The Children’s Book Review
Published: August 23, 2012
By Sarah Zettel
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (June 26, 2012)
What to expect: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Jazz & Blues
I confess, I judged Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel a little unfairly—I made the mistake of reading the book flap and the author biography and I groaned inwardly. It seemed to be doing too much, first by incorporating a sci-fi/fantasy story in the setting of the Dust Bowl-era in Kansas. Then she threw racism into the mix, and for good measure developed a relationship between a half-black girl and a Jewish boy, and wove it all together with a tapestry of fairy lore.
However, after three days of being unable to put the book down, I completely fell in love with the story and the characters, and left feeling bereft and thankful that there will be two more books in this trilogy. Because this engaging story (with a fabulous ragtime soundtrack) is an engaging, exhausting romp that will leave the reader wanting more.
Callie LeRoux lives in a hotel in Slow Run, Kansas, slowly dying of dust pneumonia. Her mother, who runs the hotel, refuses to leave because she is convinced that Callie’s father will someday return to them. Then one day, her mother mysteriously vanishes in a dust storm—and Callie is confronted by a Native American man who miraculously heals her from the disease that was killing her and tells her she must embrace her identity and her destiny, and go find her parents out in California. Accompanied by a young hobo named Jack, Callie sets off on her quest—only to encounter humanoid locusts, warring fairy factions, and a zombie-like bull marshall who wants her and Jack dead. Because Callie, as it turns out, isn’t exactly human, and Jack is hiding a secret or two of his own.
The book is extremely fast-paced, barely allowing you any time to breathe between the calamities that befall Callie and Jack. While there are strong themes of loyalty to family, Callie and Jack are on a journey where they can’t trust anyone, which adds to the tense, exciting atmosphere of the novel. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment of this series.
Add this book to your collection: Dust Girl: The American Fairy Trilogy Book 1