Lighter Than Air is the last book of Henry Melton's YA sci-fi series (which doesn't need to be read in order) Small Towns, Big Ideas, that I hadn't yet read. At least for now. I hear he's going to be publishing another in 2011!
High School student Jon Kish has always enjoyed tinkering with stuff. He finished building the amazing treehouse his now missing dad had designed for him with his best friend Larry, and has always enjoyed making model airplanes. But what his next door neighbor is working on blows him away - a lighter than air foam that is perfect for building. And it isn't long until Jon begins to get ideas of how he and Larry could put that foam to use in the construction of an absolutely perfect prank flying saucer for Munising High School's unofficial Prank Day.
Maybe that'll take his mind off his mother's surgery and his little sister's obsessive and mysterious use of the family's old, slow computer...
It doesn't take long at all to recognize Henry Melton's customary relatable characters in Lighter Than Air - providing us with issues and people we can identify with: money issues, single parents, a dial-up PC in the world of high technology, and health issues of a serious and expensive nature.
Jon's experiments and the hushed online goings-on of 12-year-old Cherry make for a slight, but interesting, start. There is a sensitivity and sense of reality to the parent-child relationships portrayed and a little CIA/NSA intrigue to throw a little spice in the mix.
Sadly, though, I never really felt like there was enough spice in Lighter Than Air. All the merits of the novel that I mentioned are admirable and some of my favorite things about Melton's writing - but this particular outing didn't have the sci-fi flavor to really get my mind whirring. In fact, I hate to say it but I became a little bored and felt the need to skim some parts. Perhaps part of the problem was that I didn't find much fascination in the topic at hand, this lightweight foam and the building of it into a faux flying saucer.
The family issues remained dynamic and very well-written, but Lighter Than Air lacked that science fiction flare I love so much, in my opinion. There didn't seem to be a hook, and instead had more technical language than I personally prefer. For me, there was a want in excitement, unfortunately. Cherry's unflapping search for her father and the mess she gets into was drawing more of my interest, but I still wasn't as into the novel as I'd like.
But, you know, this is just one bibliophile's opinion. I have listed my favorite Henry Melton novels on the Bibliophile Support Group before, as well as naming two of them as Stand Out Books of 2010. All of our opinions and personalities are so different, that I want to make sure and tell you that Lighter Than Air could most certainly be the one that is your favorite! Especially if you are a more scientifically inclined, technical-loving kind of reader. :)
There is a sweetness to Lighter Than Air - but just not enough to rank high on my list of Henry Melton rankings.