Erin Bowman's Taken falls into that category. I'm not sure what grabbed me when I first heard about it. Maybe it's the premise: a small town in the future where males mysteriously vanish at the age of eighteen. Maybe it's the really cool cover. Maybe it's that the author replies to all my tweets.
I don't know. Whatever it is, I was really looking forward to Taken.
And now that I've read it, I'm happy to report.... It's really good.
The premise, as I said, is intriguing: in the town of Claysoot, there are no adult males, because all boys disappear in a bright beam of light on the day of their eighteenth birthdays. This disappearance, which the townspeople call "The Heist," is completely unexplained--because once you're Heisted, you're gone for good. The story begins as seventeen-year-old Gray Weathersby awaits the Heist of his older brother Blaine. Once Blaine is gone, further unexplained events lead Gray to climb the wall surrounding Claysoot in search of answers. No one's ever come back from climbing the wall. But maybe Gray will be different....
Well, of course he'll be different, or there'd be no story. I'm not going to give anything else away, but suffice it to say he makes it over the wall and discovers a lot of really wild stuff.
Taken is impressive in a number of ways. The writing is crisp and clean, the characters are well rendered, the pace is fast (a bit too fast; Gray's impulsiveness sometimes seems excessive), and the world is suitably original. At first I thought it was rather derivative of The Hunger Games--the Heist seemed reminiscent of the Reaping, while the main character, Gray, is a feisty hunter who favors the bow and arrow and whose relationship with his sibling is central to the plot--but Bowman takes the story in new and surprising directions. The revelation of the mystery behind the Heist wasn't quite as awesome as I'd hoped it would be, but it was awesome enough. Especially for a debut, Taken was good stuff.
And even better, I get to meet Bowman in a few weeks at a Young Adult authors tour. I can purchase my autographed copy, talk a little shop, and thank her in person for her book--and for replying to all my tweets.