Theodora Baumgarten is a motivated teen who knows exactly what she wants as far as her future is concerned. Unlike all the other students at her high school who are utterly obsessed with attending the vaunted IASA (space academy), Theodora wants nothing to do with it. "There's no air, you're squashed into a ship the size of a juice can, and it takes years to get anywhere interesting. If you get there and aren't killed by a meteor or a solar flare or a systems malfunction."
So while everyone else is frantically cramming all the courses they believe will appeal to the admissions officers at the academy, Theodora is calmly following her own chosen path - to attend UCLA - and stay on terra firma. When all the students at her high school are called into the auditorium for a mandatory assembly, Theodora is irritated at the waste of time but duly joins the student betting pool, putting her money on the most obnoxiously gung-ho astronaut wannabe in her class. She is understandably shocked when the Admiral from IASA calls out her name as the one and only student from her school to receive the coveted academy appointment.
Theodora is not happy. Nor is she given the chance to protest. No one turns down an academy appointment - and her protests that she never filled out the application are ignored. Before she knows it she is swept up in a rush of packing and sent up in a nauseating trip to the RAH (the Robert A. Heinlein space station), where she is to present herself as a new cadet. How could this have happened, she wonders furiously. Her only hope of uncovering the conspiracy is her best friend Kimkim, computer hacker extraodinaire. If only they can get through the security codes and succeed in communicating with each other, Theodora knows she'll be able to get to the bottom of the matter - and return to earth - and get to UCLA, which is far superior to being ordered about and lied to up at the RAH.
This is a very short book - a novella, really, and while it is a delightful story, a clear homage to the Heinlein juveniles such as Have Space Suit Will Travel, I'd advise picking it up at your local library rather than paying the $20.00 cover price for a book you'll be able to read in less than a half hour. I thoroughly enjoyed the story - as I do everything by Connie Willis - particularly the character of Theodora. She is a strong, intelligent, resourceful heroine, and she has an open mind and a willingness to see things from a new perspective. I loved the futuristic setting, which is presented so matter 0f factly and with fun little details that are dropped here and there along the way, creating a very believable sense of place. While this novella is marketed to young adults, it has appeal for all ages and makes for a fun, short futureworldly visit. If you haven't read Connie Willis, pick up one of her books as soon as possible. Her collection of short stories Impossible Things would be another great one to try, especially for those who have joined Carl's Science Fiction Experience 2009.
D.A. by Connie Willis; illustrated by J.K. Potter (Subterranean Press, 2007)
Also reviewed at:
Mouldering Earths and Book-Dust: "Willis manages to keep the pace quick and the humor plentiful. Also, I am a sucker for a plucky heroine, and Theodora Baumgarten certainly fits that bill (with a name like that, how could she not?)."