Two Voices Review: Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1)

Author: Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (June 7, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Book for Review
Young Adult * Dystopian * Apocalyptic

Description from GoodReads:
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.

We are trying something a little different with this review.  Blood Red Road is a book that we both wanted to read and review. Instead of just flipping a coin to see who would review it, Renée and I decided to both share the responsibility.  It was kind of fun processing the book together via Skype.  Since we had fun working together on this one, we decided to try it with another book in the future.  Let us know what you think of our Two Voices Review.

Blood Red Road has been on my "to-read list" since before it's release.  I always worry a bit if a book will live up to the hype.  Will the book that all of my friends love turn out to be the one that I don't like?  I am happy to announce that I devoured this book in one sitting and it was kind of late at night which is a positive sign.

Here's what I loved about the book -

The characters.  I love books that have great characters and not just the main character but all of the characters.  Saba, the main female character, starts off having no real idea of who she is or what she is capable of.  When her whole life changes in a minute, she begins on a journey.  A journey to find and rescue her brother, but also one where she learns more about who she is.  And Saba is tough!

And then there is Jack.  Yes, most YA fiction would not be complete without a love interest and Jack does a very nice job filling that role.  He is tough, and mysterious, and funny.  And a great match for Saba.  But there are more characters and they are just as essential to the book.  There are the Free Hawks, girl revoluntaries, and Ike, a friend of Jack's, and characters that you want to dislike and others that you want to know their secrets, and one annoying but brave little sister.

The setting.  The world has transformed into a very dangerous place.  Saba learns just how wild and dangerous the world is after her brother is taken.  Hopetown, one place Saba ends up on her journey, is anything but a place of hope.  It actually reminded me of the Wild West with a touch of Roman cage fighting thrown in for excitement.  Though the various locations that Saba passes through on her way to Lugh (her brother) are interesting, I really wanted to know more. How did the world fall into this state?  Who were the Wreckers?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and how Young wrapped it up.  I also liked how the author developed the "romance" part of the book.  I am not sure how to talk about it without spoiling the story.  (Renée, I'll leave that challenge to you if you want to take it on.)  However, I am hoping that the reference of Dustlands #1 means that there will be more to come - especially more of Saba and Jack.

Like Aly, I had heard a lot about Blood Red Road before it came out. It was yet another addition to the fast-growing collection of YA dystopian that was highly recommended by bloggers, so I thought, 'Why not?' Also like Aly, I was blown away by this totally original part-apocalyptic, part-dystopian world, with a wildly original guide in our fierce protagonist, Saba.

Characters were also the best aspect of the story for me. Saba felt like such a real person -- there were even moments when she really annoyed me. She made mistakes, she didn't always act her age, and beneath her tough exterior, she was vulnerable and innocent and felt completely relatable. Her relationship with her sister was one of the most frustrating/beautiful things in the book.... And Jack. I won't keep hammering on about everything Aly mentioned, but I really can't talk about what I loved about the book without mentioning him. Jack. There. I got it out of my system. Anything more risks me going into fangirl-mode and spoiling all the fun squeal-worthy details for you.

Another really interesting thing about Blood Red Road was the writing style. The premise of the novel is of a girl searching the wasteland (or "dustlands") that is post-Wrecker world. (We're led to believe that the world was destroyed, or torn down, by the Wrecker civilization who sound very similar to present day Western world.) Because of this destruction, formal language is gone and they speak in  broken, rural English slang. Except, not just the characters' dialogue is written like this, even the narration is written in this broken style. Words like 'figger' replace 'figure,' and other words are misspelt phonetically. It really immersed me in the story. I felt like I was really reading a narrative from a different culture and time.

There was also an interesting non-normal element to it. (I don't want to say paranormal, because it doesn't appear to involve vampires, faeries, or any kind of creatures.) There is a mysticism to the story that I liked, but it's very subtle. Is there any truth to the saying "written in the stars?" Are some of the old folktales about certain magical objects true? Are these animals just very intelligent or is there something more...? The novel doesn't bury you with fantasy, but I liked the small hints at something different that might be going on.

I don't want to repeat everything Aly said, but I really loved this book, so much of what she enjoyed, I enjoyed. I really hope there is a sequel, because even though the ending wasn't a cliffhanger, there are so many tangents and threads left hanging that I want need answers to! I want more Saba and Jack. I want more of the barren dustlands ruled by a corrupt and cruel government. Mostly, I want more exciting and original books like this on the market to gain popularity and attention.

For more information about debut author, Moira Young:

Official Simon & Schuster Author Page

Moira Young's LiveJournal Page

Check out the Simon & Schuster official trailer for Blood Red Road created by the talented Vania of VLC Productions.