I know I always gush and applaud every book I read, but it’s not because I’m pleased by anything that comes along; it’s because I only start books that I know are going to be good. And Airborn is no exception. I started this one as a full-cast audiobook, but I got so wrapped up in the story, so engrossed in the action, that I had to discard the audiobook and pick up the actual book. The actors just weren’t going fast enough for me. I was desperate to find out what happened next.
Much like Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy, Airborn is set in an alternate universe. There are cities we have heard of (Sydney, Paris) and cities that are new to us (Lionsgate City). But most amazing of all in this parallel universe is that airplanes were never invented. And so air travel is restricted to airships, giant balloon-like vessels not unlike the infamous Hindenburg. But instead of being filled with volatile hydrogen, airships in Airborn are filled with a new gas, unique to this universe: hydrium.
The hero of the story is young Matt Cruse, a cabin boy aboard the luxury passenger airship the Aurora. While on watch one night up in the crow’s nest, Matt spots a drifting balloon that won’t respond to radio calls. After a daring rescue, an old man is found on the balloon, hurt and only barely alive. Before dying, the old man speaks of beautiful creatures flying through the sky, and Matt assumes the man is delirious.
But when a young wealthy girl arrives on the Aurora a year later with her chaperon, Matt learns that the girl and the old man are connected, and that the old man may not have been delirious after all.
What follows is in a non-stop action adventure that feels like a modern-day Treasure Island. Winner of the Michael I. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, Airborn is one story every reader will love.