Posted March 31, 2014 by in Book Lists

New Frontiers: The Space Alien Books Trend in YA

ya space and alien book

TO INFINITY…AND BEYOND! YA novels are increasingly exploring the worlds beyond earth. Unlike the strictly technological science fiction novels of the past, modern YA space novels combine the novelty of space with a contemporary flair. To this generation, space travel is more than exploration of planets. In these novels, characters explore relationships with other worlds and races that do not follow the rules of Earth. Let’s look at this trend of space alien books and why they are worth adding to your reading pile!

The Classics

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The classics in this genre have definitely stood at the top of readers’ lists for decades. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time is a beloved award-winning novel where the characters travel through time and space to save the protagonist’s father. Similarly, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is an adult science fiction series that crossed over to the YA section. Even though the movie version was a bit of a disappointment, it has brought the book back into the spotlight for a new generation. And it may be a bit too soon to call these classics, but this 90s kid has to point out that the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate were pretty much the premier alien-fighting novels of my childhood. Lest you not take Animorphs seriously, let me remind you that Katherine Applegate went on to become a Newbery-winning children’s book author.


What’s Trending Now

Aliens are not always the bad guys. The most recent group of YA novels brings space to earth through encounters with aliens. Rush by Eve Silver features a non-voluntary game where teenagers fight aliens in teams. This alien race is called the Drau, and their invasion must be fought in secret so humanity does not realize the world is under attack. In Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wavethese aliens are slowly eliminating humans so they can colonize the earth. Five stages of elimination are meant to kill every human, but the aliens themselves complete the dirty work from their hovering spaceship. Alienated by Melissa Landers has perhaps the most positive portrayal of aliens, featuring an exchange program between the L’Ehrs and humans. These aliens are very human-like, thus opening the door for romance between the participants.


But space travel goes both ways, and there is a great crop of novels featuring teens who travel through space to visit other worlds. The second book in the Alienated series, Invadedwill reverse the exchange program, sending the humans to L’eihr. Space Opera, anyone? These Broken Stars by Aimee Kaufman and Meaghan Spooner also features romances among the stars, as a military boy and an heiress are stranded on an abandoned planet full of secrets. M.T. Anderson’s Feed imagines a world where trips to the moon are just as easy as heading downtown for a night of partying. And, finally, the villainous Queen Levana, in Cinder by Marissa Meyer, travels freely between earth and the colony she rules on the moon.

Space and Alien Book Trilogies

across the universe

Want more space and alien books? Space drama cannot be contained to a single novel! Most of the books listed above are the first in a trilogy or series. May I suggest starting with Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy? These three books (Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and Shades of Earth) cover so many awesome elements: science fiction, dystopia, romance, space travel, foreign planets, and alien creatures galore! Space and aliens are a new micro-trend in YA literature, and this writer is hoping that means even more books to be released in the next few years.

Do you have a favorite YA novel or series featuring aliens, space travel, or foreign planets? Share your top picks in the comments!

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Former middle school teacher and school librarian, current doctoral student in education. Reader of all things young adult. I'm particularly fond of dystopian societies, sassy female protagonists, and clever dialogue. I can often be found asleep with a book on my face. Check out all my articles.