Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz

A couple of weeks ago, I took my 12-year-old daughter to the town library in search of something to read. When I asked the librarian in charge of the YA section to recommend something without suicide or sex, she said, without hostility but quite firmly that we were in the wrong section. Apparently those were the predominant themes of modern YA literature. (Mind you, this is the stuff offered to them as pleasure reading, in addition to the doom-and-gloom highbrow literature they’re already required to read for school.) And then we wonder why so many of today’s teens are A. depressed and B. avoid pleasure reading at all costs.

It is therefore with great pleasure that I report on this latest offering from a science fiction author Jon del Arroz. For Steam and Country is, as the title implies, a steampunk adventure first and foremost, but it also succeeds brilliantly as YA.

The protagonist, Zaira von Monocle, is a 16-year-old, who–shocker!–actually behaves as a normal teen, even though the circumstances of her life are anything but ordinary. Sure, she is a daughter of a great adventurer, who inherits her father’s airship and goes off to far away lands and gets involved in battles that might decide the fate of her country. Yet at the same time she is subject to the same challenges and emotions as any teen. She has a secret crush on a neighbor boy who, frustratingly, only sees her as a friend. She feels sad about having lost her mother at a young age and devastated at the news that her father is presumed dead. She has a comically adorable attachment to her pet ferret (yes, there’s a ferret named Toby, and he’s important to the plot!). And, as most teenagers, she has her flaws: she is stubborn, occasionally rash, doesn’t know her limitations while at the same time being insecure… Did I mention the “normal teen” thing? If you don’t have teens of your own, just take my word for it. Zaira is true to life, perhaps more so than the cynical and too-smart-for-their-age creatures that populate modern YA fiction, especially the kind geared towards girls.

 

Read the full review at Marina’s Musings

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About Marina

Marina Fontaine is a Russian by birth, an American by choice, and an unrepentant book addict.
Because of her background, she loves to discover and support pro-freedom literature. She runs Small Government Book Fan Club on Goodreads, Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance group on Facebook, and a personal commentary/review blog, Marina’s Musings.
Her works include Chasing Freedom (a Dragon Awards finalist) and The Product, a dystopian novella published by Superversive Press.
Marina lives in New Jersey with her very supportive husband, three children and four guinea pigs, working as an accountant by day and a writer by night. Her other interests include hard rock music, action movies and travel.

  • Overgrown Hobbit

    . When I asked the librarian in charge of the YA section to recommend something without suicide or sex, she said, without hostility but quite firmly that we were in the wrong section.

    You got a crapulent librarian.

    The teen collection runs from either 6th or 7th grade through 12th. Of COURSE there will be stories without either of suicide or sex. At least if this woman is doing anything like the job she is supposed to do. She cannot guarantee that the entire collection over there will be 100% free from suicide and or sex, but that’s what the Easy / Everybody collection is for.

    It can be hard to find girl-centric stories without any romance, but no sex scenes? Sure. Let me know what your yard ape enjoys and I’ll try to put a book list together for her.