Monday, September 19, 2011

Blood Red Road

If there are 5000 young adult books published in the US each year, it sometimes feels that about half of them are dystopian fiction. Okay, we're exaggerating...but, the more we think of it, the more inflated that five thousand figure sounds as well. (Five thousand YA books? Really?) But there's no denying that, with the possible exception of vampire stories, dystopian novels are the hottest thing going these days. And they've got vampires beat when it comes to critical plaudits. When was the last time a vampire book got the Printz? Uh...never. But a dystopian tale won the Printz just last year: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. And it wasn't the first dysotopian book to win. Remember how i live now by Meg Rosoff?

Now along comes Blood Red Road by Moira Young, a hot new title that's already won a lot of fans and been optioned for the movies by Ridley Scott. Set in a hot and dusty post-apocalyptic world, the novel concerns a motherless family suddenly broken apart when mysterous intruders kill Pa and abduct eighteen-year-old Lugh for unknown reasons. Lugh's twin sister, Saba, with young sibling Emmi in tow, leaves their remote homestead in order to track down her much-loved brother. During Saba's grueling journey, she's held captive and -- in a subplot reminiscent of The Hunger Games -- forcd to work as a cage fighter. She falls in love with another young nomad. And then there are the giant hellwurms squeezing through the cracks of a deserted lakebed, ready for attack. Blood Red Road features nonstop action, a tenacious heroine, and, in Saba's first-person pidgin-English ("I hafta stop myself from screamin. From walkin fast. Runnin on ahead."), a distinctive first-person voice.

But the glut of recent dystopian fiction gives this novel a certain familiarity. Readers drawn into Saba's story will be anxious to see what happens next (Blood Red Road is the first volume in a trilogy) but they may also have a feeling that they've traveled similar roads before.

PRINTZ WORTHY? : Despite a strong narrative voice and a memorable protagonist, Blood Red Road seems unlikely to wear a gold or silver seal. Oh well, maybe the eventual movie will get an Oscar.

So...Printz-worthy or not? What do YOU think?

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