Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blood Red Road

Moira Young’s debut young adult novel Blood Red Road, is a searing adventure that follows Saba, an eighteen year old girl searching for her kidnapped twin as she travels throughout a desolate and what can only be assumed to be post-apocalyptic world. The first-person prose is unique in that it is told in a dialect rather reminiscent of an uneducated “hill person”, with spelling to match. Grammar has been thrown by the wayside by Young, with words written as they sound; understands becoming “unnerstands”, distinctly becoming “distinckly” and an abundance of “yers”, “ain’ts”, “gits” and “whaddayas”. Punctuation hardly exists here. The text flows, one sentence into another, speakers not differentiated by quotations, thoughts running into each other. In other words, exactly what it would look like if an uneducated eighteen-year-old’s thoughts were mapped out into text. At first I have to admit I found this distracting, but after a few chapters I got used to the cadence of Saba’s speech, and found myself sucked into an utterly captivating story of survival, filial devotion, desolation, and love.

It could be said that Blood Red Road is a nice mash-up of Mad Max, Dune, and The Hunger Games. This is not a sweet world that Saba lives in. It is desert. It is sand storms that constantly suck away or reveal the vestiges of “Wrecker” life, or as we come to discover, the world that we the readers come from. This place is primitive. The people living without the written word, technology, or education, and suffering under the influence of a mind-numbing drug called chaal and a tyrannical leader who either enslaves his people or throws them into a cage, where they fight gladiator style for the amusement of the rabid hordes of chaal addicted citizens. The few outside of the drug’s influence form their own alliances, living on the outskirts of what could be deemed ”civilization” acting as highway robbers, and eventually revolutionaries.

Saba’s journey is a nice blend of coming-of-age and bloody survival in a world that has lost all bearings of sanity and decency. Young does a fine job of creating a unique cast. The band of characters that surround her on this journey are mysterious enough to keep you in the dark about their histories and personal motivations, but at the same time fully formed and endearing. Saba herself is a nice blend of insecurity, leadership, and warrior as she starts to learn who she is without her twin brother.

In the age of trilogies and never-ending series, what struck me most, aside from the wonderful storytelling, is that, while this is to be the first in a series, the book can easily be read on it’s own. The main story is tied nicely together, no hanging storylines to frustrate the reader, forcing them to come back to the next book just to find out what happens next. Instead, the reader will come back for the sheer enjoyment of the world and it’s characters, not to mention there are enough hints and unsolved little plot twists to keep the reader completely checked-in for the next installment

I picked up this book and literarily did not put it down. I thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait to introduce it to readers when it comes out, June 7, 2011.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Month of Lost Memory

by Cat Patrick

It seems as though June is the month of lost memories. I’m not making some philosophical statement; it’s just that I recently reviewed Before I Go to Sleep, an adult title out of HarperCollins and am now looking at Forgotten, a teen read about memory from Hachette. Both are debut novels, and both deal with characters that lose their memories when they go to sleep. Fortunately for me the similarities end there.

London Lane is a 16-year-old girl who cannot remember what happened the day before. Every morning she must read through a pile of notes detailing minor things such as homework and clothing, and major things like her boyfriend and why her best friend isn’t speaking to her. The thing is, London might not know about yesterday, but she does remember what is going to happen tomorrow. London remembers the future. Once the future becomes the past she forgets it. So, when she has no forward memory of her boyfriend Luke and when she starts to become plagued by dark and disturbing nightmares, she must recover her past to try and save her future with Luke.

Convoluted concept I know, but it actually works fairly well. The author draws out the revelation of London’s affliction so that the reader knows there is an issue, knows it deals with her memory, but isn’t quite sure what is really going on. Just waiting for that reveal was entertaining by itself. I really like the unique idea of memory as presented here, I have never read a book where the character only remembers forward and I loved Patrick’s ingenuity in creating such a misery. What a brilliant idea!

Unfortunately, while the idea is imaginative and unique, the plotting falls short. The why or her misfortune is answered—sort of; enough to somewhat mollify my curiosity, if not answer all of my questions. The problem is that Patrick throws in this mystery—why she can’t remember Luke from the future, her disturbing nightmares—but she forced the revelation, it spews forth quickly and is fixed far too easily. There is a very deus ex machina feel to the second half of this ending; it’s too convenient, too loose in its conception, and too formulaic for such a fascintating plot.

Endings can make or break a book. If done well, the book is brilliant, if done poorly and brilliant book can become mediocre. This is the case with Forgotten. I think teens will enjoy the love story, and those who are not too discerning will not mind the suddenness of the revelations and resolutions, but with the bevy of fully formed teen novels lurking around on bookshelves Forgotten just might find it’s name to be prophetic of it’s reception.

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