Blood Red Road - Moira Young "...what I ain't gotta do, which is waste time thinkin that anybody's gonna help us...I cain't count on nobody but me."

Saba and Lugh live with their father, Willem, and their younger sister, Emmi, near Silverlake. Life is quiet and lonely, until Tontons (the King's guards) come to take Lugh away. Saba then heads off into the wild unknown to find her brother and nothing will stop her.

With the popularity of the Hunger Games and everyone trying to cash in on the recent dystopia craze, it's hard to make a book standout. But this book does. Unlike many other books, Saba is actually a strong, independent female, the writing style is unique and inviting, and the story is something other than "Forbidden Love in a Dystopia".

The first thing you will notice when you start reading is the writing style. Or maybe, as an example, I'll say "ritin' style". Because this book is written how you would imagine someone from the old West speaking. Words are misspelled, grammar isn't perfect, there are absolutely no quotation marks setting off dialogue (but don't worry, for some reason, it's pretty clear in all but a few places what is being said and who is saying it), and descriptions are scarce to the point of almost being nonexistent. I give Young kudos; this is something I've not seen in a young adult novel (at least not in recent years). It definitely makes her book stand out from the crowd.

However, I will nitpick. The latter half seems a bit more sloppy, a bit too refined (though I'm sure you could explain that away with her growing knowledge of the world around her). There is even a point where she says something to the extent of "He gives me a what-the-heck-do-you-think-you-are-doin' look". That right there did NOT feel like Saba any time before; instead it felt like a contemporary teen novel. Really broke me from the flow. Also, when I said that descriptions are minimal to the point of being almost noexistent, I wasn't kidding. I had to read through the description of the long looker three or four times before I figured out what the hell it was. The only description was that it was plastic and had two lenses away from the eyes. I had no idea the size, the shape or anything else, and if Jack hadn't twisted a knob to focus the lenses, I probably would STILL be wondering what that was. (By the way, the item I'm talking about is a pair of binoculars.)

Blood Red Road is populated with a lot of interesting characters, most notably Saba herself. Saba was a great character and instead of saying she's independent, she actually is. She is very much like Katniss (her dedication to her family, her quick-thinking, her ability to hunt and live on her own). While I still wonder how she learned to survive so well on her own (it's hinted that she hunted back at Silverlake, but that doesn't explain everything), I was just glad that Saba was the one doing the rescuing, not her brother Lugh or her *groan* love interest. Emmi got a bit annoying (I would have liked to thump her on the head for all the running around and getting into trouble she does--she is NINE years old, stay at home, kiddo!), but I did like how Saba and Emmi grew to have a better relationship. The Free Hawks were interesting, but they were underutilized (particularly when compared to the cover, that implies somewhat a greater, more lasting connection). I definitely would have liked to see more of Epona and Ash and their relationship to Saba (and a wee bit less of Jack, the Love Interest).

And then we have Jack, the love interest. From the moment he first appeared in the men's exercise room, I knew he would be paired up with Saba. We hadn't bothered to see the men's exercise room before, but now that this guy was here, the guy with the "silver moon eyes" and the "beautiful features" (wasn't it guys that were supposed to be so superficial? So why do all these books focus on how beautiful the lead male is??? And what is it with Saba almost waxing poetic about Jack's features? You get maybe three adjectives about an entire setting, but unending descriptions of how wonderful Jack is? Foul!) you want me to believe he is just a nobody? Uh uh. No way.

I won't hate on Jack too much, because Saba and Jack do have good chemistry, and he doesn't push her around. But why does Saba almost IMMEDIATELY fall in love with him? Why does the heartstone burn ONLY FOR HIM? Wasn't her heart's desire to get her brother back? Plus, having the stone indicate that Saba was hot for Jack when the reader could already tell was total overkill. And then, at the end, the fifty trillion apologies that Saba says to Jack; yes, she was an @ss, yes, she was rude, but Jack was also undermining her authority to Emmi (whom he strangely became friends with almost overnight) and tended to tease her at times when she was stressed. So, not a fan of the romance but it wasn't terrible, by any means. At least Young tried to make it a love-hate relationship (think Han and Leia) instead of Love at First Bite (think Edward and Bella).

I found it pretty obvious who was going to die--that character was painted as patient and kind and all these good things that just screamed "I am dying in a few pages, appreciate me!" Ike and Tommo were interesting characters, but I bemoaned that Saba and Ike didn't get together, if only to relieve some of the boredom. I would really like to have a character get involved with someone that didn't have "silver moon eyes" and "beautiful features" but instead was hardy and well-built.

The villains were okay, nothing extraordinary, but nothing terrible either. The Pinches (particularly Miz Pinch) felt a bit over the top, but the King was very interesting (minus who his relations were and how he treated them--that seemed weird). I liked how he replicated the Sun King from history. And the lead Tonton (forgot his name) promises to be interesting as well. He seems to abide by his own moral code.

The world that Saba and her friends reside in is fascinating and (for once) made sense. The world apparently is nearly desert dry (though a few more descriptions would have been nice to get an idea of how easy it is for these guys to fill their water cannisters), set back into the Old West days with the modern technology in the distant past. Young has set this world up so well, I definitely want to return to it.

I've nitpicked a lot in my review, but overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the writing style, the characters were great, the plot proceeds at a good pace (even though a few times it goes on detours and pitstops), and the world was definitely inviting. I especially liked how the book is pretty self-contained; sure there are openings for Book 2, but there is no crazy cliffhanger.

So if your summer reading list is open and you like smart dystopias, head on down to your local bookstore or library and check this out.