Airborn by Kenneth Oppel is my very first venture into the steampunk genre. (I've known of steampunk for several years, but hadn't been interested in it at all--until now.) The book is set on an airship called the Aurora, which gets its lift from the fictional gas hydrium. The main character (and narrator), fifteen-year-old Matt Cruse, is the ship's cabin boy. He is an extremely likable character--funny, daring, and easy to relate to. This last point deserves a bit more attention, as your average fifteen-year-old probably isn't a cabin boy, and he certainly wouldn't one on a luxury airship. Oppel has done an especially good job with this particular character, as well as the other main and support characters (I enjoyed the Captain and crazy Chef Vlad in particular).
It's been long time since I've read a new book that appealed to me as much as this well-written adventure. It's fast-paced, with action scenes in just the right places, and the technicalities of the airship aren't done to the point of incomprehension. The excellent way that Oppel has penned Airborn makes Matt Cruse's story completely believable, as well as a must-read (and for me, a must-own!).