Three or four of the past book reviews have been “Young Adult Fiction” books, and I feel that definition comes with an unfair stigma at times. Like they are lesser books. I’m not the first to look at it this way, but I feel some people look down on fiction geared toward teens. The truth is a lot of these books are better paced and more visual than many “Adult” books I’ve read and it’s a shame that even some teenagers think that once they’re seventeen or eighteen that the world of “YA” is now for babies and they’re going to focus on “more mature, serious” readings.
Bullshit. “YA” can kicks ass.
Enter “Blood Red Road.” Published in June of 2011, it’s easily the best new YA novel from last year in my opinion. It is book #1 of Moira Young’s “Dustlands” series.
This book takes chances that many contemporary novelists, “Young Adult” or otherwise, would not risk, and I’m mainly talking about the use of slang. Think Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” and you’ll get the gist. What’s more, the author really rolled the dice by making it extraordinarily sparse of punctuation. Think Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” or “The Road.” No parentheses and no quotations for spoken dialogue!—only some commas, dashes and periods.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: “That’s gimmicky.” You’re wrong. In this case, it enhances the story, which should always be the crucial consideration when doing things unconventionally. You may also be thinking: “How would you know who is speaking, and doesn’t the slang make it a tough read?” Absolutely not. Somehow, the way that this book was written is clear, flowing, and engaging. Somehow the lack of quotations and the heavy slang and phoentic spelling of words stops being an issue after a few pages in. Some may disagree and find the style far too distracting for them. Their loss.
But if you’re a fairly seasoned reader or are over fifteen, “Blood Red Road” is a literary gem, complete with an original adventure story, full of heart ache, sub-plots, quests, and revenge. The scenery and locations are also well described, and take the reader through the desert, the rivers, the forest, the grasslands, the mountains, etc.—all the big fantasy backdrops you’d expect.
And Saba? Think “Gladiator” meets Katniss Everdeen meets Natalie Portman in “V for Vendetta.” Yeah. I know, right? “Blood Read Road” made me say: ‘Katniss who? What are the Hunger Games?’
BLR’s teenage female protagonist wipes the floor with the personal dramas of Katniss and company. Saba in BLR is memorable and loveable; and her love interest, Jack, is honestly the best charismatic, smoky, arrogant love interest I’ve read ever in YA. Seriously, as far as writing style goes and capturing another world, Young and Collins are neck-and-neck. All motivations and dialogue is believable.
Did I mention this is Moira Young’s first book? Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. No first book should read so well. I cannot wait to see what else she delivers (this is the beginning of a series).
I really think “Blood Red Road” is a testament that Young Adult fiction can matter, can be powerful, and can be artistically important. This is the fat 450-some page YA novel that kept some YA conventions intact, but also turned a lot on their heads.
I love this book, will recommend it to anybody who likes futuristic, dystopian, fantasy-adventures and I will eagerly be anticipating the film in the next few years which is rumored to be helmed by the great Ridley Scott. Book #2 of the “Dustlands” series — Rebel Heart — is due out around Halloween 2012. (Per Usual, there are different covers for the UK and the US, plus different hardback and paperback, so don’t judge the books by their covers. No pun intended. I just wish the publishers had made it clear that “Dustlands” was the title or even the subtitle for “Blood Red Road”, because it’s just confusing now.)
Click the links to browse the titles on GOODREADS.COM — a site I recently fell in love with. The Facebook of passionate readers.
Just trust me: start reading this thing like I did, knowing little or nothing about it. By page 41, the end of the first part, I was spellbound. Satisfying and book club worthy, get a friend to read “Blood Red Road” with you so you can gush.