Mindee Arnett, 2015. 413 pages.
High School: 9-12
TDRL Juvenile Fiction: JuvFic Arnett
Seventeen year old orphan Jeth Seagrave has worked for crime boss Hammer Dafoe ever since his uncle Milton gambled away the family's spaceship, the Avalon, in one of Hammer's rigged casinos. The Avalon was designed for deep space exploration and has a meta drive which enables her to "jump" at will across the galaxy,making her incredibly valuable because she doesn’t need to use Interstellar Transit Authority (ITA) jump gates.In an effort to someday save enough money to buy the Avalon back, Jeth works for Hammer by running the Malleus Shades, a crew of teenaged thieves (which includes his younger sister, Lizzie) who are are very good at what they do ... up to and including stealing meta drive equipped spacecraft so that Hammer can sell them on the black market to people who want to circumvent the ITA. After the Shades pull off a particularly daring heist, Hammer makes Jeth an offer. He will cancel the debt on the Avalon if Jeth takes it into a dangerous region of space and retrieves a stranded vessel called the Donerail, with its cargo intact, unseen, and no questions asked. The secret that Jeth and the Shades discover on the Donerail pits Jeth's fear of Hammer versus his need to protect his family and crew, versus doing what he knows is right. It will not be an easy choice.
Mindee Arnett has created a slam-bang action-packed story. Avalon is a very hard book to put down. The plotting is incredible, and the characters of Jeth, his sister Lizzie, the rest of Jeth's gang, and several other people they meet along the way is vivid and well thought out. She's done a good job of establishing that each of the Malleus Shades is a teenager who's had to grow up too fast, which explains their skills and the kinds of jobs Hammer wants them to pull. Jeth often finds himself in situations where he has no good options because he is at the mercy of adults who are either irresponsible or ruthless and cruel. However, Jeth may be down, but he's never out. He's scrappy and resourceful, and his loyalty to family and friends pays off in the end.
This is a book that fans of SF will adore. If a person has enjoyed TV shows like The Expanse, Killjoys, or Firefly, they will dive right into the rich and engrossing world that Arnett has created. Beyond SF fans, an additional audience for Avalon is anybody who has ever had to deal with abandonment or betrayal by family or authority figures; Jeth and Lizzie will be easy for them to identify with. Finally, there is a thread of hope throughout the book. Even when things look dire and Jeth thinks he has no options, he never stops trying, he and his friends always find a way to retain agency.
Bibliotherapy Topics: Independence/Self-Sufficiency, Relationships with Family Members - Character struggles with family relationships, Trauma
Katherine Keller - TDRL Evening and Weekend Supervisor