The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
Although this book was originally written for children, it has found a huge audience worldwide and was recently made into a movie. The story of young Lyra and her animal daemon searching for her kidnapped friend, this book is the first of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. What I especially love about this series is the world, very similar to ours, that Pullman creates. People live their lives with animal daemons, who are as much a part of each person as their arms or legs. When Lyra hears rumors that terrible experiments are being carried out on the poor, kidnapped children, she has to go try to rescue her friend, and ends up somehow being involved with the fate of the whole world in process. The nonstop action will hook most readers right away.
BTW, there is a paperback which has all three books in it. It only runs about $13 at the local discount store; what a bargain!!!