This brings us to the 64 million dollar question: does the book work as YA? The book got a bit of a pounding for YA writer, Phoebe North over on Intergalactic Academy. That was partly because of race issues, which I’m not really qualified to comment on, but mainly because Everett is a Campbellian Competent Man (well, boy) hero, not an emo teenager. It is certainly true that Everett is exceptionally good at rather a lot of things: he’s a genius at math and physics, a brilliant cook, and a top quality goalkeeper as well. On the other hand, aside from his mother, who is nothing but a bag of emotional problems, Everett gets to display more feelings than most of the characters in the book. He worries about the jewelry that he stole from a friend’s mother so as to have something of value when he got to Earth 3, and he worries that he left his mother and little sister without so much as a goodbye. What he doesn’t do is obsess over these things. He’s an old-fashioned British-Indian bloke, he doesn’t do emo.
Whether this is a problem or not, I don’t know. It may well be that teenage girls will, on average, prefer to read books about emo boys, whereas teenage boys will, on average, prefer books in which the boys are more heroic. Certainly most of the SF aimed at boys when such things were last saleable featured very competent heroes. Everett is a character more in the Tom Swift mould than, say, Todd Hewitt, and I’m pretty sure that the heroes of the Heinlein juveniles were pretty competent too. On the other hand, this may be a generational thing. Perhaps Phoebe is right, and Planesrunner is a book written by and for old, male science fiction fans. There’s some interesting discussion of the issue between Phoebe and Niall Harrison over at Strange Horizons. I guess only time will tell.
Cheryl also picks up the news reported in Locus that Planesrunner has sold to Jo Fletcher Books in the UK, which is good news.