When life gets you down… read a middle-grade novel. These books tackle serious issues without the angst of YA or the bleak cynicism of adult fiction, and that’s something everyone needs sometimes. My latest recommendation is Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas.
Readers are plunged headlong into a journey of discovery when a young shapeshifter (who enters the story as a blob of goo) goes on the run from StarLeague (dystopian government type) soldiers. After stowing away aboard a freighter, the shifter takes human form and is christened Trouble by the crew. Trouble learns what it means to be a human (from food to friendship) while trying to earn the crew’s trust. But eventually StarLeague will catch up, so it’s up to Trouble and the ship’s crew to chase down the truth about where Trouble came from and why StarLeague wants so badly to find them.
New readers of sci-fi will appreciate learning the lingo alongside Trouble, and similarly diversity (of many stripes) is explained in clear, matter-of-fact terms. Fans of Firefly (or parents who want to expose their kids to the concept but not the actual show) will appreciate the outlaw vibes, complete with a mysterious, coveted individual who doesn’t know their own power. This is a good read for all ages, balancing a quick and interesting plot with thoughtful characterization and moral considerations.