Friday, September 28, 2012

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Wow! I would like to start by saying how riveting this book is. I was absolutely, totally, one hundred percent riveted when reading this book (at least until I got to something that pushed me out of the story, but we'll get to that later).

Dust Girl is a fantasy with an extremely accurate historical fiction aspect. It is set during the dust bowl and Callie is a girl who is suffering because of it. She's got dust pneumonia and is slowly dying and her mom won't leave because her dad said that he would come back to find them. Never mind their hotel doesn't have any paying customers. Never mind her dad said this before Callie was born. Never mind Callie is a bit of the outside of their Kansas town's "norm."

This all changes the day that Callie's mom has a bit of a breakdown and forces Callie to sit down at the piano and play a tune. You know what Callie's never done before? Play a piano. She is freaked out, but she sits down and lo and behold a whole song filled with want and anger and sadness pours out of her and onto the keys. Then everything changes. The worst dust storm ever (ever!) comes and Callie has to learn to function in a world turned topsy turvy with magic.

The setting is phenomenal and the author deals with Callie's mixed racial heritage in an awesomely powerful and subtle way. This book deals with race and prejudice on several levels. Not only is Callie part black, but she is part fairy too. An not only that, but now she's a transient dust-bowl refugee. Lots of stuff to deal with.

So what did I love? The creepy (and most excellently and hilariously named) Hopper family, Jack,  the also excellently named Shake and Shimmy, the language (so deliciously descriptive and colloquial and time specific), and really I loved too many things to list here.

What did I not love? Well, I may be overreacting or maybe I missed the context, but when the villain calls Jack "Jew-boy" for the first time it seemed way out of left field and totally pulled me out of the story. Do I think people of that era called people that casually? Yes (heck there are asshats that use that as a slur today). But it just seemed egregious. Yes, it is dealt with eventually and yes it fit in with the theme of being "different" and finding a place to fit. However, I couldn't help but feel like it could have been left out and the story would have been stronger for it.

Other than that (and maybe the story losing a bit of momentum at the end) I love, love, loved this book.

Book Source = ebook from library

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