Iron Thorn, by Caitlin Kittredge
Aoife lives in a world where science and reason are the only religion. There is no magic, no gods, nothing weird or strange or fantastical. And anyone who says or acts otherwise is either a heretic, or infected with a deadly nanovirus. Aoife's mother is, in fact, infected with the nanovirus; and lives in one of the city's many mental hospitals. Luckily Aoife, whose father is not in the picture, is smart, and she has been allowed to attend the School of Engineering. Unluckily, Aoife is almost 16, the age when her older brother's nanovirus manifested itself and he tried to kill her before disappearing. But Aoife doesn't believe that her brother really tried to harm her, and she's been getting secret correspondence from him since he disappeared. Weeks before her own 16th birthday, Aoife receives a brief letter from him: Help. She finds out he has gone north to find their father, and tells Aoife she must follow him. Withing nothing to lose, Aoife sets out on a dangerous adventure and discovers a lot more about the world she lives in...and some she doesn't.
That may be the worst summary ever! But I didn't want to give too much away. For the most part, I enjoyed Iron Thorn. I liked the world that Kittredge built: it's an alternate United States around 1959/1960, with steampunk touches. That's a time period you don't see a lot of in YA fiction these days, and it allowed the author to add some fun details, such as the 1950s morals (think Sandy in the first part of Grease), and a James Dean-esque bad boy. The first part of this book was really creepy and trippy, which I loved. As the story unfolded and the reader -- along with Aoife -- start figuring out what's really going on, things became more straight forward. Unfortunately, this is about the time I started getting really irritated with Aoife. I felt like she was just so dense and very uneven. I really wanted to smack her a few times. The secondary characters were interesting, but I would have liked to see a little more development. Fortunately, it's a trilogy, so maybe that will come in later books. I will also say that the very end of the book picked up quite a bit, and really left me wanting to read the next installment. My only other complaint with the book, is that I didn't really feel the romance. It seemed a bit forced to me.
Overall, it was a good read, if not one of my favorites.