Book Review of Rootless by Chris Howard

Posted February 3, 2013 by Kara in Uncategorized / 9 Comments

Publisher: Scholastic

Release Date: November 1st, 2012
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult-Dystopian
Source: I own a copy of this book.

Description from Goodreads17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan’s never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken . . .

Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo—a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can’t escape the locusts—the locusts that now feed on human flesh.

But Banyan isn’t the only one looking for the trees, and he’s running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he’s forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.

In this dazzling debut, Howard presents a disturbing world with uncanny similarities to our own. Like the forests Banyan seeks to rebuild, this visionary novel is both beautiful and haunting—full of images that will take permanent root in your mind . . . and forever change the way you think about nature.

Review: So I was really looking forward to Rootless by Chris Howard. I enjoyed it quite a bit but there were some issues that held it back from being as spellbinding as it could be. The one thing I can say is that this book for the most part was completely not what I was expecting it to be. It was unique, fairly original, and for the subject matter, completely not preachy. 

There is an underlying environmental theme that runs throughout the whole book and I found it to be believable and compelling. It was a unique take on the dystopian genre and that’s saying something considering there are so many of them out there. I truly did feel that Rootless brought something new to the table. That being said, I DID have a few issues with the world-building. I wondered at first how civilization could still be surviving on earth with all the trees and all the vegetation (except for corn) gone. But then I found this: and a lot was explained for me. I still cant figure out how there aren’t more water shortages though. How do they water ALL of that corn? And that is a lot of freaking corn. If you go by the information on the site I linked, the lack of trees should have caused severe droughts and yet somehow there doesn’t seem to be a huge issue with the water supply. And that confused me. 

Moving on. I liked the characters quite a bit, but I didn’t feel as attached to them as I wanted to. I’m not sure why because this book is incredibly well-written and I enjoyed the author’s writing style quite a bit, but something was off with the characters. They weren’t as likable as they could have been, for one, but also their connections to each other weren’t working for me either. I just didn’t have that emotional connection. The relationship between Alpha and Banyan lacked chemistry, not to mention the STUPID make out scene right after they almost get decimated by flesh-eating locusts. They should be saving their butts and getting back to the car but they decide to suck each others’ faces off instead. The locusts were still in the area. C’MON! The evil character was really evil and I did like the other characters enough (Zee, Alpha, Crow), but they still needed work. More backstory. More personality. More something. 

I loved the story though. It took me a while to really get into it and I found the first 120 or so pages to be a little dull, but once it got going, I was with the plot all the way until the end. The final climax and the last few chapters were completely spellbinding and cinematic. This author knows how to write action scenes and make you feel like you are right there next to the characters with your life at stake. I loved that Banyan built lifelike trees out of metal scraps and salvage. I loved trying to picture what he was doing as he worked. I enjoyed trying to figure out the different mysteries that were presented, and can I just say that I was completely off? There was NO WAY I could have predicted what happened, but maybe if I thought a little more I could have. I was so sucked in to the story though that I didn’t sop to think and analyze and try to figure it out. Which is okay by me. It doesn’t always need to be that way. 

Parts of this book completely disturbed me and made me so uncomfortable I was squirming. It was all of the violence, but some of the deaths (WHOA) made me almost have to put down the book and walk away for a little bit. I didn’t like it. It was unsettling and it made me nauseous. But I suppose that was the purpose there. And I get it even though I am not necessarily a fan of authors writing things for the shock factor.

You know what was disappointing though? The fact that I thought this was a standalone. And it’s not. There’s not a whole lot of resolution at the end of this one, folks. It wraps up the best that it can and I wouldn’t say there is a cliffhanger, but it was hardly satisfying either. That was disappointing. Not the author’s fault, I know, but it would have been nice if that information was posted somewhere so I didn’t LOSE MY MIND!!!

Do I recommend it? I do! Despite the 3-star rating, I really did enjoy this one, I just had to many problems to rate it higher than a 3. But I did like it quite a bit and I probably will read the sequel when it comes out. Incidentally, NO IDEA when that is coming out. But if anyone knows, please feel free to let me know. 

3/5 Dragons
See the book trailer below!

9 responses to “Book Review of Rootless by Chris Howard

  1. It’s good that, with the theme of environmental preservation and whatnot, this book wasn’t preachy on the issue. I find that even if my own belief match up with an author’s, the second the book starts to sermonize, I’m completely turned off, even if I was loving said book before.

    And in spite of the less than awesome characterization, the concept definitely sounds intriguing, and you do recommend it. So…I might have to check this one out, I think.

    • Me too. I couldn’t agree more, Renae. I didn’t feel this was preachy at all.

      Let me know what you think if you decide to read it. I liked it a lot, I just couldn’t rate it as high as I wanted to.

  2. Fantastic review, Kara. I could be forgiving with the lack of hows and whys in a dystopian read but only if will not create more questions than answers. I like the environmental message this book has – apt given the times. It sounds like an interesting read but it could be one of those, read for later type of deal.

  3. I agree that the book wasn’t preachy, which I feared a bit. Like you, I was confused by the science. I liked the characters, but didn’t connect to them. Most of them have back story. Personality maybe? Or a sense of humor?

    On the makeout scene, though, they COULDN’T go back to the car yet, because the locusts were still outside. Making out gave the locusts time to disperse while keeping their minds off of how they almost died. I just don’t think this kiss was that ill-timed, though I probably wouldn’t be in the mood just then. Still, it’s not like they were in the middle of a battle.

    I loved the trees too!

    Huh. What scenes made you super uncomfortable? I didn’t have that issue. Books pretty much never squick me out, though American Psycho managed. I’m the biggest wimp about movies though. I’m not a visual reader, which is the difference.

    • OH STAHP!! That makeout scene was ridiculous and you know it!! The timing was so bad. Who would want to get it on right after they were almost devoured alive? 😀

      I don’t want to reveal spoilers but there was a particular death scene that really made me nauseous. And there was another one too but I am drawing a blank.

  4. Amy

    This book sounds really interesting. It’s too bad that it wasn’t quite what you expected, but I’m glad that you enjoyed it still. The romance seems like it would bother me a little with the lack of chemistry between the characters. Great review Kara!

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