Crockett: Fifteen-year-old Willo Blake, born after the 2059 snows that ushered in a new ice age, encounters outlaws, halfmen, and an abandoned girl as he journeys in search of his family, who mysteriously disappeared from the freezing mountain that was their home.

Wasteland by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan: In a post-apocalyptic world where everyone dies at age nineteen and rainwater contains a killer virus, loners Esther and Eli band together with a group of mutant, hermaphroditic outsiders to fight a corrupt ruler and save the town of Prin.


Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien (series): In a future world baked dry by the sun and divided into those who live inside the wall and those who live outside it, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone is forced into a difficult choice when her parents are arrested and taken into the city.

Breathe by Sarah Crossan (series)In a barren land, a shimmering glass dome houses the survivors of the Switch, the period when oxygen levels plunged and the green world withered. A state lottery meant a lucky few won safety, while the rest suffocated in the thin air. And now Alina, Quinn, and Bea–an unlikely trio, each with their own agendas, their own longings and fears–walk straight into the heart of danger. With two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, they leave the dome. What will happen on the third day?: 

Dark Life by Kat Falls: When fifteen-year-old Ty, who has always lived on the ocean floor, joins Topside girl Gemma in the frontier’s underworld to seek and stop outlaws who threaten his home, they learn that the government may pose an even greater threat.

Drowned by Nichola Reilly: Coe is one of the few remaining teenagers on the island of Tides. Deformed and weak, she is constantly reminded that in a world where dry land dwindles at every high tide, she is not welcome. The only bright spot in her harsh and difficult life is the strong, capable Tiam– but love has long ago been forgotten by her society. The only priority is survival. Until the day their King falls ill, leaving no male heir to take his place. Unrest grows, and for reasons Coe cannot comprehend, she is invited into the privileged circle of royal aides. She soon learns that the dying royal is keeping a secret that will change their world forever. Is there an escape from the horrific nightmare that their island home has become? Coe must race to find the answers and save the people she cares about, before their world and everything they know is lost to the waters.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson: In a Brazil of the distant future, June Costa falls in love with Enki, a fellow artist and rebel against the strict limits of the legendary pyramid city of Palmares Três’ matriarchal government, knowing that, like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die. 

The Three C’s of the Changing Book Blogging World

The post I wrote about blogging and responsibility a couple of weeks ago seems to have struck a chord with  lot of readers, both those who blog and those who just enjoy reading them. The responses were great and gave me a lot to think about.

I noted in the post that there were a few other things on my mind in relation to blogging I thought might be worth writing about. More specifically, I thought it would be worth looking at how blogging has changed in the last few years and what, if anything, that might mean. It’s interesting to take stock of what’s out there now and what’s been out there in the past, and it’s also interesting to think about the kinds of things that aren’t gone but have instead shifted. As blogs have grown in popularity, the way people interact and engage with them has grown and changed as well.

Like last time, I’d love anyone to weigh in on what they think about these or any other blogging-related topics. What I see is from my own experience, as well as those experiences of people I know who blog or read blogs and have been for a while. The three topics I want to delve into — crediting, commenting, and critical reviews — are things that are on the forefront of my mind and they’re things that matter a lot to me in terms of how I can be a better blogger within the blogging community and as important, to our readers here.


In the last few weeks, citing and giving credit where credit is due has been popping up in the blogging world. There are two thought-provoking posts from the library world (here and here) and there’s a post from Molly at Wrapped Up In Books.

During the same span of time, I stumbled across more than one post written on other blogs that mirrored things I’ve written, almost down to the voice. And these weren’t coincidence type posts; these were posts that were on a very similar topic that wasn’t necessarily timely to what was going on in the bigger world of books and reading. In none of those posts were my posts noted or credited. While I think it’s fair for anyone to write on anything they want to, it’s also obvious to me when people have written a post that’s been inspired by another; perhaps it’s because I read so many blogs. Perhaps it’s because I know my own voice and writing well enough to ferret out the sorts of passages and thinking patterns that I go through when I work something out in writing.

Seeing those posts and seeing no credit to me at all, not even in a passing manner, made me very angry. And it makes me equally angry when I see posts by people I read being used in the same way: as springboards without any passing credit.

I think it’s easy when you’re new to the blogging world to think everything on the internet is free. Unfortunately, what I saw didn’t come from new bloggers; they came from established ones who should know better than that. Rather than acknowledge their post was spurred by another interesting discussion, those posts were written without any contextualization and without any credit. When there’s no credit given, and when it’s obvious that credit should be acknowledged, it’s not borrowing; it’s stealing.

Having your work stolen is shitty.

When I sit down to work on a post that’s adding to a larger discussion or trying to spur a larger discussion, I also open up Google and do a little searching. I pull open my Feedly saved posts, as well as the things I’ve saved in Pocket, and I look to see what, if anything, other bloggers have said about this topic. In many cases, the reason I find myself interested in writing a big post is that it’s something I’ve been thinking about because someone else has written or discussed it. It only makes sense for me to sit down and dig through what people have said or not said and raise those posts into my own piece, in order to ground my argument and to give credit to those sources. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with them, but it means I acknowledge that they had an idea and pursued it; it would be lazy and, I think, unethical of me to ignore than, even if I disagree completely.

The work people put into blogging isn’t free work. It’s a passion but it’s also a passion pursued at the expense of something else. What’s being said and what’s worth expanding upon doesn’t come from the ether. Actual, real people sit behind those words and use their energy to pursue ideas. To not credit that work in some capacity is theft.

It is hard to keep track of what and where you’re reading things. But there are easy-to-use tools worth looking at in order to be a better, more ethical, more thorough blogger. Feedly and Pocket are my go-to choices, since I can bookmark and save interesting things in each, then I can search through them. But it’s also easy enough to hop on Google and refine your searches to a certain time frame, when you know or remember having read a post on a certain topic.

By no means do you have to look everything you’re interested in writing up and build your own work around those who’ve written on it before you. But good writing does build upon the work of others, so taking a little time to do research — then crediting that research — is just good practice. When we write our monthly genre guides, for example, we know other people aren’t necessarily talking about those topics at that particular time. We also know, though, that doing our research then linking to what we’re looking at only makes what we’re doing more enjoyable to use and more valuable to readers.

Write whatever you like and however you like to. Just give credit where credit is due.


One of the biggest changes in blogging — one related to the issue of crediting — is the decrease in commenting across blogs. We’ve definitely noticed it here. Where we used to see a large number of comments, we now see relatively few, even though our readership has grown (some bloggers have noted a decrease in readership but we continue to see ours increase). Some days, it’s disappointing; you work on a blog post or a review for hours and hours and no one says anything about it. Other times, it’s almost a relief no one commented because it’s a post you didn’t feel entirely sure about or didn’t think was your A game.

In many ways, I find it more disappointing to see work I think is fantastic by other people have no comments on it. This is such a great piece! It should have loads of comments! Why is no one listening and responding to it?

The answer is, I think, that the way people engage with content is significantly different than it was a year, three years, and five years ago. One’s blogging content and response can’t be gauged anymore by a number at the bottom of a post. That’s not where readers are looking at and thinking about your work. Engagement is no longer within the blog; it’s beyond the blog.

Bloggers are on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, and any number of other social networks. So are blog readers. Because of the way information’s shared and dispersed, the commenting on a piece is no longer on the blog post itself. It’s through shares on social media, through responses that pop up when a post is reblogged on Tumblr. It’s through how many tweets and retweets a piece gets. It’s also through the discussion that post can spur on podcasts, on other blog posts, and so forth. Because blogging is such a large thing — and the word blog itself means such a bigger thing than it once did — people want to comment, talk about, and share what it is they’re reading. A post about magical realism in YA might not see a single comment, but it might be tweeted by 100 people, reblogged by 50, discussed on a bookish podcast, linked up 15 blogs on weekly link round ups, and so forth. Your work has been seen by thousands at that point, even if it hasn’t been commented on by a single person.

Rather than your blog existing within itself and within this community of bloggers, it’s grown legs and reached audiences both familiar and, maybe more interestingly/importantly, those who are unfamiliar.

Reaching new eyes is exciting and it’s what drives new people to become regular readers. Reaching new eyes also means that it’s harder to pinpoint engagement and it’s harder to figure out who your readership really is. We rarely see where our posts end up unless we spend a long time researching where they’ve been shared socially. Sometimes, those pop up if we go into Google Analytics, but for the most part, I’d rather spend time writing and reading than tracking down every instance where my work ends up.

And this is where crediting becomes really important, too.

When a blog post is credited as a source or inspiration for another post, that’s how the initial blogger can often “track back” where their content is landing. For me, this is exciting because I love seeing what people are taking away from my writing but more, I love that it opens up new voices and blogs for me to read and follow. It’s the new way to engage and grow the community. No longer are their big roundups of “necessary to read” bloggers like there was early on. Because this is such a huge world and because it’s expansive in terms of content creation and dispersion, finding where people are reading my work gives me an in to see what work I should be reading, too. When you credit where you find inspiration for your work, you help grow the community, not shrink it.

Is it still a bummer that commenting on blogs seems to be a dying art? Sure. But I like to remind myself it means that the comments we do get are really worthwhile, and even if we don’t reply to every single one, we do read them and appreciate them. I also like to remind myself that engagement now isn’t contained to one place.

There’s something fun about seeing one of your blog posts pop up on your Tumblr dash weeks after it’s been written and seeing that people have not only shared it, but they’ve added to it.

Critical Reviews

There’s not a lot to explore in terms of critical reviews in the YA blogosphere, is there?

I feel like a lot of the staple critical reviewers — ones who have been doing this for a long time — are still doing it. I think about The Book Smugglers, Liz Burns, Leila Roy, and a few others are still writing some of the most thoughtful, deep, analytical reviews out there. Those reviews take exceptional amounts of time to write, and it’s not just about the book that these critical reviews are worth reading for. It’s also the craft of writing the review itself; they can be creative, exciting, and sometimes funny pieces of writing in and of themselves.

Review writing is an art in and of itself.

I read a lot of blogs, but I have become particular about the ones I read for reviews. I don’t like seeing blog tour reviews for the book that a publisher is promoting at the time. I like having the book on my radar, but seeing one, two, or three week long blog tours doesn’t excite me, nor does it compel me to want to write a review of the book, unless I know my take aways from the book differ from the ones I’ve seen (positively or not).

A big reason I love critical reviews is that they’re often of books that aren’t getting the big marketing and publicity attention that other books are. Whether or not I agree with the review, I find that the critical, thoughtful, an analytical reviews are the ones that make me most want to pick up a book because I know that it’s something that’s going to make me think — both about the book and about the review writers.

As I’ve said again and again, critical reviews are not negative reviews. Critical reviews are thoughtful explorations of what does and does not work in the material at hand. Some of the best critical reviews are entirely positive, but what separates them from a lot of other reviews is they offer a huge slice of the person behind the review. They’re often more personal than a personal blog post because they let in opportunities for vulnerability that the reviewer doesn’t always know they’re opening up: their biases, their preferences, their world views, their passions. These reviews allow me as a reader to really get inside the book and inside the head of another reader. It’s hard work, and it’s the kind of work that isn’t always rewarded with the kind of engagement other posts are — either in comments or in sharing — but it’s work that is rewarded in terms of what core blog readers (who are readers in general) want.

That’s why I blog and that’s why I read blogs. It’s engaging with other readers.

Which is why I wonder: where are the newer critical reviewers? Where are those newer critical voices? Who can we read and think about and who is going to open us up to new books worth checking out? We’ve had our eyes on a few bloggers who came for a few months, wrote great reviews, then disappeared. We had our eyes, too, on bloggers who were critical reviewers for a long time then decided for any number of reasons that writing critical reviews was a thing they didn’t feel comfortable pursuing anymore.

I know I’m eager to see more. I can’t be the only one.

Get (sub)Genrefied: Alternate History

Each month, we’re focusing on a particular genre or subgenre, discussing its definition, appeal factors, and a few recent and forthcoming titles that fall within it. All of our genre guides can be found at our genre fiction tag. This month, we tackle alternate history.

Definition & Overview

Alternate history is a subgenre of science fiction. But: a lot of readers think defining alternate history as science fiction is problematic, since alternate history doesn’t really have to involve science at all. A more accurate definition (or at least a definition that causes fewer arguments!) may be to call it a subgenre of speculative fiction, which is a large, umbrella term that encompasses all of science fiction, fantasy, and related categories. Speculative fiction really gets to the root of what alternate history is, in my mind: speculation about what if.

Alternate history in particular asks us to consider what our world would be like if something happened differently in the past. This different event is called the point of divergence. Some common points of divergence that writers come back to over and over again include: the Americans losing the Revolutionary War, the Germans winning World War II, the South winning the Civil War (or any differing outcome in a large military conflict, really), JFK or Lincoln not being assassinated, and so on. Usually the books focus on an event that most people are familiar with, but not always. Sometimes the plot revolves around something else entirely, and the point of divergence is merely backdrop.

Alternate history has been fairly popular among adult audiences for quite some time. Harry Turtledove, who wrote Guns of the South (among many, many others), is possibly the most well-known alternate history novelist for adults. Others the average reader may recognize are Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker series, Jo Walton’s Small Change series, and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.

There are fewer examples in YA, but they exist. Often they’re crossovers with other subgenres, usually steampunk, time travel, or stories about parallel universes. Often characters start out in our own world and travel back in time to change history or find a portal to a parallel universe where things are different. And of course, steampunk is a huge source for alternate history – it’s possible to make an argument that steampunk is by definition alternate history. Other crossovers are possible, too, such as a crossover with fantasy where the introduction of magic at a certain point in time alters history in some way.

Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a classic example of children’s alternate history, though I know when I first read it as a child, I had no idea it belonged in that subgenre. It’s set in 1830s England ruled by a Stuart King by the name of James III. This is a prime example of a book where knowing the history isn’t essential, but it certainly deepens the reader’s enjoyment.

My favorite book series of all time, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, can also be called alternate history after a fashion. The first book is set in a parallel universe to ours, where the religion of England developed much differently than it did in our own world, making a big impact upon society. Parallel universes are a great way to incorporate alternate history, usually causing the reader to consider alternate events in direct contrast to how those events actually played out.

Alternate history appeals to history buffs, of course, but also to those readers who just love to ask “what if?” They’re a natural draw for SFF fans who love world-building and can generate a lot of intense fan discussion.

(Note: Alternate history is not historical fiction that simply introduces a fictional character. That’s not enough. In order for the story to be alternate history, it has to change an event, and that change has to have an effect on the course of events afterward.)


  • Uchronia is an impressively huge bibliography of alternate history titles, including novels, short stories, and essays. Unfortunately, while they include children’s and YA titles, they don’t have a way to search for those specifically (and a number of titles from my list below are not there at all). You can browse by author, language, series, and divergence. It’s a fun discovery tool for fans, but perhaps not terrific for someone looking for books just for younger readers – unless they already know a title or author.
  • On the Uchronia page, you’ll also find a link to the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History.
    These are usually presented at the World Science Fiction Convention each year. While children’s and YA titles are considered (you’ll find that Nation by Terry Pratchett was shortlisted in 2008), the vast majority of winners and honorees are adult titles.
  • Liz Burns’ Alternate History post from 2010 gives a good overview of the subgenre.
  • Chasing Ray has a roundup of blog posts and good reads from across the web about steampunk and alternate history. She hosted a celebration of the subgenre(s) in 2010 (Liz’s post is included), and there are tons of great resources here. 


Because this subgenre is much smaller than others we’ve covered, the list below goes back about ten years. I’m hoping to discover more young adult books that fit this category – hit me with ’em if you’ve got ’em. Synopses are from Worldcat. In addition to the usual listing of sequels and links to reviews, I’ve also included some information about the particular divergence in history that the novel addresses.

White Cat by Holly Black
When Cassel Sharpe discovers that his older brothers have used him to
carry out their criminal schemes and then stolen his memories, he
figures out a way to turn their evil machinations against them.
Divergence: Magic exists and was banned in 1929, much like alcohol was banned in 1919, contributing to the rise of organized crime in the United States. | Sequels: Red Glove, Black Heart | Kimberly’s Reviews: White Cat, Red Glove, Black Heart

The Year of the Hangman by Gary Blackwood 
In 1777, having been kidnapped and taken forcibly from England to the
American colonies, fifteen-year-old Creighton becomes part of
developments in the political unrest there that may spell defeat for the
patriots and change the course of history.
Divergence: The British win the American Revolutionary War in 1776.

The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

In an alternate nineteenth-century America that is still a colony of
Britain’s industrial empire, sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow
refugees’ struggle to survive is interrupted by a newcomer with no
memory, bearing secrets about a terrible future.
Divergence: The American Revolutionary War never happened and Britain’s empire continued to expand. | Sequels: None yet, but it’s the beginning of a series, so expect them.

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson  (sequel: Invisible Things)

In Scotland in the 1930s, fifteen-year-old Sophie, her friend Mikael,
and her great-aunt Tabitha are caught up in a murder mystery involving
terrorists and suicide-bombers whose plans have world-shaping
Divergence: Napoleon wins the Battle of Waterloo, creating a group of totalitarian European states that are at odds with a group of independent northern European countries. | Sequel: Invisible Things

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
In an alternate United States where Day and Night populations are forced
to lead separate–but not equal–lives, a desperate Night girl falls
for a seemingly privileged Day boy and places them both in danger as she
gets caught up in the beginnings of a resistance movement.
Divergence: The Spanish Flu epidemic of the early 20th century causes the US population to be divided into two different groups who are only allowed out during the day or the night. | Kimberly’s Review: Plus One

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
In an alternate 1950s, mechanically gifted fifteen-year-old Aoife
Grayson, whose family has a history of going mad at sixteen, must leave
the totalitarian city of Lovecraft and venture into the world of magic
to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance and the mysteries
surrounding her father and the Land of Thorn.
Divergence: Instead of nuclear power, magic was discovered (invented?). It’s now seen as a threat by President McCarthy and his government. (I got this info from Tamora Pierce’s review of the title, as I gave up on the book partway through.) | Sequels: The Nightmare Garden, The Mirrored Shard

Neverwas by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed
At her family’s Maryland home, in a world where colonists lost the 1776
Insurrection, Sarah Parsons and her friend Jackson share visions of a
different existence and, having remembered how things ought to be, plan a
daring mission to set them right.
Divergence: The British win the American Revolutionary War in 1776. | Sequel: Neverwas is actually a sequel to Amber House, but Amber House doesn’t focus much on alternate history (at least judging from the synopsis).

Nation by Terry Pratchett
After a devastating tsunami destroys all that they have ever known, Mau,
an island boy, and Daphne, an aristocratic English girl, together with a
small band of refugees, set about rebuilding their community and all
the things that are important in their lives.
Divergence: In the 1860s, a strain of Russian flu kills the English king and the next 138 heirs.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

In an alternate New England of 1900, where the Brotherhood dominates
and controls society, sixteen-year-old Cate Cahill has struggled since
her mother’s death to keep secret that she and her younger sisters are
witches, but when a governess arrives from the Sisterhood, everything
Divergence: There isn’t a particular point of divergence that I can find. Steph Su’s review indicates that the novel doesn’t give one. | Sequels: Star Cursed, Sisters’ Fate

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on
the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the
globe using mechanical machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn
who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learning to
fly genetically engineered beasts.
Divergence: World War I is fought by countries with special weapons never seen before: the Austro-Hungarians and Germans have automated machines called Clankers and the English have developed genetically engineered animals. | Sequels: Behemoth, Goliath

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce
Fourteen-year-old Flora Fyrdraaca, whose mother is the Warlord’s
Commanding General and whose father is mad, kindly helps her house’s
magical–and long-banished–butler, unaware that he draws strength from
the Fyrdraaca will.
Divergence: Wilce herself has said that Califa is not based on any one place, but readers say it reads like a version of California that has been conquered by an Aztec-like culture. | Sequels: Flora’s Dare, Flora’s Fury

The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
It’s been nearly 80
years since the Allies lost WWII in a crushing defeat against Hitler’s
genetically engineered super soldiers. America has been carved up by the
victors, and 16-year-old Zara lives a life of oppression in the Eastern
America Territories. A revolution is
growing, and a rogue rebel group is plotting a deadly coup. Zara might
hold the key to taking down the Führer for good, but it also might be
the very thing that destroys her. (Goodreads synopsis; title forthcoming in September 2014)
Divergence: Hitler/Germany wins World War II.

Kelly’s Top Five Posts of 2013: A Look Back

Kimberly hit on a lot of what I have to say about 2013 when it comes to blogging. We reached over a million hits, continued a couple of old series, kicked off new ones, and we passed our fourth year blogging together. In addition to all of those exciting — and big — milestones, 2013 was, I think, our strongest year when it came to writing and blogging more generally. I think for the first time for me, this blog felt like a real outlet and place to explore new ideas. Some of them began as small ideas and exploded into much bigger things when I wrote them out, while others I thought were bigger stayed small and confined to the blog. It was such a different year for blogging more broadly, too, which I plan on talking a bit more about next week sometime.

As Kim said, we thought it would be worthwhile to talk about some of our individual favorite posts from the past year. Here are five of my top picks, in no particular order:

Female Sexuality in YA Fiction

After writing this post back in June about female sexuality in YA, I’ve not stopped thinking about this topic. And I’m not just thinking about it as more books publish that tackle the subject, but I’m thinking about it in terms of backlist, too. A few people pointed me to older titles that explore female sexuality in some capacity, and I am really looking forward to reading them and thinking about how far — or not far — YA fiction has come in how it approaches girls and sexuality.

When We Talk About “Girl Problems”

Kind of going hand-in-hand with the sexuality post was this one about the notion of “girl problems.” What does it mean to be a girl and how are the problems girls face handled in YA fiction? More than that, how are they responded to by readers? I loved talking about love triangles, as well as talking about the idea of the “every girl” that Sarah Dessen writes about (and that I think Dessen gets unfairly dinged for sometimes, too). I also think this post corresponded quite a bit with what I talked about in terms of “unlikable” female characters, too.

Getting Past the Easy Reach

When you commit something to paper (or blog, as the case may be), it’s harder to ignore your own words since you have to face them if someone calls you out on them. This particular post was one that I needed to write because I needed the reminder of the value of recommending the reads that fit the reader, rather than the reads which are most obvious and easiest to grab. It was this post that really inspired me to want to write the “Beyond the Bestsellers” series at Book Riot, and it’s the post I think those who do reader’s advisory should think about — I’d love to see more people talk about how to move beyond the easy reach.

Fat Isn’t A Disability, But It Is A Book Deal Breaker

The more I think about my favorite posts this year, the more interrelated I see that they are. The long and short of it seems to be that it’s hard to be a girl.

On Book Packagers and Literary Development Companies

This was just a straight-up fun post to write. There are posts you write that you know took you a long time to write because they required a lot of work — I’m looking at the New York Times Bestsellers Posts — and then there are posts you write that you know took a long time because you kept letting yourself fall down new rabbit holes. This was the rabbit hole post.

It was a real blast this year to return to the So You Want to Read YA series, as well as the Contemporary YA Week series. It was equally fun to try out a group read along for Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, as well as giving a series about reader’s advisory a shot, too. Kimberly and I both loved putting together the monthly genre guides, as well as interviewing authors we respect for our monthly Twitterview series. Of course, writing reviews for books that really worked — as well as dissecting what didn’t work within a book that wasn’t a knock out for me — is always enjoyable, too.

One thing I discovered this year and that I’ll talk a bit more about in a future post is how much readership and audience has changed over the last year. When we once knew our readership pretty well, now we’re less aware (and maybe less concerned, too). It’s neat to see where and how people are finding us, and it’s been so great to see not just our content be shared, but it’s enjoyable to reader other people’s responses to our posts via their own blogs, tumblr, Twitter, and other outlets. There’s never a time when I don’t have at least a page worth of post ideas, thanks in big part to those of you who read and think about what it is we have to say.

I’m not a resolutions person, though I do like to set goals (resolutions to me sound too absolute and focus too much on an end result, whereas goals allow for celebrating and feeling accomplishment in the interim steps along the path). In the coming year, it’s my goal to keep writing what I feel like writing and to cover some of the things people have suggested I look at but I thought maybe I didn’t have the time or energy to do. The truth is, that time is there. It’s just a matter of sitting down and putting the effort in to do it — and that’s one of those interim steps along the way I love and look forward to but forget about until I get the chance to reflect upon the value it brings to me.

As always, a huge thank you to our readers, to those who comment or share or encourage us along the way. We’d probably still blog without it, but it’d be a much less enjoyable or inspiring experience.