Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel a Review

Dust Girl

by Sarah Zettel
Goodreads Summary:
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.

There is nothing that I didn't love about this novel. It seemed to draw on a little bit of all kinds of mythology or lore including having a Native American Spirit Guide come to tell Callie of a story that may or may not be about her parents during the biggest dust storm of all time. One Callie might have called down when she played her father's piano. One where her mother got lost in or was it the Shining People that took her (the Seelie). And did Baya, the Native American Spirit Guide cure her of her dust bowl pneumonia? Because all the sudden she can breathe without hacking. And who are the Midnight People her father came from? All of this mythology plus a little Greek mythology (or Heaven and Hell) are mixed in to it all. It really is American Fairy, a mixing bowl of all the mythologies of the people in our country. (Maybe not all, that would be confusing.) But it's a nice assortment.

Callie has been kept sheltered and gloved so that she can pass for white. Her father was a black jazz musician, or at least that's what she thought. But when times are really low and the last doctor has left town, Callie's mother takes her to her father's piano that's been untouched since he left and let's her play it. She doesn't know how to play. But she's filled with so much anger that she calls down the anger of Mother Nature in the form of the worst Dust Storm ever. Several things happen during this storm. Her mother gets lost during this storm. Baya, a Native American Spirit Guide (she think he's just a Native American at the time) comes to her door seeking shelter, he cures her dust bowl pneumonia, guests come to the hotel and Callie finds Jack. Callie also finds out about the prophecy from the guests, but she and Jack have to flee in the storm b/c the guests aren't what they appear to be.

As often is the case when I read about kids, teens, from harder times, earlier times, they grew up faster and acted a lot more adult than a kid Callie or Jack's age would today. I'm not sure how my 15 yr old would fare in the middle of a dust storm with his whole family gone and people after him. But Callie and Jack just do what they have to until they are safe and then when they have to make hard decisions, they do. These two are tough and because of what they have been through, they forge a bond that isn't easily broken even with magic. And yeah, the first flutterings of romance are there in Callie's stomach. 

I didn't know how little I knew about the Midwest, the Dust Bowl until I read about what they had to do to keep the dust out. Not only tape up the windows, but when the storms came, they had to use their precious water to wet towels and sheets and press them into any crevice that could let dust in. The air was in a constant haze. And thousands died of "Dust Bowl Pneumonia." I'd never even heard of that. I never even though much of this time period. I know about the WPA only because my mother grew up during that time and she talks about it from time to time. But I think my history classes kind of skipped over the devastation of the Dust Storms. I didn't know the dust sometimes was like snow in that it piled up at the doors and blocked you in your house. Talk about apocalyptic!

I think Sarah Zettel did such a fantastic job of combining all the different bits of things that mean America and made her own Fairy story, familiar, yet fitting for America. I love it! I can't wait to read the second installment.  

This is a clean read. It covers racism, poverty, violence against the poor, the Depression, fairies,  magic,Heaven and Hell (it's not called that), families, loyalty, jealousy, and greed. Oh and it's a fairy tale, of sorts. I highly recommend this one for someone that is tired of the same old YA out there. This is definitely different!   

 I received an E-ARC from the publisher Random House Children's Books through Net Galley. I'd like to thank them for a chance to read this novel. I was in no way compensated for my review.



  1. I have been curious about this and you have me really wanting to read it now! It sounds so unique and completely different. Its definitely going on my WL. Great review Heather!

  2. Thanks Candace! It is definitely different.

  3. I just skimmed your review, Heather since I have this one on my tbr pile at the moment. I was a bit worried about the book after reading a few lackluster reviews, including Z's. I'm definitely going this one a shot. I'm starting to get a bit agitated with my YA reads lately. They all seem to be the same, you know? I'm always on the lookout for different.

  4. I'm not sure that I like the shining people to be the fae, but it sounds done well enough that I wouldn't object. I love a mix of mythologies and this sounds like something different. I like different. :) Oh thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

  5. This is the first review I've seen on this one (that I can remember). I've been wondering how it was. I don't know squat about the Midwest, so it would be a total geography and history lesson for me. I like the mythology in America portion - you don't see that very often - especially in the Midwest!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  6. I'm surprised by how little attention this one is getting. I thought the setting was very unique for this book, but the cliffhanger ending drove me nuts! ack.

    I also loved the mythology in the story. Native American myths don't get a lot of attention in my opinion, so I loved Coyote's (small) role. It was also a unique take on the Seelie and Unseelie.


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