The Orpheus Plot

Christopher Swiedler. HarperCollins, $16.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-289444-1

Though the Naval Academy has never accepted a cadet from the Asteroid Belt, Lucas Adebayo, 13, a crack pilot who grew up on his father’s mining ship, dreams of joining his adoptive sister Tali Chen, 16, who was accepted because of the lack of discrimination against Mars-born applicants. When Lucas is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend, he accepts wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, he’s subjected to anti-Belter prejudice and bullying, constantly forced to justify his presence. Worse, to protect her own reputation, Tali pretends not to know him. With the aid of his roommates—tall, blonde Elena, who cannot tell a lie, and Rahul, who uses corneal implants to overcome astral vertigo—Lucas perseveres. But when the academy teaching ship Orpheus is drawn into the middle of a miner-led uprising, Lucas must decide where his loyalties lie, especially when torn between duty and conscience. Though themes surrounding marginalization feel poorly wrought, Swiedler (In the Red) offers a fast-paced tale about defying expectations; the novel’s focus on character dynamics and scientific plausibility makes this a read reminiscent of Robert Heinlein novels. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Bridget Smith, Dunham Literary. (June) [/em]