Reluctant readers. Every class has them, but that doesn’t have to be the case! Maybe these students just haven’t found the right book.

If you want to get reluctant readers pumped for literature, why not take a look at the science fiction and fantasy genres? Filled with fast-paced action and nail-biting suspense, books in these categories offer students a chance to let their imaginations run wild.

Whether your students dream of exploring post-apocalyptic cities and dark fantasy worlds or wish for the thrill of intergalactic travel and high-stakes adventures, these top picks for grades 6-12 will have them hooked!

6th-8th Grade

The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan

A fun way to introduce the world of Greek mythology to middle-grade students, The Lightning Thief chronicles the life of Percy Jackson, a typical kid who suddenly discovers that he is the half-blood offspring of one of the gods. This modern take on a typical mythological adventure story has all the plot twists and humorous encounters you'll need to keep your whole class interested and eagerly turning pages.
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The City of Ember
Jeanne DuPrau

Written by Jeanne DuPrau, The City of Ember is a thrilling post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set in an underground city that is rapidly losing power. The first book in the series, it follows two young protagonists, Lina and Doon, as they race against time to save their city, using clues left behind by the city's original builders. Readers will love the stunning setting and the fast-paced action, and will find themselves relating to the courageous main characters.
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Ship Breaker
Paolo Bacigalupi

In a post-apocalyptic future, the forces of climate change have devastated America’s Gulf Coast region. Here, Nailer, a teenage boy, scavenges abandoned oil tankers for copper and other valuable materials. But when a storm grounds a massive ship, Nailer must make an important decision: walk away from the wreckage or rescue its lone survivor, the daughter of a wealthy merchant? The first book in a trilogy, Ship Breaker will take your students on a thrilling, high-stakes adventure.
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Neal Shusterman

This National Book Award winner will take readers on a harrowing journey in a dystopian future. After the Second Civil War, which had been fought over reproductive rights, three teenagers find themselves on the run as they try to escape being “unwound”—a disturbing new medical procedure in which their organs are harvested and distributed to others, sometimes without their consent. Exploring themes of betrayal and loneliness, this novel will surely spark insightful class discussions.
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9th-10th Grade

Marissa Meyer

This science-fiction spin on a classic fairy tale will take readers on an imaginative journey packed with action, suspense, and romance. Considered a second-class citizen due to her cyborg status, Linh Cinder works as a mechanic in the futuristic New Beijing to support her cruel stepmother. But when she unexpectedly crosses paths with the handsome Prince Kai, Cinder suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic conflict. To protect her world’s future, Cinder must uncover the truth about her past, no matter the consequences.
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Aurora Rising
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

In the year 2380, the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are assigned their first missions. Tyler Jones, the academy’s star pupil, hopes to recruit the perfect team, but fate hands him a squad of misfits instead. Tyler finds himself in even deeper trouble after he rescues Aurora, a girl who was trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries. When powerful forces come looking for Aurora, Tyler and his eccentric crew must work to protect her and save the galaxy. Packed with action and humor, Aurora Rising is a great choice for students who enjoy imaginative science fiction.
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Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

A cautionary tale, Dry offers a haunting look into a future marred by climate change. In California, extreme drought has changed the rules of water usage: no watering the lawn, no long showers, no filling up pools. Alyssa has gotten used to the situation—until the taps run dry. Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into chaos as neighbors turn against each other on the hunt for water. When her parents go missing and her brother’s life is threatened, Alyssa must make impossible choices if they’re going to survive.
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Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card

This sci-fi thriller will keep students turning pages at light speed in your classroom. For more than 30 years, Ender’s Game has been the book that interests young adults in reading. Written from the perspective of Ender Wiggin, a child genius engineered to be a general, Ender’s Game follows his life as he progresses through battle school. Since the book never talks down to young readers, students invariably identify with Ender’s struggle to grow up.
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11th-12th Grade

How Long 'til Black Future Month?
N. K. Jemisin

If your high school students are interested in the Afrofuturism genre, this anthology is for them. In this Alex Award-winning book, science fiction and fantasy author N. K. Jemisin presents 22 short stories that examine modern culture with a speculative eye. From stories of utopian societies and parallel universes to tales of ghosts and dragons, students will love exploring themes of resistance, empathy, and redemption.
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A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Brigid Kemmerer

The heir to the kingdom of Emberfall, Prince Rhen is cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, transforming into a vicious beast each time. After years of torment, Rhen had given up hope—until Harper arrived. Magically whisked away to Emberfall from the streets of Washington, D.C., Harper is unsure of her role in this enchanted land. But as she spends more time with Rhen and his subjects, she realizes that dark forces are working to destroy Emberfall. In this contemporary reimagining of Beauty and the Beast, Rhen and Harper must work together to break the curse and save the kingdom.
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The Martian
Andy Weir

This best-selling sci-fi novel is now available in a classroom-friendly edition complete with discussion topics! This great story has enough humor that your students will love it and enough science that your district will be thrilled you're addressing STEM in your classroom. Meticulously researched, The Martian tells a Robinson Crusoe story of an ingenious engineer who is trapped alone on Mars and the lengths he goes to survive.
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Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

A rollicking adventure set in a dystopian future, Ready Player One is the story of Wade Watts, a teenager who spends most of his free time in the OASIS, a virtual reality playground that offers him a more fulfilling life than does the physical world. When Wade discovers the first clue to a scavenger hunt that promises a massive reward to the first person to complete it, he inadvertently starts a race in which he'll need to use his smarts, quick wit, and unmatched knowledge of ’80s pop culture and video games just to survive.
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