This is the fourth, and the best book, that I have read that was written by Alexei Panshin. In almost all ways this novel is a 180 degrees from the humorous Anthony Villiers' books. I personally find it a shame that Panshin has apparently retired from writing. My research shows one critical book and a couple of fantasy novels in his bibliography in addition to what I have read.
Enough dithering. Rite of Passage was not what I expected. Panshin takes us through about two years of Mia's life. Mia lives on one of the Ships, the arks that Earth used in the 21st century to establish colonies. With Earth's self-destruction the Ships go from colony to colony trading knowledge for the goods the ships cannot manufacture for themselves.
Every child in their 14th year must go on a 30 day trial on one of the colonies. If the child survives, and is picked up and returns to the ship, they become an adult. We, the reader, follow Mia's maturation as she readies herself for trial, her trial, and the aftermath of her trial.
I expected the majority of the book to deal with her trial, and it doesn't. I think what worked much better for me was Panshin's world building, his character development, and keeping trial to a much smaller piece of the book.
This is also a novel that raises some moral and ethical questions. I know they're making Ender's Game into a movie, but this would also make for a good movie.
Personal note: With tweens/YA running to books such as Twilight and The Hunger Games (which I think is overrated) I wish more YA/tweens did read Ender's Game and especially girls Rite of Passage. Why? These books raise ethical and moral issue, and Mia is a stronger female character than Katniss (caveat the first book bored me enough not to read the next two-the love triangle and Katniss' survival was so obvious).