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10 Great Young Adult Space Operas


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Books Space Opera Week 2023

10 Great Young Adult Space Operas


Published on February 7, 2023

You know, I really want to thank the authors that looked at young adult fiction and space opera and thought “why not both?” Because this is one of my favorite subgenres of YA science fiction. There’s adventure, there’s romance, there’s danger, there’s high stakes, there’s a pack of outcasts who have the fate of the galaxy in their hands. What more could you want? Here are ten great YA space operas from the last few years.


Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Tina Mains is no ordinary human teenager. She’s the secret clone of a famous alien war hero, left on Earth to await activation. When that day comes, she finds herself way less prepared than she thought she’d be. Tina and her human friend Rachael barely escape from the enemy, known as the Compassion. On board her clone’s former ship, Tina may not be ready to lead but at least she has her friends to guide her.


Mirage by Somaiya Daud

This duology takes inspiration from the Amazigh people of North Africa, from cultural traditions to their experiences with colonization, oppression, and resistance. Amani is ripped from her village and dropped into the palace of the conqueror King Mathis to serve as the body double for his cruel daughter, Maram. Maram, meanwhile, hates sharing ancestry with the very people her father is suppressing, but the more she learns from Amani the more her feelings begin to change.


Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Young adult fiction loves a good life-or-death competition, and this duology is no exception. Alyssa’s uncle may be the emperor of the galaxy, but she would rather spend her time exploring space and getting into trouble. But when her uncle dies, she and everyone vying for the throne will have to race to find the royal seal. Lots of great queer rep, and the worldbuilding is compelling.


Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan

Star pilot Ia Cōcha has been wreaking havoc throughout the Commonwealth, pushing back against the imperial machine. But when she’s finally forced to surrender, her punishment is to enroll in the Royal Star Force Academy. There she meets Brinn, a Commonwealth citizen with a secret she’s desperate to keep hidden, and Flight Master Knives, whose loyalty was shaken after the death of his sister.


Once & Future by A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy

Here, have a space opera that’s also a King Arthur retelling. Ari and her ragtag band of queer teen fugitives and medieval times reenactors face down the evil Mercer Corporation, a very pissed off Morgana, and space dragons, all while falling in love. Oh, and traveling back in time. The second book, Sword in the Stars, is set largely on Earth and in the distant past, but this one should entice even the stodgiest of space opera fans. It’s a weird duology but one I love with my whole heart.


A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

Speaking of retellings, this crackling trilogy is inspired by the Mahābhārata and other stories from ancient India. Esmae, a secret princess, grows up hidden away from her scheming royal relatives. When the king of Wychstar offers a sentient ship as a reward for winning a competition, she emerges from the shadows to victory. Esmae wants to take the crown back from her usurping uncle and restore it to her brother, but mischievous gods get in the way of her plans.


Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

One more retelling for the road. Ashley Poston reimagines the life of Princess Anastasia but with space pirates and androids. Ana’s family was murdered in a robot rebellion, but she was rescued by pirates who raised her up. When D09, a metal boy she cares about, goes on the fritz, she sets out on an epic quest to find the key to saving him. Even if that means going up against Robb, a privileged Ironblood.


The Disasters by M.K. England

Nax, a wannabe maverick pilot, washes out of the Ellis Station Academy, but before he can be shipped home, the space station is attacked by terrorists. He and several other outcast cadets—including medically inclined Zee, tech geek Asra, Case the genius, and richie rich Rion—go on the run after being framed for the violence. Like Once & Future, this book is very fun and hella queer.


Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston

This novel is full to the brim with melodrama, relationships, and fighting against corrupt Powers That Be. Pendt Harland grows up as the unwanted child on a long haul space freighter that only has interest in those who can be productive and useful. She escapes to a space station where she falls in with the Brannick twins who run the station. All the three of them want is a home that is safe and protected. To get it, they’ll have to work together. Big things are happening across the galaxy, but largely in the background. This is space opera on a more intimate scale but just as powerful.


The Kindred by Alechia Dow

It’s debatable as to whether this really counts as a space opera, since a majority of the novel is set on Earth. But it’s a fantastic story with characters you can’t help but love. It’s also one of the only YA’s set at least in part in space that is both written by a Black author and features Black protagonists—and it’s queer to boot! And lucky for us, Alechia Dow’s upcoming novel A Song of Salvation is firmly within space opera territory, so pop that on your TBR.

Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (

About the Author

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Alex Brown


Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), bluesky (@bookjockeyalex), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (
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