Roswell or Bust is a (slightly) older title from the YA sci-fi extraordinare Henry Melton. Shall he dazzle me again? We shall see!
Joe Ferris wishes he could join a basketball team, like other teenage guys. He wishes he could hang out and do nothing after finishing his homework. But he has been raised to help guests and do what needs to be done as the third generation in his family's motel business. Barely anyone knows about little Las Vegas, New Mexico, but the Railroad Motel manages to get some regular guests - including one nice, keep-to-himself-type John Smith.
However, when John Smith leaves his room in a hurry and forgets a strange item behind in his room, Joe is about to have much more adventurous time than he's ever had tidying up rooms and checking in guests. Especially when he meets mute Judith who is desperately searching for John Smith, whom she believes is in danger.
How does this all end up involving the 1947 Roswell incident? Believe me, it does. :)
Roswell or Bust has an electric, grounded, yet mysterious start. There's a strong sense of fun, science fiction kind of fun, which I love. Both the main characters, Joe and Judith, immediately come across as relatable and real. The tone is suspenseful, entertaining, and enigmatic - a winning combination, in my book!
One thing that is always cool about Henry Melton's stories are that he is constantly original. One example of this is Judith's disability. When have you ever read a book with a main character that is mute? Well, maybe you have. But I haven't! It's underrepresented and a truly different problem - and it's not presented in a cartoonish or unbelievable manner, but with sensitivity and down-to-earth practicality. It's invigorating and energizing. Especially since he actually shows teens, instead of the horribly self-centered, typical dumb teens, as having the possibility of having a decent head on their shoulders. What a spectacular idea!
Though I know that the cover of Roswell or Bust may look a bit childish or cartoonish, it does have bearing on the story and relevance later on, since Judith ends up drawing a picture like the one on the cover. It disheartens me to think someone might not read Roswell or Bust of what may be considered a "younger" looking - a direct opposite of the mature, fun, sci-fi spin inside. Henry Melton always manages to put a fresh twist on an old story, and this time it is the excellent conspiracy of Roswell aliens... or is it? ;)
Mixed in with believable family issues, that are restrained from becoming angsty or whiny, and a wonderful array of odd moments that increase the weirdness of what is happening to Joe's life - there is a deepening of the plot and a gleefully clipping pace.
I was, indeed, sufficently dazzled. Somehow Roswell or Bust can be both amusing and serious, without creating that strange tone that can sometimes occur. Instead, the strong character development makes the storylines even more exciting, the aliens delightful, and the overall result so great, fun, and awesome that I really wouldn't mind a sequel.
Ya listenin', Henry? :)