Tag Archives: Young-adult fiction

The Lighthouse Land – Adrian McKinty

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The Lighthouse Land is a science fiction first-of-series by Adrian McKinty that is probably tagged as a YA novel. It’s not in the angst and sex tradition of formula Young Adult lit so it will work for younger children, too, and I enjoyed it—one of those ageless stories that are just great escapist reading.

Jamie O’Neill hasn’t spoken since the cancer specialists removed his left arm, saving his life, and his father decamped from Manhattan to the West Coast to live with his girlfriend. His mom moved the two of them to a ratty Harlem apartment with cheapo rent, spotty heat, a resident bully and holes in the ceiling, to make ends meet. Ends don’t often meet—the medical bills aren’t covered by insurance and dear old dad is a deadbeat with a new house and a new wife. So Jamie has nothing at all to say.

Then mom inherits a tiny island off the coast of Ireland with an ancient lighthouse, a half-submerged causeway to the mainland, a title and a modest trust. Jamie bids farewell to his elderly chess partner and good friend from the local library, Thaddeus, and the adventure begins. It’s a real adventure. Their new cottage is safe, solid and comfortable; the lighthouse is a thousand-year-old ruin that predates the Vikings; a friend from the regional high school is a math whiz and a cool guy; and Thaddeus has given Jamie a laptop that speaks typed conversations aloud so he can communicate better until he finds his voice again.

All would be well in this new adventure, until the boys discover a secret room at the top of the lighthouse tower with a strange golden device that might be the fabled magical Salmon—and it is, of course, and it is also a port key that opens a wormhole to another planet in a galaxy with two moons and a civilization in peril. Jamie, the future Laird of Muck Island, is a descendent of the Ui Neills, the last of the Irish kings. On a clandestine visit to the distant land, he discovers that the daughter of a local leader has been waiting in a lighthouse on a coastal island for the legendary Ui Niells to return to help her people deflect a raid from barbarians who arrive in massive ships made of glaciers.

The Lighthouse Land is a great quest with all the requisite strategic planning, hopeless lack of battle technology to defeat the invaders, kids on their own facing down enormous peril, the beginnings of a love interest, time running out (not to mention the inexplicable battery on the wormhole-creating Salmon), outrageous attempts to frighten and defeat the iceship marauders, and a few strange tokens of an endangered world with odd animals and appealing, human-like people. Jamie and his friend Ramsay are in as much danger as the people they are trying to save. More to come in this saga—it’s a trilogy—and I suspect the second and third books will be as entertaining to read.       

The Lighthouse Land (Lighthouse Trilogy)    Adrian McKinty | Amulet Books   2007

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The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – Jennifer E. Smith

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The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a YA novel that, incredibly, has no suicides, drug addictions, depression-inducing bullying, vampires or werewolves at the heart of the plot—or anywhere on its pages. Jennifer E. Smith’s book is also readable, if somewhat relentlessly introspective. The narration is first-person—a 17-year-old girl who examines her fears and emotions incessantly, and a tad tiresomely, but manages to navigate from start to finish at a reasonable pace anyway.

I suspect the obsessive self-examination is a teen tendency I have mercifully forgotten so it probably makes sense to the intended readers. And the story is not bad—a real fairytale with a handsome, witty prince who rides to the rescue, an attractive and beleaguered heroine who is stubborn, plucky and smart enough to know when to change her mind, and settings and events worthy of a Disney princess animation. There is a missed flight, an overnight change of venue from New York to London, a charming wedding, a graveyard and a few other locations that reflect upscale finances and a remove from gritty reality. Very aspirational.

The crux of the story is the validity of the concept of love at first sight in a world of divorce, remarriage, confused loyalties and sudden infatuation . The book is an extended experiment to prove or disprove the hypothesis, find out how to deal with love and loss when neither is simple or pain-free, and resolve the conflicts of the heart. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is very sweet, funny and entertaining. In the YA world of today, that’s really a refreshing change.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight   Jennifer E. Smith | Little, Brown and Company   2012