Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Release Date: June 26th, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: NetGalley, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Blurb: 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 aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.
Review: I had pretty much no expectations when it came to reading Dust Girl. I was just hoping it was good. It had an interesting enough summary, but to be honest, there were a lot of things I didn’t care for in this book. There was enough good to warrant 3 stars, but I almost feel like I am being too generous with my rating.
Let’s talk about the good first. This was a pretty original take on the Fae and fairy mythology. The era that this book was set in was not one I have read in a lot of books. I don’t know if I have ever read a book set in the Dust Bowl. If I have, it wasn’t memorable. And although there were a lot of things that didn’t work for me in this book, I do believe it will be memorable. It’s full of classic jazz and blues, wonderful imagery, and vivid scenes that tend to stick with the reader for awhile.
I also felt it sort of walked an edgy line between what was acceptable and not acceptable when it comes to writing about different races and minority groups. What I gathered from reading was the Seelie were white people and the Unseelie were black people. The Unseelie are usually known as the “bad” fairies. This is kind of subjective (but still) because in my mind all fairies are mischievous troublemakers. And that kind of ended up being true in this novel too. I say “edgy line” because this is a sensitive topic and it would be fairly easy to become offended by the content in this novel. I wasn’t, but I could sort of understand why someone would be. I think the author handled it well, but why go there in the first place? Was it necessary to divide the races like that? I don’t know. And that brings me to my next issue.
The protagonist was a girl of mixed descent. So maybe that is why the author divided up the fairy classes the way she did. I will say that the Seelie were portrayed as the more negative group of fairies, which was unusual, but why did the author have to make the Unseelie black in the first place? It is entirely possible that I am reading too much into this, I don’t know, and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I do feel it is necessary to point this out because it was something I was thinking while reading. So please forgive me if I’ve said anything wrong. It was entirely unintentional and I tried to research as much as I could before writing this review. Also, the cover looks kind of white-washed to me. She does not look like a girl of mixed race. Just saying.
As for the story itself, I was pretty bored actually. There were some great scenes where the action was nonstop, but overall I just feel it was a bunch of story points that didn’t really lead anywhere. It’s hard to explain without spoiling anything, but Callie had a quest. She was supposed to do something, something important, and it should not have taken as long as it did to resolve this plot point. But it STILL isn’t resolved. It’s necessary to now carry this into another book? I don’t think so. This could have easily been a stand-alone and it wasn’t. A good portion of the time while reading, I was thinking, get to the damn point already! Why did it take 300 pages to resolve nothing and then carry it into another book? This is a case of a book that didn’t need to be turned into a series.
And then I get to the ending. And out of nowhere, the book takes a religious turn. I mean, there was no religion mentioned ANYWHERE in this book until the very end and then I was lambasted with it. I’ll say that it wasn’t offensive or anything, but I just felt it was entirely unnecessary. And on top of that, it was just a sh*tty ending. Really disappointing. The issue that I was hoping would be resolved, wasn’t, and now this is going to continue on into a second book. That I won’t be reading, I might add. It just didn’t pull me in enough to keep going and I felt the ending was just sort of poor and anticlimactic.
The writing was solid, the characters were solid, and so was the world-building (for the most part), I just felt the story itself fell flat. I just don’t know if I can recommend this one. In a lot of ways it reminds me of The Peculiars in that it sounded amazing in theory, and some things worked, but not enough to make it as fantastic as it should have been. I’m conflicted.