Dessen, Sarah. Along for the Ride.

NY: Viking, 2009.

I only recently discovered this author, whose books are marketed as Young Adult, but I’m very impressed with her work, period. She considers themes and issues of interest to teenagers, but they should also actually appeal to any reader who is interested in people and how they interact with each other. And Dessen never, ever writes down to her readers. She expects you to pay attention and think about what you’re reading regardless of your age.

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Feintuch, David. Challenger’s Hope.

NY: Warner Aspect, 1995.

This is the second volume of the “Seafort Saga,” featuring young Commander Nick Seafort of the UN Naval Service in the late 22nd century, and it’s natural to compare it with the first volume, in which an eighteen-year-old midshipmen suddenly finds himself in command of — and responsible for — a passenger-carrying warship. Nick triumphed over a long list of a wide variety of adversities on that first voyage, even while developing a pretty low opinion of his own abilities.

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Addison, Katherine. The Goblin Emperor.

NY: Tor, 2014.

I’ve been an avid fan of all sorts of science fiction all my life but I’ve always been much pickier about fantasy. There’s a tendency to posit non-human semi-supernatural races of beings for their own sake, and to just wave a wand and say “Magic!” as a cop-out when you don’t want to have to explain something that would be counter to natural law. Tolkien has a lot to answer for in my book. I am a fan, though, of authors like Joe Abercrombie, whose fantasy worlds are more “real.” Addison (who is really Sarah Monette, and has published a number of horror and weird fantasy novels under that name) is closer to that style, and this politics-heavy yarn has a lot to recommend it.

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Pratchett, Terry. Johnny and the Dead.

NY: Doubleday, 1993.

This is the second in the “Johnny Maxwell” trilogy of young adult novels, and it’s even better than the first one. Johnny is twelve and living in the Midlands, just trying to slog though adolescence. In the first book, he discovered that computer games can involve the Real World and that aliens are people, too. This time, it is revealed that the deceased aren’t really that different from the living, if you’re one of the few who can see and communicate with them — which Johnny is, which he discovers when he takes a shortcut through the local cemetery just before Halloween.

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Rosoff, Meg. Picture Me Gone.

NY: Putnam, 2013.

Rossoff has become a noteworthy — and award-winning — author of Young Adult novels but this is the first of hers I’ve read. It definitely won’t be the last. Mila is a very bright and almost preternaturally observant twelve-year-old (“If there is something to notice, I will notice it first”) living in London with her translator father and concert-violinist mother. It’s a quietly loving family and she knows just how lucky she is, especially compared to her best friend, whose parents are splitting up. Her father, Gil, is planning to journey to America during the Easter holiday to visit Matthew, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen in eight years, and since he’s not very good at taking care of himself, Mila is going along to keep an eye on him.

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Swierczynski, Duane. Revolver.

NY: Mulholland Books, 2016.

I stumbled on one of this author’s earlier crime novels a few years ago and became an almost instant fan of his rather noir style. He’s a Philadelphian through and through and the seamy side of the city he knows so well becomes a character in his books, too. And this time, he indulges in an unusual sort of narrative strategy.

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Yukimura, Makoto. Planetes. Vol. 2.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2016.

The first volume, in which we met Hachi Hoshino, orbital garbage man, and the debris-collection crew of which he is a part, was an amazing combination of plot, narrative, characterization, philosophy, and nicely done, very clean art to support it all. The overarching theme there was the preparation for the seven-year exploratory voyage to Jupiter, and Hachi’s determination to be a part of it, no matter what.

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Feintuch, David. Midshipman’s Hope.

NY: Warner Aspect, 1994.

Everyone says this opening volume of the “Seafort Saga,” which won the Campbell Award, is based heavily on Horatio Hornblower, but those people apparently don’t actually read Napoleonic naval adventures. The set-up is actually much more like Dudley Pope’s first novel featuring Lieut. Nicholas Ramage, in which the youngest and least experienced officer aboard a British warship suddenly finds himself thrust into command in the middle of a crisis. Because that’s what happens here, more or less.

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Gaiman, Neil & Charles Vess. Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie.

NY: DC Comics, 1997.

Neil is the modern master of the fairy tale, and he writes all kinds, from comic to wistful to thoroughly noir. This one is of the traditional variety, though often with tongue firmly in cheek. Gaiman won a number of awards for this one, and deserved them. Vess won another bunch of awards for the art which greatly enhances nearly every page. He reminds me a little of Arthur Rackham and a lot of Alicia Austin, and that’s praise.

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Pelecanos, George P. The Night Gardener.

NY: Little, Brown, 2006.

I’ve read a number of the entries in this author’s several highly regarded series of crime novels, all set in Washington, D.C., but this one is a standalone, and it may be his best book yet. Gus Ramone, who is (I think) part-Hispanic and part-Italian, is a sergeant in homicide who loves his job, even while he hates the necessity for it. His wife is a black ex-cop, and that and their two mixed-race kids provide much of the background for Pelecanos’s ongoing commentary about the reality of race relations in the District.

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