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A Reader of Fictions: The Midnight Special - Johnny Rivers

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Midnight Special - Johnny Rivers

Dust Girl
The American Fairy Trilogy, Book 1

Author: Sarah Zettel
Pages: 286
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Source: Random House via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
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.

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

Guys, this book was weird. Like one of the weirdest books I've read this side of my college course on counterculture where we read things like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Much like the books in that course, I definitely felt like I was on some sort of substance-assisted journey as I read through Dust Girl. So yeah, that was interesting.

Though it was pretty evident from the opening that this was perhaps not the book for me, I persisted on and didn't DNF, because there were some good things about the book. For one thing, I was seriously impressed by Zettel's writing. Dust Girl manages to be very southern without being obnoxious to me at all. Zettel keeps her dialect to a minimum, using it subtly. Even her non-dialect language has a rather southern feel to it, accomplishing the precise mood and tone without making me want to attempt a lobotomy upon myself.

The only thing about the writing I wasn't sure about was a stylistic choice. Zettel chose to write the story in the past tense, occasionally interjecting a monologue from future Callie into the story. There would be an analysis of how Callie felt in a situation, followed by something to the effect of 'but I didn't know that at the time.' This always left me feeling as though Zettel was trying to explain concepts and motivations to me she felt I wasn't clever to grasp without her heavy-handed assistance. I generally find this method of story-telling to be tricky and a bit overdone, and I thought it was especially clunky here, although perhaps this was fixed in the final version.

The other awesome thing about this story was how unlike anything else I've read it was. There might be moments where I thought of some other fiction, but the compilation of these moments and all of the other moments were something brand new. These faeries are familiar, but they are Zettel's own. Oh, and, adding to the originality, is the diversity in the book. I feel like I shouldn't have to issue mad props everytime I read a book with a non-white main character, but I do. Callie is a mixed race child (whatever we ultimately decide her race to be).

However, the big drawback for the book, the aspect that left me constantly going "WTF!!!!!" as I read, was the fact that I never had a freaking clue what was happening. There are books that surprise me, that do unexpected things, but I have rarely felt as completely lost in a narrative as I did in Dust Girl. Things would happen, and then some more things. I never felt like I had any sense of a direction the story was heading in or like that was an issue with me as a reader. There just wasn't a feeling of a story arc. Mostly, it felt like I was being pulled along for the ride, bumping roughly and suddenly over obstacles I couldn't possibly have seen coming.

I really can't recommend or condemn this book. Some readers will no doubt love it, because it was in pretty much every way a wholly unique reading experience. Others, though, will be entirely frustrated by that adrift feeling that it leaves you with. I didn't dislike the book, but I'm also not invested enough to continue on with the series.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "'Well, from what I seen so far, being a Callie LeRoux is plenty good enough. Maybe you should just stick to that.'"

"You get up in the mornin', you hear the ding dong ring,
Now you look up on the table, you see the same darn thing.
You find no food upon the table, and no pork up in the pan.
But if you say a thing about it, you be in trouble with the man.

Ah let the Midnight Special shine a light on me,

Oh let the Midnight Special shine its ever lovin' light on me

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry this book was disappointing. Do you not like southerners? I'm from the South, but I don't sound it.

July 17, 2012 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I'm actually from the South too (Atlanta born and raised), though I don't sound it either. I don't dislike southerners precisely, but a lot of southern fiction leaves me cold. Generally, that's because I really don't like books written in dialect, and southern fiction is the most frequent offender I've discovered. My issues with this one actually weren't about it being southern.

July 17, 2012 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

I can understand the mixed feelings. There was a lot I liked about Dust Girl, like the writing style and the setting, but the beginning didn't totally grab me. Also, that cover totally turns me off.

July 17, 2012 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Sounds like you had a fairly similar reaction with it. There really were aspects that were SO well done, but then the rest was like...O_O

The cover's weird. Def. It works for the book, I think, though. What I don't like about it is how long I've spent staring at it trying to decide if the girl on the cover is half-black like Callie or if she's a white girl with makeup. I'm pretty sure the latter, unfortunately, but I wouldn't bet on it.

July 17, 2012 at 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worded that question so awkwardly- sorry. I was just curious. I cocompletely understand. Sometimes they lay it on waaaay too thick and it suffocates you. Atlanta, represent! I lived in Peachtree City when I was a teenager.

July 17, 2012 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

That's totally fine! I just wanted to make sure people didn't think I hated every southern thing. I don't. I just can't take too much of it. Haha.

Woo! Atlanta's pretty great. And not especially southern. :-p

July 17, 2012 at 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm proud to be from the South, but sometimes it can be annoying.

Atlanta is awesome.

July 17, 2012 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

I'm guilty of loving this book, but I totally get why some people wouldn't. Hell, I'm not entirely sure why I did because it was so odd and just plain weird at times. I think I enjoyed the relationships and interactions between the characters. Well and my family is from Kansas, so I think that made me a little biased, too. :-)

As for the cover, I thought it was good for the book, too. I have no trouble believing that the model may be half-black. Many of my friends have mixed-race children who vary from predominantly black to blonde hair and blue eyes.

July 17, 2012 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Haha, you don't need to say that you're 'guilty.' There's nothing wrong with loving this book. The writing was great, and I think Zettel is clearly very skilled. The story line itself just was not for me.

I can believe that she is. I would just like to know, because whitewashing is a sad thing.

July 17, 2012 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Katie Marie said...

This book sounds pretty interesting...weird. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Some people will like a book while others won't. It's never a crime to love or not love a book. We all have different tastes! :-) Though having to write a review on a book you didn't like, I will admit, is difficult....

August 4, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I didn't hate this book, but I definitely didn't love it. Really one of the oddest books I've ever read. Maybe you'll like it more!

August 4, 2012 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Jaime Lester said...

I had this feeling, from the title and the little bit that the blurb gives up, that Dust Girl would be an odd one. I'm not even sure what exactly made me think that, but the first time I saw it, I walked away saying, "Huh? That one may be a bit of a weird one." As it turns out, seems I was right on the money. It does seem interesting, and it is a book that I may one day read, in the future, but not one that if I miss out on it I will be upset. Example: I know that book 2 of one of the best books ever is coming out soon, and if I missed it, I would be incredibly grumpy. You wouldn't want to be around me sort of grumpiness. That book would be Days of Blood and Starlight.... Oooh, or Girl of Nightmares. Definitely that one too! Anyway, thanks for your review of Dust Girl!

August 7, 2012 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, this definitely wasn't a bad book; it was just strange. Seriously, felt like I'd taken some drugs unawares at times. Most of the times.

Oooh, I haven't read either of the first books in those series, but I own both and REALLY need to get to it.

August 7, 2012 at 10:28 PM  

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