Wednesday, July 6, 2011

REVIEW: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Blood Red Road 
(Dustlands #1)
by Moira Young
Released on 06.07.2011
464 pages
Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster
Source: S&S GalleyGrab

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

REVIEW: This book is fantastic.  It coaxed my long dormant inner Star Wars fangirl out of her little shell (it was the desert world thing - love the Tatooine feel), and I couldn't help but wonder about the conversations Saba and Katniss would have if they met up in literary wonderland.  It's that kind of rad.

First off, the characters: can I tell you much I appreciate that Young wrote Saba in the vernacular?  To most readers, I think Saba's language appears to be a variation on (forgive me) stereotypically 'redneck' talk (the kinder word is 'folksy' - if that even is a word).  It's very much in keeping with idea that she grew up in deserted, desert-backwoods.  But keep in mind that famous quote from Sweet Home Alabama: "Honey, just because I talk slow don't mean I'm stupid."  You need to adjust to her talk because she is so running this show, and her speech juxtaposes smoothly with her keen survival skills, and this makes her a formidable opponent for the odds against her.  Furthermore, I think the speech allows you to really get to know her on a personal level and shows what she's up against.  It separates her a bit from everything new coming into her life.  Other characters follow suit in that they are well-developed and defined, form the much despised Emmi (Saba's younger sister whom she loathes; I pitied that little girl something fierce), and Jack.  Oh, JACK!  I love Jack, the incorrigible young devil with heart of mischievous goodwill.  Adore him, and adore how he adores Saba (even when she is awful).

Does it sound like I dislike Saba?  Sigh.  I don't.  I really like her, and moreover, I respect her.  She had a straightforward mission: rescue and be united with Lugh (major dependency there).  She had a similar approach: let NOTHING get in her way.  And she didn't.  Saba only compromised when forced or shamed into it.  You can call this a fault, and I guess mmmmmmmmaybe, when it came to letting people in and helping her, it was.  Personally, I like her grit.  I think an attitude made of anything less would have weakened her resolve.  Dux femina facti, baby.

Okay, let's talk the best character of all in the book: SETTING.  This is what makes Blood Red Road  have Amazing Movie Potential.  The sweeping desert, the field of airplanes, a city of junk with a Colosseum, a field of deadly I'm-Not-Going-To-Ruin-It-And-Name-Thems, and a scene that feels like a cross between Gone With the Wind and Versailles.  I am not a huge fan of the Systematic Whoring of Young Adult Lit for Hollywood profits.  They rarely do justice to the books they film flip, and then there are the ridiculously redundant marketing campaigns aimed at people who never read the books in the first place.  HOWEVER, this film has screen potential of EPIC proportions.  Ideally, I'd like to see something with the set design vision George Lucas combined with the screenplay prowess of David Franzoni and David Hare (book gods know that Lucas can't write the script - did you see SW 1-3 - shudder).  Since she was outed from the role of Katniss, I think Hailee Steinfeld would be old enough and talented enough to play the tough, rough, intelligent and conflicted Saba.

Of course, this whole thing could turn out horribly wrong and end up like Waterworld.  Just saying.  If it even is made into a movie (the rights have been acquired by Ridley Scott).

Anywho, if you are worried about how you will adjust to Saba-speak, don't.  If you are worried that the minimal punctuation will give you trouble, I wouldn't.  It develops a rhythm and you just go with it.  You likely won't even notice it after a while.  This book was so enjoyable to read.  It was full of adventure, chance and romance.  Odd thing, and please let me know if you felt this way, too - I didn't have this overwhelming feeling of 'grey' reading it, despite its post-apocalyptic grittiness.  The inherent hero quest aspect of it made it feel more exciting than suspenseful (although it was, at times).  The characters were so well-described, so colorful, and added so much heart that it was hard to feel a prolonged sense of despair.  Was there bleakness?  Oh yeah, definitely, especially during the opening attack and later captivity scenes.  There's a real desperate overtone in certain scenes, but. . .  I don't know, I kept thinking Princess Bride while I read it.  My only little complaint is that it has Just-In-the-Nick-Of-Time syndrome - seems like when all is lost, something or someone unexpectedly comes to the rescue.  Still, taking that into consideration, I really enjoyed  Blood Red Road and definitely recommend that you give it a shot (dare I even say that I 'loved' it, perhaps). 

I give you far warning, though:  Jack is Mine. He's got a young Han Solo with a twist of Peeta-like accessibility and advice thing going.  MINE, I tell you!  You have been advised.


  1. Um, I am still stuck on your first sentence. WHY IS YOUR STAR WARS FANGIRL LONG DORMANT? Unacceptable.

    I freaking hope they turn this into a badass movie. You're right that it has the potential to be fabulous.

    So glad you loved this one!

  2. LOL at the last line! I know the feeling of getting protective of literary crushes.

    I really really NEED to read this. I don't know why I haven't. I am actually looking forward to the Saba speak :)

  3. Sounds great, I've been hearing a lot of mixed thoughts on this one especially about the way the characters talk but I guess it just takes some getting used to. I'll definitely be getting this one soon. Great review! =D

  4. @Flannery - Dude, can you blame after eps. 1-3. I REST MY CASE. They were special effects showcases with next to no narrative, generally awful acting and don't get me started on Jar-Jar Binks!! They killed my 6th grade fangirl love for the original trilogy for a while. All hail to Saba & Co. for reigniting the flame!


    @Nic - Read it! But you already have Rhino - JACK IS MINE!

    @Cynthia - No mixed feelings here except for the few points I brought up - really didn't like the 'just in the nick of time' stuff, but other than that, I really liked this one!


  5. Jack is mine girl! I claim him! Dang he is hot thought huh? I nearly melted when he kissed her fierce! Awesome Review! I loved this book as well as the dialogue. I thought it was unique and well written!

  6. First of all, you quoted Sweet Home Alabama in your review which automatically makes this review full of WIN:) Then you admitted to being a Star Wars fan girl. Also a WIN. I really need to read this one, it's good to know you adjust to the lack of punctuation really easily and it sounds like the characters are fairly epic and that makes me want to read it asap!

  7. I picked this one up and gave up because of the speech patterns. I was reading it on my computer, though, so maybe I'd get into it easier with a real book. Everyone loves this book but man, I had a really hard time reading it.

  8. Savy - Ohhhh, ohhhhh, you blasphemer! MINE!!!!

    @Jenny - DAMN STRAIGHT it's full of win! STAR WARS FOREVER! I know some people had problems with the punctuation, but you know, adaptation. . . it made this book worth it.

    @Logan - I read it on ebook, and I did think that it would have been easier on the physical page - give it another shot - if you can adjust, it's a great read!


  9. Linds,

    You know what is so freaking awesome about your review? You have references for everything! Paints an incredible picture. It must be crazy awesome to live in your brain.

    I love it when setting is it's own character. It just adds that extra umph that pull you completely into the story.

    Excellent review. I'm not worried about the Saba-speak. It's probably similar to my own. LOL

  10. Got this one already in my tbr pile. I got to it late and it expired from S&S galley grab. *Pouts* Will get to it once I *ahem* clear off my library stash.

  11. LOLOL NUH UH Jack is so MINE ;)
    And I can't believe you quoted Sweet Home Alabama, that's totally awesome! :) I love your review, seriously. I completely agree, the setting just breathed life into the story and made it movie-esque :) I think Saba's narration could be offputting, but after I just embraced it and went with it, I hardly noticed it :) Super super awesome review!

  12. @Missie - it's beyond fun inside my head. Sunshine Bear and GI Joe are allies, and they go beat up Voldemort and have tea with Teddy Roosevelt afterwards.

    All hail the Setting - it truly shines in this one!

    @Rummanah Aasi - I think maybe you can just go and redownload it, like you can on NetGalley - give it go!

    @Audrey - hah, glad you liked the quote! Yeah, once the adjustment is made, slipping into the story is pretty easy.


  13. Love it when the setting is such an awesome character. Can't wait to meet/read Jack!

    Teens Read and Write

  14. Girl, you are an EPIC reviewer. I swear you put everything in context, and it just totally makes sense! I loved this book - phenomenal, fresh and one of a kind. Awesome, awesome review :)

  15. Hmmm...I wonder if Saba would bother me. I can't stand books that are written in vernacular. Don't know why - just a pet peeve. I've been wanting to read it but I wonder if that would spoil it for me. Was the vernacular really prevalent in this book?

  16. @Alyssa - I hope you love Jack *almost* as much as I do! looking forward to your thoughts.

    @Melissa - yeah, glad to see you loved it, too! and thanks! means a lot as you are an epic reviewer, as well :)

    @Alison - Hmmmm may not be the book for you, then. it's throughout the entire book, and there's very sparse punctuation. if you would have trouble getting past that, it would likely ruin the book for you.


  17. Han Solo, The Princess Bride, Sweet Home Alabama, LINDS!!! Could you make this review any better?? Points to you!

    But I AM scared of the phonetic dialog. I am going to try it though. A Han Solo-like character named Jack (gosh I love that name) is enough motivation for me.

  18. Yes! Right?! This book is phenomenal! I LOVED it! :D GREAT review Linds!!