If you have an adolescent in your home, you might find yourself in my position, that is beating the bushes for a book that does not involve intimacy with the living dead. I have nothing against vampires per se. As a librarian, I read an early copy of Twilight and passed it on to others, although I have to say that had I known there would be another umpteen books with less savory plot lines, I might have hesitated in sending it to my niece.
So here I am, trying to find a decent title for this year's Christmas present. In this context I come across a new (to me) genre: steampunk. If you want a definition, look it up 'cause I can't explain it. It kinda reminds me of the modernist movement, lots of machinery. Anyway, to make a long story short I pick up Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. The first fifty pages I almost put it down, thinking "I'm too old for this...." There's a young prince Alek whose parents have been murdered forcing him to flee for his life in a "walker," which is fitting since he is Austrian and a "Clanker." Switch to England, home of the "Darwinists," and a variety of misbegotten creatures, as well as young Deryn Sharp, a young girl masquerading as a boy so she can be a midshipman. From there the plot thickens. And you begin to realize it all sounds a bit like the beginnings of WWI. You get the point.
Suddenly I am interested and I realize that this is "alternative history" as the author terms it, at the same time that it is a story about growing up. By the end I'm waiting for the next installment, 'cause you know one is down the pike somewhere. Loved the illustrations by Keith Thompson, too. By the way, the Leviathan of the title is a huge inflatable whale of sorts, a species (pardon the pun) of zeppelin.
It's listed most places as a young adult book. I'd peg it on the lower part of that range, although I enjoyed it. For what it's worth.