Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: Blood Red Road (Young)

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AUTHOR: Moira Young
SERIES: Dust Lands, book 1
PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry
PUBLICATION DATE: June 7, 2011
ISBN: 9781442429987
PAGES: 459
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: science fiction; survival
GIVE IT TO: Anyone! Mass-appeal for MS, HS, and adult readers.
SUMMARY: Eighteen-year old Saba has lived in desolate, desert Silverlake her whole life. When four men on horseback show up out of the blue and forcibly kidnap her twin brother, Saba vows to find him, no matter what. Along with her younger sister, a gang of fierce warrior women, a young man with a slippery past, and her faithful pet crow, Saba will stop at nothing to find her brother.

READALIKES: The Hunger Games (Collins); Chaos Walking Trilogy (Ness); The Maze Runner (Dashner)

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:
  • Language: mild; some slang language such as "gawdam"
  • Sexuality: mild; some kissing and one reference to rape
  • Violence: medium-high; cage-fighting, multiple bloody deaths via eager mob, gun, and arrow
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium; offer of vodka to dull pain; vodka used to start fires; multiple references to bars; much of the world revolves around the production of chaal, a drug that fogs the mind and makes people slow and obedient

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have it, and I recently ordered five more copies. It's on the 2012-13 Lone Star Reading List, but even if it weren't included, it wouldn't matter in my library. I have absolutely no doubt that Blood Red Road is going to be huge.

WARNING: The reviews on this site are intended for librarians who need thorough book reviews in order to make informed purchasing decisions. As such, anything below this warning may contain mild spoilers. I try not to give away too much, but I do review the entire book.

WHAT I LIKED: Brace yourselves because I'm gonna say it...(deep breath)...I liked Blood Red Road even better than The Hunger Games. GASP! Who thought it would be possible? HG is my favorite YA book Of. All. Time. In the three years since I read it, nothing has even come close touching the greatness of HG. Wow.

So what did I like about it? For starters, I was gripped right from the first couple of pages; I could have easily swallowed it in one sitting if it weren't for the need to work, take care of my kids, do laundry. The action never stops, and there are enough plot threads to keep readers interested. To those boys in my library who only read a book when they are forced to, who aren't completely sold on reading anything, I have two words: Cage Fighting. WOW.

Second, the mystery of the setting itself is a huge part of the story. I am assuming the story takes place in the U.S., possibly in the desert Southwest, but who knows? It really could be anywhere considering the distant-future setting. How did the world get this way, and when did everyone become so barbaric? It's clearly very far into the future. Books are virtually nonexistent; Saba does not even recognize a book when she sees one, calling it a "leaf with squiggly lines." Characters clamor for items from the distant past; old tires, sheet metal, and other forms of junk from our current civilization (interestingly named the "Wreckers") are considered valuable and somewhat rare artifacts that people use as barter.

The simple, slang-infused writing style takes a couple of pages to get used to, but it really adds to the story. Books no longer exist, and none of the school-age characters attend school. Basic technology including telephones, computers, and television sets are also completely absent. Without written communication, it is easy to see how current rules of spoken language would quickly deteriorate.

Though the story is somewhat resolved at the end, Young leaves several loose ends open for a second installment. With multiple engaging characters and utterly unique world-building, the story could go many different directions and be told from several different viewpoints. Wouldn't it be interesting if the sequel were from Emmi's point of view, maybe seven or eight years later? Hmmm...

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Not one thing. As close to a perfect piece of YA fiction as I've ever read.

THE BOTTOM LINE: With fast-paced with engaging characters and unique world-building, Blood Red Road is sure to be a hit with fans of The Hunger Games. I have little doubt that this one will be a movie within the next few years; Blood Red Road will resonate with readers and get people talking. I can't recommend this book highly enough.



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