Book of the Week - Away is a Strange Place to Be

As a teenager, this was my book. I must have read it a dozen times and was the catalyst to my science fiction fascination. In this futuristic adventure, H. M. Hoover delivers an action-filled plot that is perfectly in keeping with her young audience. Having read all of H.M. Hoover's books, this one is by far my favorite.

Twelve-year-old Abby is our heroine, living and working with her uncle on Earth at the luxurious Inn they own. She's not sure where she fits in or if she really wants to inherit the Inn when she grows up. Bryan is spoiled rich kid who is unhappy with his life and his parents and never considers anyone other than himself. All that changes when they are both kidnapped and taken to a far away artificial world of Vita Con to work as slave laborers. The two of them have to work together to escape and get back home. In the process the two of them must mature and learn from one another, but Abby is far from helpless and both of them are far from docile and helpless. The threats are real and clearly deadly. From the first line of this story readers know something has happened to Abby, and they will be eager to find out what and why as it unfolds. The pages turn fast and furiously to reach a satisfying and positive conclusion.

What works so well? H. M. Hoover uses strong character relationships to carry the story. The relationship of a young boy and girl and their friendship, though no romance here, these books are strictly preteen. She chronicles how they both grow up substantially through their adventure, learning what their old lives have to offer and how to take responsibility for bringing about a better future. But there's also an exciting adventure tale of kidnap and escape that any young person can identify with and enjoy. Hoover's futuristic universe has familiar elements and dangers of our own, but the settings are imaginative and exotic-providing readers with new worlds to explore. There are too many stories I've read where the young heroes feel passive or talked down to, or the entire universe seems to be populated with well-meaning adults. Hoover does not allow this to happen. There are villains and self-interested adults. There are helpful criminals and angry bullies who have painful secrets. Nobody is all good or bad, and getting back home isn't an easy business for it takes a good deal of ingenuity and courage. It's a formula that will appeal to many young readers.


Unknown said...

Yup! I'm glad I'm not the only one who liked this! I read it repeatedly and then it disappeared from my library branch before I was old enough (or organized enough, possibly) to put it on hold. I'll have to see if it holds up to the years. :D