Hullmetal Girls

Hullmetal Girls

by Emily Skrutskie


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"Filled with badass girls and epic adventures" (Buzzfeed), Hullmetal Girls is "a little Ender's Game, a little Hunger Games, [and] a little Battlestar Gallactica." (NPR)

Don't miss the novel that New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis says "you will devour in one sitting," perfect for fans of Alita, Pierce Brown, and the Illuminae series.

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor's salary isn't enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she's from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha's and Key's paths collide, and the two must learn to work together—a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintian unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
A Paste Best Book of the Year

"Hullmetal Girls has everything I love in a space opera: deep faith, high stakes, endless questions about humanity, and a cast that shows the best (and less-best) of what we might become." -E.K. Johnston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of That Inevitable Victorian Thing
"From the badass cybernetics to the space opera politics, there is so much to adore about Hullmetal Girls. It's a captivating sci-fi adventure that will make you fall madly for Skrutski's fabulous writing, if you haven't already. [Perfect] for fans of: Cindy Pon (Want) and Pierce Brown (Red Rising)."—Paste

"An unexpected and clever story that is difficult to put down. Skrutskie's cast of characters, including the adults, is very well developed...[as they] unravel the mystery at the heart of their society....A great science fiction story."—VOYA, Starred Review
"[An] exciting standalone...full of shifting allegiances...[and] ethnically diverse main characters with a range of sexual identities."—SLJ

"An engaging narrative with a complex cast that intersects race, sexual identity, religion, and class."—Kirkus Reviews

"Emily Skrutskie's complex, space-based post-apocalyptic world is...a gripping and intelligent young adult read."—Shelf Awareness

"Packed with diverse characters...and [with] much of the story's conflict stems from class-based tension, Skrutskie's examination of what defines humanity, family, and free will makes this an engaging, satisfying story."—Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524770198
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 07/17/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 594,644
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Emily Skrutskie was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She attended Cornell University and now lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Emily is the author of Hullmetal Girls, The Abyss Surrounds Us, and The Edge of the Abyss. To learn more about her and her books, go to or follow @skrutskie on Twitter and Instagram.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


In the quiet of the early morning, before the Reliant’s lights begin to glow, I plan two funerals.

The first is for my little brother. Amar lies in the far corner of the room, a mask over his face to keep him from breathing his affliction into the rest of us. He’s mercifully asleep, and part of me hopes he’ll stay that way until I leave. With the wasting fever’s claws in his tiny body, he needs every moment of rest he can get. His funeral—-if it happens, if the worst happens, if I fail—-will be a proper Ledic ceremony. A temple service, a reading from the scripture, a procession to the airlock. Prayers for his soul’s journey following him into the vacuum of space.

The second funeral is my own. All it takes is the scratch of my initials at the bottom of a datapad. There will be no service, no scripture, no procession for me. If I don’t survive the procedure, my body will be incinerated before anyone has a chance to pray over it. There’s an option to return a portion of the ashes to the Reliant, but there are no half measures with a true Ledic burial. I’ve accepted that I’ll never get one.

“Aisha?” I turn to the door, where my aunt Yasmin stands silhouetted by the light in the hall. Her hair is loose from its usual plait, and it makes her even more of a stranger than she already is. “Did you sleep?”

I shake my head, holding up the datapad. Yasmin slips into the dark of the room and pulls it out of my hands. The glow of the screen deepens the wrinkles at the edge of her eyes and swells the dark bags beneath them.

When she reaches the end of the page, she gives me a sharp look. “You’re sure?”

I flinch. Of course I’m not sure. Of course I’m scared to pieces. Ever since I showed up on her doorstep mere hours ago, she’s been asking variants on the same question. Aren’t there other options? Is this really what Amar needs? You know there’s no coming back from this, right?

My empty stomach keens, and I swallow back the sour taste in my throat. Fasting to conserve money for Amar bled easily enough into fasting for the surgery. Between that and the recent recruiting drive, it almost feels like fate. Providence. A sign I’m meant to walk down this path. None of that is enough to pull the fear out of my heart.

So I’ll just have to do it scared. “This is everything you’ll need to get the first payments,” I say, nodding to the datapad. “And instructions for if . . .”

A glance at the corner of the room finishes the sentence I can’t bring myself to end. Silence settles over us, broken only by the slight noises of Amar breathing against the mask and the deeper, ever--present hum of starship machinery.

“Aisha,” Yasmin starts.

I sink my face in my hands, my fingers pushing back the edge of my headscarf. “Don’t,” I breathe. There are no better options, and even if there were, there wouldn’t be time to take them. At the rate Amar’s illness is progressing, he’ll be sent into quarantine aboard the starship Panacea before any treatment I can afford will take hold. And if he goes into quarantine, he won’t survive it. I can’t let Yasmin sway me.

But instead of wheedling, her voice drops low and urgent. “There’s something I need your help with. After you’re . . .”

This morning is filled with sentences we can’t seem to finish. I pull my hands down over my mouth, breathing out my nose into the space between my fingers. Wariness tugs at me, nudging through the quiet terror that’s kept me up all night. “What is it?”

In the half--light from the hall, I can’t quite read her expression. My aunt purses her lips, her brows lowering. “I need you to—-”

A sudden burst of coughing from the corner of the room interrupts us. I push past Yasmin, dropping to my knees at my brother’s side as he shudders back into consciousness. “Easy, easy,” I whisper, pulling the bottom of my headscarf up over my nose. Love and revulsion wage war inside me, but in the end I know I can’t touch him.

Amar blinks slowly. His eyes are slightly gummed at the edges. Furious purple tracks run down his face, the undeniable marks of the disease etched into his skin. “Hurts,” he keens.

Yasmin’s hand lands on my shoulder. “The shuttle leaves soon. I’ll go get Malikah up to say good--bye.”

I nod, trying to keep my breathing shallow as my heart balloons inside my chest. With no sleep and no food in my stomach, I’m struggling to grasp the reality of this moment. This is happening, I tell myself. I’ve made my choice. I can’t back down.

Yasmin slips out the door, leaving it open so the light floods in. Amar’s eyes roll as he takes in the room—-sparse décor, threadbare red drapery, the ceiling cracked in unfamiliar places. “Where are we?” he whimpers.

I clamp my free hand under my arm to keep from reaching out and brushing away the hair plastered to his sweaty forehead. “We went to Yasmin’s,” I tell him softly. “She’s going to look after you now. She’ll make sure you get better.”

His face screws up with alarm. “You’re leaving?”

I make soft shushing noises into the fabric of my headscarf. “I have to go. I . . .” I hesitate, stuck on how I can explain the economics of my choice to a six--year--old without sounding like I’m blaming him for what’s about to happen. He’s too sick for me to leave him alone anymore, but my janitor’s salary isn’t enough to pay for his care. “I’m taking care of the money, so you don’t have to worry and Malikah doesn’t have to work.”

I don’t specify how I’m taking care of things. In his feverish state, it’ll only be fuel for nightmares that his weakened body might not be able to handle. It’s best for him to rest now, which means it’s best I get out of here fast. I bow my head, breathing out a soft prayer as Amar’s eyelids droop.

“I’ll come back as soon as I can,” I promise him. “I’ll just . . . I’ll just be a little taller.”

They take Pascao into the surgery before me, and fifteen minutes later, they’re wheeling out his broken, twisted body.

He’s the fourth person to die today, but the first I remembered to pray for. Guilt hums through me, and I duck my head as the gurney trundles past and veers down the hall to the incinerator. Pascao gave up his seat for me when I arrived in the overcrowded waiting room. He helped me read the orientation docs, filling in the places where my vocabulary failed and puzzling with me over what things like purity of integration and biostasis meant. He smiled a lot, and he was volunteering for similar reasons—-a family in need, a sense of duty. I tell myself that’s why I prayed for him.

I’m lying, though. If those were my reasons, I’d be muttering strains for everyone in this line. With unrest growing in the Fleet and a slew of Fractionist rebels arrested just last week, the General Body has launched a recruitment drive. The waiting room is crowded with desperate people answering the call, and every single person here runs the same risk as Pascao.

But I prayed for the old man because I needed the distraction. It isn’t even fair of me to call him “old man.” He certainly isn’t anywhere near the ideal recruitment age, but he’s only in his late forties. Was only in his late forties when they tried to strap an exo-rig on him and it snapped him in half. I prayed for him because I’m next in line.

But prayer can’t do anything for the Godless grip of Scela machinery.


Excerpted from "Hullmetal Girls"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Emily Skrutskie.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Hullmetal Girls 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Rebecca_J_Allen More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because of the promise of kick-butt girls in space. It had that and more! The book pulled me immediately into the life and motivations of Aisha. Her religious beliefs give her every reason to NOT allow her body to be enhanced – except that it’s her only chance to protect her sick brother and younger sister. Aisha’s closely-held beliefs feel genuine and make her a stand-out in the YA spec fic market. The fact that she’s caught between her beliefs and the cybernetic enhancements she’d taken on creates a constant source of tension in the story. Aisha’s beliefs also put her in direct contrast with Key, a girl of action, not faith. But beneath her tough exterior, Key struggles to hide her faulty memory, a difficult thing to do since their team has been augmented with mental connections which allow them to read each other’s thoughts and emotions and therefore perform well as a team. Both girls struggle with the mutual acceptance and cooperation they’ll need work together effectively and earn a spot among the elite units protecting the fleet. I found this a quick read for space sci fi. Skrutskie includes plenty of world-building, but not world-building for its own sake, only as needed to move the plot forward. The story is told in first person, alternating perspectives, which allows the reader to really get to know both girls and move with them through the story. Twists and turns along the way keep the plot interesting. It will appeal to readers of Nyxia by Scott Reintgen and LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff.
Kaleena More than 1 year ago
Hullmetal Girls is an ambitious science fiction novel that brings together many elements into an interesting (and frightening) future. The book gripped me with its first words, providing just enough of a primer of the world, the customs, and I had high hopes for this Battlestar Galactica mashup with cyborgs and a militaristic dystopian future. Unfortunately, this book fell short for me and didn't live up to my hopes. "The Chancellor sees us the way humans do, the way I used to see Scela. We're tools. Weapons. Things to be wielded with force." It's been three hundred and one years since humanity left the solar system and took to space in search of a new planet to call home. They live in a fleet of ships that are all under Commander Vel's command and searching for a home together. Due to rising tensions from the Fractionists that want to see the fleet split up into smaller groups to search, Vel has requested a large recruitment drive for people to volunteer to become Scela, cyborgs in the General Body that are the military force of the fleet. Hullmetal Girls is told in the alternating perspectives of new Sclea recruits Aisha Un-Haad and Key Tanaka, but there are also two secondary characters that are part of their "unit": Woojin Lin and Praava. --We are introduced to Aisha as she is going in for her procedure to be made into a Scela (what they call cyborgs) and serve in the General Body. We are present for the painful operation of her taking the metal. She is from the backend of the fleet, the poorer areas, and has chosen this to help her siblings. --We are introduced to Key as she wakes up from the procedure in recovery and discovers that she has no memory of her life prior to the operation. By her mannerisms and drive, she deduces that she is from the front of the fleet, privileged in ways that mean she wouldn't need to choose this life. Is she a true believer? The characters all took to the metal for different reasons; however, we learn that Key doesn't remember those reasons or anything from her life before. "Nothing left for me except my exo and this new purpose I found in the fragments of myself." Much of the story is consumed by the conversion to Scela and their training, and I was left wondering what the plot of the book actually was. While there were hints to the political situation and the potential conspiracies, for me they were mired down by the Scela conversion and training. I don't read a lot of science fiction with cyborgs so this may be something typical of the genre that isn't to my personal preferences. I found myself bored and skimming after about 40% of the book, and it wasn't until conspiracies arose and motives were questioned that I got back into the story a bit. I like a dual-POV story, especially with characters like Aisha and Key that obviously are from different situations and backgrounds; however, at times their inner monologues were very repetitive, adding to the feelings I had that the book was drawn out longer than necessary. I also found the character motivations a little blurred at times, shifting without reason as it suited the narrative. There are a number of occasions where Aisha or Key's position on a subject made a complete 180 with hardly any convincing or acknowledgement that they had changed their mind. There are many elements explored in this tale: religion (Ledic) versus... I assume atheism, as the Ledic disdain was clear
BookFreakOut More than 1 year ago
Hullmetal Girls takes the rigid classism and confined society of Snowpiercer and launches it into space for an action-packed space opera adventure. Aisha and Key each have distinct voices as narrators, especially Key - I thought getting an inside look at her elitist mentality was extremely valuable and appropriately disconcerting; she provides a good contrast for Aisha's "backend" upbringing. Their stories and perspectives seemed disjointed initially and it was hard to sink into one before being switched to the other, but things come together as they are unwillingly thrust into each other's lives, and the majority of the story delivers a smooth reading experience. The loss of autonomy in the Scela ranks was extremely fascinating and provides an uniquely unnerving element to the story. I'd recommend it for that alone, but it also boasts interesting world-building, excellent action and agonizing choices about the good of the many vs. the lives of the few.