A conversation with my friend Carlie reminded me of one of my favorite books when I was a wee teen. It was in the school library, so I reread it a lot. It was called The Keeper of the Isis Light, and it was about a girl whose parents were basically keepers of a planetary lighthouse on an uninhabited world that had been slotted for possible colonization. They died when she was young, so she was forced to fulfill their contract. She pretty much lived alone except for the AI who ran the lighthouse. Then they get the news that a group of homesteaders are coming, and the AI starts acting weird and imposing all these protections to keep the girl from contamination…
Turns out, the planet isn’t quite earth-compatible, and the AI started messing with the girl’s genetic development, modifying her so that she could live on the planet and run around outside without needing breathing support or protection from the sun or the higher gravity, so the girl doesn’t quite look human anymore. And she has no idea.
Hijinxs ensue when she gets in a romance with one of the colonist boys and takes off the protective gear the AI made her wear. The boy freaks out (and hurts himself, of course, because angst!) But the book has a complicatedly-happy ending because even though the boy got all freaked out and wasn’t interested in her anymore, the girl realized that the AI had given her the freedom of the whole planet rather than leaving her to grow up caged by support systems.*
It was really creepy and awesome and cool. And hey, it looks like there are sequels! I dunno, I really liked the book as a standalone.
Man, I need to find a copy of that book. That one and The Girl from the Emeraline Island* about a girl who lives in a kind of post-apocalyptic, gender-segregated society who pretends to be a boy to get an education. There’s a rite-of-passage where boys have to go collect these radioactive rocks from this dead zone, and the girl’s brother goes missing during his, so she has to go through it to rescue him with the help of one of her school chums. At the end, the school friend wants her to marry him and be a girl again, and she’s all ‘fuck that’ and sails away to go to an island of cat people.
Man, I read some awesome books as a teenager!
*Both these summaries are from very rusty memory, so I might be getting some details wrong.