Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: Walk On Earth A Stranger (Carson)

A refreshingly unique new title from the author of Girl of Fire and Thorns, and it's a Western! Walk on Earth A Stranger is one of my top picks for 2015--don't miss it!

AUTHOR: Rae Carson
SERIES: The Gold Seer Trilogy, book 1
PUBLISHER: Greenwillow
PUBLICATION DATE: September 22, 2015
ISBN: 9780062242914
PAGES: 432
SOURCE: Edelweiss e-ARC
GENRE: Western, historical fiction
SETTING: multiple US states, 1849 "Gold Rush"
GIVE IT TO: upper-MS, HS
SUMMARY: Fifteen-year old Leah Westfall of Dahlonega, Georgia has a secret power: she can sense the presence of nearby gold. Leah's parents have kept this a secret in their gold-mining town, but when her parents are murdered, Leah is forced to flee the murderer, who knows about her abilities. She lops off her long hair and dresses as a boy in hopes of finding her friend Jefferson, who recently ran away in search of Gold Rush opportunities in California. Along the way, Leah encounters extreme dangers and an unforgiving landscape.

REVIEW: I have been on a Western kick lately. It's something different and refreshing as there aren't too many YA books (right now) that could qualify as Westerns. I never really watched Westerns as a kid (other than a random Bonanza episode here and there), but ever since I read Moira Young's Blood Red Road, I've been kind of hooked. The problem is, there aren't many for young adult readers.

So this book came along, and I was completely blown away. I read all 432 pages in one sitting. It has something for every reader--wilderness survival, murder, disease, bad guys with guns, a little romance. Rae Carson is a master at creating complex characters that change and grow and feel like real people. This is at its heart a survival novel, the story of a girl just trying to find the safety and comfort of her best friend. Leah is like a superhero, and Jefferson is a perfect complement for her tough, stubborn personality. I also really love the character of Becky Joyner, a woman who appears throughout the book and ends up on Leah's wagon train to California.

Romance is a slow-build. It's clear that Jefferson and Leah love each other. They've been best friends most of their lives. It's also clear that they both feel romantic love, but it really does take forever to get there. Even by the end, there is very little romance, which is realistic considering their rough circumstances.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. I can booktalk this one all day long. It's not for everyone (some will pooh-pooh as soon as I say it's a Western), but I still think it will be popular in my library.

READALIKES: For another unique gender-bending Western, look for Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, also one of my faves of 2015. Also, Blood Red Road (Young) and The Knife of Never-Letting Go (Ness)

  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5--should be a 6/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5--read it in one sitting!
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

  • Language: very mild; one hell, 2 damns
  • Sexuality: mild; childbirth, Leah starts menstruating along the way, some creepy men in wagon train look at the girls and make inappropriate comments, brief mention of girls being sold to men
  • Violence: high; gun violence/murder, slaughtering of animals (for food, mercy, sport), lots of death and disease, medical gore, abusive father
  • Drugs/Alcohol: very mild; medical use of laudanum, one character described as a drunk
  • Other: lots of guns (it is a Western!)

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