Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

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The Year of the Comet

As Russia continues to redefine itself under Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lebedev's timely novel, The Year of the Comet, arrives like a brilliant meteoric streak to illuminate the intricacies of Russian national identity and the cataclysmic fall of the Soviet Union.

Poetic and penetrating, and demonstrating an incredible talent for nuance and paradox, Lebedev (Oblivion) offers a seemingly traditional bildungsroman about a boy with a curious, intelligent mind, but slyly builds it on the shifting fault lines of history and identity. That the boy's itinerant father studies catastrophes for a living, both manmade and natural disasters, reflects the immense and mysterious instability haunting these characters' lives, "as if the entire world was tormented by secret tensions." A guarded, paranoiac state of mind distinguishes daily life in Lebedev's Russia until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Lebedev attempts nothing less than the extrication of the individual from the orbit of dictators and from the bloody, nightmarish grip of history itself. By the end, the inquisitive boy has upturned the false bottom of national consciousness. The Year of the Comet is one of the best books of the year, and may be one of the best novels to come out of Russia in a generation. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author