The Year in Review 2022 by Alex Brown

Alex Brown (2021)

Every year fans of young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror – like myself – are blessed with well over 300 traditionally published titles, be­tween the Big Five, indies, and small presses. Even though covering YA SFF/H is a big chunk of my reviewing work, even I can’t keep up with numbers that high, much less the average reader. There are countless Best of and No­table lists wrapping up the 2022 titles, but I’d like to shine a spotlight on a few books that might have slipped under your radar.

Let’s kick things off with two short story anthologies, At Midnight: 15 Be­loved Fairy Tales Reimagined edited by Dahlia Adler and Tasting Light: Ten Science Fiction Stories to Re­wire Your Perceptions edited by A.R. Capetta & Wade Roush. I’m a huge fan of Adler & Capetta, so of course their new YA SFF anthologies are going to be on here. Adler consistently puts out fantastic YA an­thologies that are absolutely stacked with the best of the best in terms of authors, and that trend continues with this one. While I don’t read much science fiction, I thorough­ly enjoyed this diverse collection of stories influenced by modern technology.

F.T. Lukens is one of my auto-buy au­thors – whatever they write I buy, no hes­itation and no convincing needed – so of course I snapped up their latest. So This Is Ever After is about what happens to a group of teens after the Chosen One saves the world. Now king, Arek finds himself in the odd position of having to marry his true love or be deemed unwor­thy of the throne and die. Lukens keeps things light and sugary sweet, packing in a ton of fun action and queer romance.

A FiIlipino-inspired YA fantasy? Gimme! Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin features kick-ass war­rior teens, deadly monsters, and dangerous secrets. Seri is an elite hunter who has dedicated her life to protecting her people from the beasts that prowl the for­est surrounding their city. Tsana is a young woman from a place that shouldn’t exist and who can somehow communicate with the monsters. Everything the two of them think they know is upended, and together they must forge a new path.

I’m a big baby when it comes to horror, but I couldn’t resist Andrew Joseph White’s trans horror novel Hell Followed with Us. We follow Benji, a trans teen hell-bent on escaping the cult that nearly de­stroyed the world and now plans to use him to finish the job. The teens who take him in will do whatever it takes to survive, and that includes having some dark plans of their own. Even horror fans who don’t typically read YA will want to check this one out.

Publisher Levine Querido al­ways puts out boundary-push­ing children’s books (Darcie Little Badger is one of their top YA authors, for example), and When the Angels Left the Old Coun­try by Sacha Lamb is as good as I hoped it would be. An angel and a demon leave their shtetl to sail to New York City in this lovely, powerful story about queer love and finding your identity.

Riss M. Neilson’s debut novel, Deep in Providence, looks at grief and the lengths we go to mourn the people we love. Miliani, Inez, Natalie, and Jasmine are besties unit­ed by magic, but when Jasmine is killed, the three left behind pour themselves into for­bidden magic. To resurrect their friend, they will test the bounds of friendship and truth.

Alex Brown is a queer Black librarian and writer. They have written two books on the history of Napa County, California’s marginalized communities. They write about adult and young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror as well as BIPOC history and librarianship. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and access set the foundation of all their work. Alex lives in Southern California with their pet rats and ever-increasing piles of books.

This review and more like it in the February 2023 issue of Locus.

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