Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl, 2001.
I’m late to the party, on this one. I saw a reference to this book on a blog I read, and months later, grabbed it from the library. I'm glad I've shown up.
Artemis Fowl II, 12, is a criminal mastermind with a missing father, a mother who’s missing her mental health, and a valet who is remarkably good at all sorts of combat. The Fowl family, long felonious, has had an economic downturn, and Artemis plans to reverse that by stealing fairy gold. Kidnapping a LEPRecon officer—the first female officer, Captain Holly Short—he holds her for ransom and works to fend off the LEPRecon squads under the command of the foul-cigar smoking Commander Julius Root. Mayhem and hilarity and death ensue. It’s a well-done fantasy novel for youth that is both more intelligent and lacks the pretension of the Potter novels.
The puns are fun; the adventure is fun; the clever re-imagining of the fairy world is fun: the book is just plain fun. Enough so that I’ll read at least the next in the series (Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident). It was exactly the right sort of enjoyment in the midst of a couple of other long books.