Full Service by Will Weaver It’s the summer of ’65. Paul Sutton, a farm boy from a small Minnesota town, takes a job at the local Shell station at his mother’s urging. She wants him to see more of the world than their tightly-knit religious community. Though he initially does it just to please her, there is a lot going on in the world, and it all goes through the gas station. There are the swarms of tourists going to the lakes, the hippies whose bus breaks down and the townfolk who scorn them, the secret high school lovers who make Paul their go-between, and the workers from Paul’s church, who warn him against losing the faith. Like a summer vacation itself, the novel starts out slowly, builds in intensity as the heat rises, then cools as the tourists go home again. Though it feels a tad slow for the teenage boy audience for which it’s presumably intended, Paul’s coming-of-age is authentic and compelling.
Magic Street by Orson Scott Card So the story behind the story is that a black friend of Card’s challenged him to write a fantasy novel with an African-American hero. Not just a sidekick – a real hero. Not a comfortable task for a very white author, but Card does an admirable job. Only two people in the comfortable black middle-class neighborhood of Baldwin Hills know where Mack Street came from – and the woman who got pregnant and gave birth to him all in the same day isn’t one of them. He grows up going in and out of all the houses in Baldwin Hills, firmly part of the community. He’s mostly happy, except that he can see people’s deepest dreams – and when they come true, it always hurts them. A girl who dreams of being a fish wakes up inside her parents’ waterbed, and is permanently brain-damaged by the time she’s found. Eventually Mack Street finds out that he is the center of a centuries-old conflict between immortals, and must decide whose side he’s on before everyone’s dreams start coming true. It’s good solid modern fantasy.