posted at Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 at 2:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
Series: The American Fairy #1
Published by Random House BFYR on June 26, 2012
Genres: Historical, Paranormal, Romance
Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in “the golden hills of the west”: California.
Along the way she meets Jack, a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very much aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.
First Sentence: “Once upon a time, I was a girl called Callie.”
Guys, this book was weird. Like one of the weirdest books I’ve read this side of my college course on counterculture where we read things like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Much like the books in that course, I definitely felt like I was on some sort of substance-assisted journey as I read through Dust Girl. So yeah, that was interesting.
Though it was pretty evident from the opening that this was perhaps not the book for me, I persisted on and didn’t DNF, because there were some good things about the book. For one thing, I was seriously impressed by Zettel’s writing. Dust Girl manages to be very southern without being obnoxious to me at all. Zettel keeps her dialect to a minimum, using it subtly. Even her non-dialect language has a rather southern feel to it, accomplishing the precise mood and tone without making me want to attempt a lobotomy upon myself.
The only thing about the writing I wasn’t sure about was a stylistic choice. Zettel chose to write the story in the past tense, occasionally interjecting a monologue from future Callie into the story. There would be an analysis of how Callie felt in a situation, followed by something to the effect of ‘but I didn’t know that at the time.’ This always left me feeling as though Zettel was trying to explain concepts and motivations to me she felt I wasn’t clever to grasp without her heavy-handed assistance. I generally find this method of story-telling to be tricky and a bit overdone, and I thought it was especially clunky here, although perhaps this was fixed in the final version.
The other awesome thing about this story was how unlike anything else I’ve read it was. There might be moments where I thought of some other fiction, but the compilation of these moments and all of the other moments were something brand new. These faeries are familiar, but they are Zettel’s own. Oh, and, adding to the originality, is the diversity in the book. I feel like I shouldn’t have to issue mad props everytime I read a book with a non-white main character, but I do. Callie is a mixed race child (whatever we ultimately decide her race to be).
However, the big drawback for the book, the aspect that left me constantly going “WTF!!!!!” as I read, was the fact that I never had a freaking clue what was happening. There are books that surprise me, that do unexpected things, but I have rarely felt as completely lost in a narrative as I did in Dust Girl. Things would happen, and then some more things. I never felt like I had any sense of a direction the story was heading in or like that was an issue with me as a reader. There just wasn’t a feeling of a story arc. Mostly, it felt like I was being pulled along for the ride, bumping roughly and suddenly over obstacles I couldn’t possibly have seen coming.
I really can’t recommend or condemn this book. Some readers will no doubt love it, because it was in pretty much every way a wholly unique reading experience. Others, though, will be entirely frustrated by that adrift feeling that it leaves you with. I didn’t dislike the book, but I’m also not invested enough to continue on with the series.
“‘Well, from what I seen so far, being a Callie LeRoux is plenty good enough. Maybe you should just stick to that.'”