It’s young adult time. In the months since I last wrote about a young adult title we have seen a marked upsurge in YA book sales to adults, thanks primarily to the epic that is The Hunger Games. So, I thought that this would be the perfect time to tell you all about a new book (like Hunger Games, already optioned as a film, to be directed by Ridley Scott) sure to excite fans of the genre.
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 its 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
Heather Christman is a bookseller & the Marketing & Co-op Coordinator at Warwick's.