Book Reviews

[review] Dust Girl – Sarah Zettel

Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC received from publisher

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 much aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

Tell Me More: Stories of the fae are often tied to Irish and Scottish roots, and take place in the city or rural areas. Not so with Sarah Zettel’s Dust Girl, where the Dust Bowl dictates what it wants to do with the people that live in its sphere. Helpless as Callie is against the dust storms, it was satisfying to find that nothing could smother her spirit and her story.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dust Girl when I began reading it. The premise felt shaky and vague, and to my knowledge, there has never been a story like this before. To top it all off, Callie wasn’t the usual Caucasian protagonist of a fae story. Just enough focus was placed on her skin colour and heritage to allow readers to know her, but her race never became a stereotype. Zettel pinpoints the parts of Callie that need to be shown to readers, and lets them discover the rest on their own. That faith pays off, because Callie is such an interesting, layered character by herself. Zettel surrounds here with other fascinating creatures and people, and the dynamics are not only beautiful, but also fun to see.

Dust Girl is a book that lends itself to storytelling. Adding the unique cadence of 1930s America only serves to improve the flow of the story–the dialogue feels natural enough to read lines aloud, and the action is snappy and electric.  I personally would love to hear the audiobook for this novel, because it’s just that compelling. It’s easy to feel the suspense Zettel writes into every event, and the development of the plot is organic, drawing from little clues spread throughout the book. The creative touches Zettel inserts into her fae mythology are refreshing enough to make me want to reread the book again and again, in addition to looking up the inspiration for her creatures. Then again, they’re also terrifying enough to have me backing away very very slowly–a hallmark of a truly excellent and imaginative writer.

The Final Say: Sarah Zettel delivers an arresting story in Dust Girl, with characters that stay in one’s mind long after the pages have been turned.

About Sarah

Sarah A. Zettel (born December 14, 1966) is an American science fiction and fantasy author.

She was born in Sacramento, California. Her mother, Gail Beavers, is a retired teacher and social worker; her father, Leonard Francis Zettel, Jr., is a retired engineer and programmer. She obtained a B.A. in Communications from the University of Michigan. She is married and has a cat named “Buffy the Vermin Slayer”.

Add Dust Girl on Goodreads | Visit Sarah’s website

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