Book Review of Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Posted May 28, 2012 by Kara in Uncategorized / 8 Comments

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Release Date: June 26th, 2012
Pages: 304
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. 

To pre-order a copy of Dust Girl from, click here: Dust Girl: The American Fairy Trilogy Book 1

8 responses to “Book Review of Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

  1. Hmmm! This sounds interesting, I would never have guessed it had anything to do with fae from the cover/blurb and that in itself puts me off but the religious angle at the end also sounds a bit odd. I think I’ll pass on this so thanks for the heads up, hun!

    • It just took a really strange turn at the end and I am not really a fan when books do that. I like to be surprised as much as the next person, but I don not want a WTF surprise and that’s what this felt like to me. A lot of readers liked this one though and the reviews are a bit mixed so don’t let my review deter you if you wanted to read it.


    Okay so note to self — read the whole summary before requesting on Netgalley. Seriously, I requested this thinking YESSS DUST BOWL HISTORICAL FICTION. I never picked up on the fact that there were fairies and I am just not into the Fey or whatever unless it’s the Iron King or whatever.

    Crap on a cracker, I know that whole Seelie/Unseelie white/black bit is going to bug me while reading too.

    At least I’m not going in blind thanks to your awesome review!

    • Hi, April!! OMG your comment has me cracking up. I had a similar issue as you. I requested this one a while ago and for some reason, before I started it I thought it was a dystopian. I’m an IDIOT. Ha. But the thing is, if you love the dust bowl and historical fiction, you MIGHT still like this. It’s very atmospheric and the historical stuff is VERY well done IMO. There is just an added bonus of fairies. And I will be SO interested to read your review and see what you thought about how the race/Seelie/Unseelie thing was handled. I want to know so bad if it is just me. So I’ll be watching. Thanks for making me giggle.

  3. “the Seelie were white people and the Unseelie were black people. The Unseelie are usually known as the “bad” fairies.” Honestly, I find this kinda racist. I’m not white, but I’m not black, but I still think stuff like this is racist. And the book kinda sounds a bit boring, but I might give it a try. 🙂

    • Well, if you read it, let me know what you think. I think the author attempted to do it in a classy way, but why was it necessary in the first placed to divide by race?

  4. I think you have a point and I actually would be offended by this book. I’m black, by the way, and do not see ANY need whatsoever for the author to have divided up the races that way. It seems a narrow-minded and unnecessary move on her part. Personally I believe that each work of fiction – new and old – should aim to improve the world/add something which wasn’t known before to its genre and the readers’ intellect.

    How does plotting a book and basing it on racist stereotypes do anything for the betterment of society? Sorry, I don’t think so. I apologize for my rant, my opinion tends to slip out all of the time, but I agree about Callie – from the cover – she does not look mixed at all. Mixed people are so freaking gorgeous! I’m always jealous. This girl looks at most strong-European.

    • Thank you for this amazing comment. It was hard for me not to be offended too. I worried the whole time that maybe I was seeing something that was not there, but my opinion was, why go there when you didn’t need to? I was just left feeling very conflicted. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

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