I used to have this listed with YA fantasy, but for my new “expanded” lists, I decided to break them out.
“Contemporary” Science Fiction (not all set in current day, but less intense science)
The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (SO much better than the movie!). Alien invasion meets humor and cross-country road trip to save Mom.
The Girl with the Silver Eyes, by Willo Davis Roberts. Four kids with psychic powers from a prenatal drug find out about each other and conspire to get together.
Pamela F. Service. She also writes very good fantasy, but The Reluctant God is time travel, and Stinker from Space and Weirdos Unite are aliens-come-to-Earth.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry (but unfortunately not the sequels). It’s ever so much better than the movie, too, which changed a few vital elements in not-very-smart ways.
Alexander Key. The Forgotten Door, Witch Mountain (movies are okay, honestly), and more. I bought Forgotten Door when I moved somewhere that had a library that didn’t stock it.
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory series, by Roald Dahl. Not too much science in book 1, but book 2 shoots into space. And yes, the crazy poems are in the book, not just the movie.
“Heavier” Science Fiction
Have Space Suit–Will Travel, by Robert Heinlein (no, I don’t like all his stuff). A teenage boy and a young girl are kidnapped and marooned in space. If they can’t find friends among aliens, they’ll never get home again.
Stephanie Harrington series, by David Weber. No, I haven’t gotten into his other stuff, even the rest of the Harringtons, but I do like the Treecat Wars. I think I’m more of a “friendly alien” type reader than a “space opera” reader.
Devil on My Back series, by Monica Hughes. Post-apocalptic “utopian” (really dystopian, of course), where the hero doesn’t WANT to upend his society but finds out truths he eventually can’t ignore.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. RPG-lit. Here is also where I admit that although I liked the first one a lot, I really, really didn’t like the sequel.
Alan Gratz. Alternate history steampunk where seven unlikely heroes band together to save the day against hideous giants. Probably more middle grade than young adult, but I’ll leave it here, anyway.
Douglas Arthur Hill. Some of his fit better under fantasy, but the ColSec series is sci fi, as are a lot of others. ColSec is humans-crashland-on-alien-world, and the aliens are NOT friendly.
Janet Edwards. I admit, I haven’t read all her stuff yet, because my library won’t stock it, but I really like her Earth Girl series. Post-apocalyptic, where the slow decline of Earth was solved when most humans migrated to other planets. The few that stayed behind because they were allergic to other worlds are considered sub-human, and one of them decides to prank an entire archaeology class. It all goes wrong, of course.
Adrian McKinty’s Lighthouse trilogy is another aliens & humans story, with a disabled main character. (He thinks disabled, but he does more with one arm than most people do with two.)
Sylvia Engdahl (sci fi with a fantasy feel). Enchantress from the Stars has dual POV, one sci fi and one fantasy, and the contrast is super cool. The Far Side of Evil is more sci fi. I like Enchantress better, but Far Side is still good.
A Wrinkle in Time series, by Madeline L’Engle. Classics for a reason. Each book is different (space, time, size, aliens, angels…), but they all talk about the difference one person can make to the world/universe.
Timothy Zahn’s Dragon series. Also sci-fi with the feel of fantasy, and another friendly-aliens story. Okay, it’s a some-friendly some-enemy aliens story… With a touch of mystery and a really cool twist on dragons.
Let me know if you read any of these, and what you thought.
M. C. Lee