Read this if you're in the mood for: YA sci-fi, epic world-building, character development, strong supporting characters, stand-alone novel, feminism
Summary: Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
[Ed. note: It's a totally accurate summary, but it just doesn't do this book justice!)
Read this if you like:
Between the unusual jargon, diverse societies both on planet and in space (with a dystopian blend of the past and future), and merchant spaceships, I definitely felt a hint or two (or three) of the FIREFLY world. Also, both FIREFLY and SALVAGE have an incredibly well-drawn cast of characters.
The Lunar Chronicles Series / CINDER, Marissa Meyer
Feminism + standout characters + amazing world-building + spaceships? Yes! Plus, bonus points for both Cinder and Ava being mechanics!
The Rec: (This will be longer than normal, to help make more sense of the summary!)
THE PLOT: In the beginning of SALVAGE, Ava has never left the confines of the merchant ship Parastrata and its male-dominated polygamist society. She doesn't know that she should want more from life than physical labor and becoming one of a man's many wives whose main function is to make babies. But her desire for knowledge to learn "fixes" (mechanical skills to fix machinery) hints at the person she could be. Then Ava makes an impulsive, naive decision ... which is also an epic mistake in her unforgiving society, and to escape death, she flees to Earth — a post-climate-change planet of storms and garbage. First in Gyre, and later in Mumbai (!), Ava is confronted with a world that doesn't limit her potential, so she has to renegotiate who she is and who she imagines herself becoming. It's the ultimate culture shock.
THE CHARACTERS: The supporting characters are so richly imagined, complex, and diverse — but I'm afraid I'll spoil some things if I describe them. But they were all imperfect and multi-dimensional, and I loved how their relationships with Ava develop.
THE ROMANCE: The romance question — yes, a romance does develop, but no, there's no love triangle, because interest in two people does NOT a love triangle make! Interest in two people is totally normal, and in SALVAGE it works wonderfully, because one represents the best of the world she left, and one represents the new world she's come to know ... and neither overwhelm the story.
THE END: Totally satisfying. This had series potential, but I was so so so happy that Duncan kept it a stand-alone!
The Caveat: Like Firefly, this book begins with a lot of jargon, and it's confusing at first. POWER THROUGH, PEOPLE. You'll catch on quickly, and it's so, so worth it! Also, this is a big book... but it's an epic stand-alone, so the size is warranted!
You should read this because: The writing is stellar, the world-building is fascinating, and the characters are deftly drawn. Plus, there's a stand-alone companion coming out this September called SOUND, and the MC is an awesome supporting character from SALVAGE, Miyole!