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I Belong

Review: Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Title: Dust Girl

Author: Sarah Zettel

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: The American Fairy Trilogy (Book 1)

Publication Date: June 26, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages

ISBN-10: 0375869387 (Random House)

ISBN-13:  978-0375869389 (Random House)

Reviewed by: Michelle


Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in “the golden hills of the west”: California.

Along the way she meets Jack, a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company — there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very much aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

Quick & Dirty: A great recipe of magic, historical fiction, and fantasy. Not your typical Fae story.

Opening Sentence: Once upon a time, I was a girl called Callie.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Set in the 1930s, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel, is about Callie LeRoux. Living in the Dust Bowl in Kansas, Callie is in search for her mother, and father, after the worst dust storm ever. Filled with many twists and unique elements, Dust Girl is a story for the fantasy genre fan. Zettel’s version of the fae is reflected on a very passionate narration, fitting for the 30s.

Callie grew up without knowing who her father really was. Living in the Imperial Hotel, Callie knew the struggles and hardships all throughout her young life. Baya, a Spirit Guide visited Callie after the disastrous dust storm, to tell a story that sounds similar to one of her parents. Aside from the story to find her parents, he also cured her of dust pneumonia.

Callie is determined to find her mother. But in order to do so, she must reveal all of the secrets surrounding her life. From finding out who her father is, to the old piano, and even to whom the Spirit Guide is. With the help of her friend Jack, and two musicians, Shake and Shimmy, Callie is off on this journey to find her mother.

Jack Hollander was not someone that I easily accepted. He was unpredictable and at times a little annoying for my taste. Jack, though, had a lot of endearing qualities, I didn’t think he was fully developed as much as Callie was. He had many flaws, but maybe that was the point, and I missed it. Even if I didn’t love him as much as I loved Callie, he was someone that interacted well with Callie.

Zettel had an amazing storyline written out, filled with action, folklore, and magic. It was filled with a detailed fae culture and some descriptive world elements. Dust Girl had so many elements that captured my imagination, as well as my 5 senses. Zettel included musical references, pulling mostly from the jazz influence. She brought in historical references to bring an authenticity to the story, like the Railroad Bulls and even mentioned the Prohibition.

Zettel has a lot of real-life issues weaved in this book. From race to poverty, Zettel takes a fantasy approach in addressing these issues. Zettel isn’t afraid to remind us of these prejudices, and it was all done subetly and with taste. I appreciated the fact that Dust Girl is for many readers with symbolism around every corner.

My assumptions of this book were just that, assumptions. Zettel proved me wrong on many occasions, throughout Dust Girl. Callie was an innocent heroine, filled with flaws and unknown truths, but someone also determined to reach her goals. I felt that there are high points and low points of this story, some more hindering than others. I felt that while the beginning had great story progression, there were others that had a slow pace, leaving me to look for something more.

Notable Scene:

We ran until we couldn’t run anymore. After that, we walked. The wind was kicking up all the new dust. It stuck to my glaze-smeared skin and itched like a whole family of fleas. Jack coughed with every step, and I was ready to be sick wondering what I’d do if he started to suffocate. So when we saw the deserted tenant farmer’s shack sticking out of the sand, we didn’t even think twice, just stumbled inside and collapsed in the middle of the floor. Jack threw his coat over us both and we huddled close under the worn-out cloth.

After a while, we fell asleep.

The American Fairy Trilogy:

1. Dust Girl

FTC Advisory: Random House Children’s Book provided me with a copy of Dust Girl.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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