11 September 2012

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

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 completely took me by surprise.  I was expecting questionable writing, a cookie-cutter main character and a stale story.  What I got was a fantastically complex and cheer-worthy main character complemented by an in-your-face writing style that set off both the characters and the world.  I was not expecting to fall in love with the world, which is so obviously dystopian, and I certainly didn't expect to be swept up in the plot, buoyed by a writing style so far away from cookie-cutter, it's like a different planet.  The journey through Blood Red Road was exciting and belly-dropping and I enjoyed every second of it.

I first discovered Blood Red Road while in Borders (which tells you how long ago it was).  I slid the book off the shelf, thinking about how much hype it had garnered in the blogosphere, and opened to the first page.  I immediately closed it.  I was not going to read a book that was written in dialect.  I don't go out looking for headaches.  So Blood Red Road went back on the shelf, shrinking away from my fierce disapproval.

Right now, I wish I had grabbed a copy when I had the chance.  Moira Young's blatant disregard for conventional writing styles was like a getting a sip of clean, cool water after trekking a day through a desert.  The dialect forces the characters and the world in your face -- your brain can't compensate to ignore the way the character speaks and narrates.  Blood Red Road calls this quote from Robert McKee's book Story, to mind:
A great work is a metaphor that says, "Life is like this."  The classics, down through the ages, give us not solutions but lucidity, not answers but poetic candor; they make inescapably clear the problems all generations must solve to be human.
Set against the backdrop of a richly detailed world, Saba's character popped off the page.  If I were to pin a label of "most lifelike" on any fictional character, it would go to Saba.  Moira Young covered a corner of young adult literature that is not often walked on.  She portrayed Saba with imperfections that most authors wouldn't dare give their characters.  Her thoughts showed a darkness that made her realistic, because everyone has those small thoughts that creep in without our knowing and take us by surprise at their immorality.  Add on top Saba's -- sometimes uncontrollable -- fighting spirit, and she leaves behind a lasting impression.

The plot, as soon as it caught me, swept me along so quickly, I would look up and the afternoon had gone by, along with two hundred pages.  My brain had adapted quickly to the narration, allowing the plot to take charge.  It wasn't a complex plot, for which I found refreshing.  Most dystopians like to throw in all kinds of government conspiracy subplots, but Blood Red Road dealt with the politics behind getting Saba's brother, Lugh, back, and the many obstacles they faced, both externally and internally.  I loved the high adventure and the details that made it come to life.

The romance was first class -- Katniss and Peeta don't hold a candle to the romance in Blood Red Road.  But the romance doesn't take center stage, which I liked.  While it had a big impact on plot and character development, it's not the very first thing that pops to mind when I think back on the book.  Saba's character is too dominant to be pushed aside by a moon-eyed couple.

James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner, blurbed Blood Red Road and I thought he nailed it on the head:
Blood Red Road will capture any reader who picks it up.  I love everything about Saba -- her language, her intensity, her heart.  Everyone should read her story.
Moira Young is off to a shining start, having carved a name for herself in the world of young adult literature.  I hope to see more of her in the coming years.  I'm thrilled for the next installment in the Dust Lands series.

Quotes
I hold out my hand fer Ike to shake but he grabs it, lifts it to his mouth an gives it a big wet smack of a kiss.

Marry me, he says.  I got all my own teeth, I wash twice a year an I'll cut you in fer half the business here.

My cheeks flame hot.  No thanks, I says.  I try to pull my hand away, but he cluthes it tight to his chest.

Maybe not right away, he says, but once we git to know each other.  A week or so.  I don't mind a little wait.  Jest don't keep me simmerin too long, sweetheart.

I don't really think I... uh..., I says.

I shoot Jack a help-me-out-here-yer-friend's-crazy kinda look but he don't even look at me.  He leans back in his chair with his hands behind his head an his legs stretched out.

Will wonders never cease, he says.  Ike Twelvetrees finally caught in the net of love.  I gotta hand it to you, Saba.  Name the first boy after me, will you? (pgs. 310-311)
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 459
  • published - June 2011
  • publisher - Margaret K. McElderry
  • genre - dystopian
  • received via - library
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Dust Lands
    • Blood Red Road
    • Rebel Heart
More Info