Don’t get me wrong — love me a good series. Especially a meaty series. There is something just incredibly satisfying about finishing a series with a good 10+ installments (looking at you, WHEEL OF TIME) and feeling like you are in complete knowledge of a magic system or a group of characters. I love that. I live for that.
But there is also something amazing about a story that is contained in 300-some pages but still leaves an incredible impact. I think sometimes we forget that it’s just as much of a challenge to succinctly tell a story that feels satisfying and complete as it is to properly plan a story over several volumes.
That’s exactly what this list is, a collection of standalone YA sci-fi novels that have everything: an A+ plot, interesting and well-rounded characters, imaginative worldbuilding, and fantastic writing — all wrapped in a single tome. Of course, the downside to standalones is that there’s always the possibility of wanting more of a story — there are several books on this list that I would 100 percent jump at the chance to read another story with the same characters.
Until then, enjoy these top-notch standalone sci-fi books, and then join me in praying for sequels.
Picture a twisted Disney World for this one. The Kingdom is a fantasy theme park equipped with seven Fantasists (think the Disney princesses but AI) that are designed to make their guests’ dreams come true. Our main character, Ana, is one of these Fantasists and she has resigned herself to a life of doing what she’s told. But then she meets park employee Owen and begins to develop feelings for him, something completely against her algorithm.
After a tragedy rocked the small town of Splendor and her brother ended up in a coma, Franny found solace in a new group of friends known as “The Ordinary.” They spend their time researching local ghost stories and urban legends and filming their adventures for fun, but then they catch something on camera that is definitely not fake and definitely not an urban legend. Something most definitely came out of the sky. And they’ve got the only record.
Imagine minding your own business and suddenly Earth is contacted by a mysterious planet known as Alma. And if their messages are being interpreted correctly, the Earth is about to come to an end. Faced with the prospect of life ending in less than a week, Jesse, Adeem, and Cate, are all coping in different ways. While trying to right their wrongs and make their own peace, their lives collide and they may just need each other during their potential last few days on Earth.
Alex is your seemingly ordinary teen just trying to be a good son, a good brother, a good boyfriend, and overall find his way. But he’s hiding a secret. He has the ability to see into the future when he touches an object or a person. After he touches a photo and sees the death of his younger brother, he’s immediately caught in a race against time to save him.
The sole survivor of a spaceship headed to a new planet, Romy is used to being alone. But when she hears about a new ship that has been launched, she is excited about the prospect of having someone else out there floating around in space. Known only as “J,” he and Romy begin to communicate by email and, slowly, Romy starts falling in love. That’s when mysterious messages begin arriving and she’s forced to really examine her relationship with J and what she actually knows about him.
Paige is thrilled when she’s given the opportunity to join the crew of a spaceship scheduled to orbit the solar system. Knowing that time aboard the spaceship will pass slower than time on Earth, Paige is ready to literally blast into the future. But when a terrible accident causes the ship to stay in orbit, Paige arrives back on Earth billions of years in the future — to a world where she knows no one and is full of things she could never imagine.
Despite having dreams of traveling through space, Ryann has accepted that that future is just not in the cards for her. Enter Alexandria, a loner who wants nothing to do with her. But after an accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, Ryann finds herself being there for her while she heals. That’s when Ryann begins to break down her walls, learning about Alexandria’s mother, an astronaut currently on a one-way mission to the outskirts of the solar system. And Alexandria needs Ryann’s help to communicate with her.
The Ilori are an alien race who have recently taken over Earth. But their initial attack came with a horrifying price — a misunderstanding between leaders on Earth and Ilori leaders resulted in the mass extinction of human life. Enter the present day where Ellie lives in NYC in an Ilori-controlled environment. In this world, any form of emotional expression has been strictly outlawed, but Ellie secretly keeps a library full of books from pre-Ilori invasion. When she’s caught, M0Rr1s is instructed to deliver her for execution but he is also harboring a secret: He is intrigued by the music and arts of the past. And having Ellie under his control could be an excellent opportunity to learn more.
Are you ready for a Jane Eyre retelling…in space?! Stella lives aboard a spaceship orbiting an uninhabitable Earth. She has dreams of leaving her ship and going anywhere else — so when she’s given a chance to be a governess aboard a private ship, she eagerly accepts. It’s aboard the Rochester that she meets Captain Hugo and sparks fly. The more Stella learns about a potential plot to kill Hugo, the more she becomes suspicious of his true role aboard the Rochester.
Jamal is given a second to repair his relationship with his ex-best friend, Q, thanks to an amazing new medical technology. For the last two years, Jamal has blamed Q for the death of his parents and completely wrote him off in the process. But after witnessing Q’s untimely death, he brings him back to life for the chance to fix their friendship before Q disappears, this time for good.
Anna is keeping a secret. A few actually. Not only is her heart made from machines, but she also moonlights as the Technician, a vigilante who brings black market medical supplies to those in need. Nathaniel is the son of the Commissioner, the leader who has made life so miserable that Anna is out here being an outlaw. Nathaniel is desperate to earn the respect of his father. So he sets out to capture the Technician. Lives collide as more join the cat-and-mouse game and betrayal is imminent.
Taking place in the fictional Mega City, Nalah is the leader of Las Mal Criadas, the fiercest all-girl crew in town. But Nalah dreams of leaving this life of surviving on the streets and settling down in Mega Towers, a highly-coveted and exclusive residence. To earn a place there, Nalah will need to prove her loyalty and do unspeakable things to the people who she once counted as close friends and confidantes.
Want more standalones? We’ve got more where that came from. Check out these lists of more sci-fi (and fantasy!) standalone books rec’d by other Book Riot writers!