Much of Joss Aaronson's life is defined by what she isn't. She isn't a proper comp, a user of antique screte, or a genetic monster created in a lab. She isn't even a real-kid, and her legitimacy in school becomes questionable when she discovers that her mother may have bought her way into the Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. But she is the partner of the new alien student at the Centre, a student not so different from her, except that he who goes by the name of Mavkel has two noses, two mouths and huge, double-jointed ears. And he's hermaphroditic. Mavkel, who hails from the planet Choria, has lost his twin, and since all Chorians must communicate telepathically, he feels isolated and is losing his will to live. To make matters worse, there's an assassin on campus, and Joss comes to realize that she herself is the assassin's quarry.

Offering much mystery, adventure and food for thought, Singing the Dogstar Blues is a rich, futuristic romp. Fans of M.T. Anderson's Feed and Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion ought to feel right at home in the futuristic world Alison Goodman has conjured a world which, oddly enough, feels perfectly real in no time. The themes are normal enough: Joss is trying to figure out who she is and find a place in a world where she doesn't quite fit. Her mother is a rising TV star who has no time for her, her father is a sperm donor unknown to her, and she is not like her classmates, who have been made by a "genetic potluck" from "the best of six or more people." And if Joss feels like an outsider, think of Mavkel, a real stranger in a strange land confronted by "Alien Go Home" demonstrations when he arrives at the Centre. Together, Joss and Mavkel travel back in time Joss to find her father, Mavkel to make a genetic connection to her or, at least, to her cells, which are stored in a petri dish. Together, they find what they're looking for.

This debut novel from Goodman won Australia's Aurealis Award for the Best Young Adult Novel in 1998, and readers will relish her sure command of a complex story combining science fiction, mystery, adventure and family drama.

Dean Schneider teaches middle school in Nashville.

 

 

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