Varley, John. Red thunder. New York: Ace, 2004. 416pp.
Minor Varley, for sure, but still well worth the effort to read.
John Varley has long been one of my favourite sf authors. His relative lack of production over the years has made him an easy one to keep track of, however, and I have read the majority of his works, especially recent ones. He has tended to write in the Heinlein tradition, if a little on the hippie side of things.
Red Thunder is definately in the Heinlein young adult mode, concentrating on youthful, engaging characters involved in a challenging and fun mission -- being the first to land on Mars. These 4 kids (two couples, all around 20) have a chance encounter with a Travis, a washed up old astronaut who happens to have a brilliant and autistic cousin, Jubal. They team up to launch a mission to Mars using the incredible space drive invented by Jubal, basically build a space ship in an old factory with money from one of the kids, who happens to be rich, and beat a mission to Mars already underway from China.
Implausibilities abound and compound, but that's not the point. It's a good story and good entry level sf for someone new to the genre, especially a someone in the 12-15 range.
Update: BoingBoing has a review of the sequel, Red Lightning.