Alison Goodman, Blake Nelson, Blake Goodman, . . Viking, $16.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03610-3

Seventeen-year-old Joss Aaronson, a brilliant, resourceful student who chafes at authority, narrates this tale of galactic conspiracy unfolding at an elite high school. Joss is one of the few students of time travel at the Centre for Neo-Historical Studies, and her feisty narration crackles with energy ("I remembered a saying that you can never return home. I'd add a rider to that—if you do return home, give back your key and get the hell out of there"). Humanity has recently made first contact with an alien race, the intriguingly odd Chorians (characterized by two noses, two mouths and a Borg-like group-think), and a Chorian student, Mavkel, has come to study at the Centre. Because the Chorians do not work alone, Mavkel must have a partner—and in grand ceremony, Joss is deemed the chosen one. As the story unfolds, the two play a crucial role in an expansive diplomatic drama. The setting may be somewhat familiar to SF readers—in Goodman's future, a vividly realized quasi-nightmare, many of the finest technological achievements turn out to be mixed blessings—but the ideas come tumbling out of the narrative with such speed and ease that this world becomes an entirely new creation. Each page seems to offer two or three new ideas, any one of which could give rise to an entire chapter. Indeed, readers will likely find that not only do they need to read this novel a second time in order to catch all the details, they will look forward to it. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)