Amber at Fall Into Books's Reviews > Dust Girl

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
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May 22, 12

Read from May 21 to 22, 2012

Dust Girl is unlike any novel I've ever read. It's set in the 1930s in the Dust Bowl in Kansas, and it's about a mixed race fae, Callie, and her need to reach California. While Zettel's descriptions had me feeling as if I was actually in the Dust Bowl with Callie, the world-building itself was lacking. Also, the characters were flawed and believable, but I found them hard to relate to.

Callie's race, which always hovered in the background, was a good reminder of which time period you were in, but I don't like the incorporation of the random Native American, which seemed rather racist on the part of the author. As an American Indian Studies major (political Anthropology and political History), I am extremely sensitive to how American Indians are portrayed in novels and to what these portrayals do to them politically. When Native American lore is presented in a decolonizing fashion, such as how Bethany Wiggins presented Navajo mythology in Shifting, I simply adore it. Wiggins shot all of the settler colonial ideas straight to hell with her novel and really illustrated how American Indians are very much a part of contemporary society. However, when some random Native American is thrown in and acts all weird and mysterious, simply because that is how Native Americans are viewed much of the time in contemporary society, it irks me. Yes, I know it is supposed to be Coyote, and Coyote is a trickster figure. But Coyote isn't a trickster figure for all American Indian nations, and just throwing Coyote in there to conveniently move the plot along only to have him disappear is a bit depoliticizing. And I'm not even going to go into a literary reading of the whole idea of now that the Indian was helped and he did his part, he'll disappear thing, considering that the mid-1930s was the end of the Assimilation Era when they wanted Native Americans to disappear.

But I digress. *deep breath* Okay. Moving on. I couldn't really connect to Callie, even though she was an extremely mature and strong character. I just didn't feel any emotional connection with her at all.Even though Zettel was good at showing the setting and time period, she did more telling when it came to the emotions. Because of this and the huge political faux pas at the beginning, I really didn't give a big crap if Callie made it to California or not. Also, while she and Jack seemed quite compatible, there was no romance to speak of. Just adolescent crushes and such. I'm not sure I would have cared had there been a romance since I couldn't relate to the characters, but generally that tends to spice up a dragging plot.

This plot was fairly slow moving for me. I mean I know they had insect fae and all of that, which completely grossed me out... I hate bugs, but it still took me forever to get through this book. It took me a long time because I was bored and because the plot was kind of random and didn't really make sense a lot of the time. Things would happen without any lead up whatsoever, which left me thinking, "where did that come from?" Then I would ignore the next chapter or so trying to figure out why this random event occurred. By the time I began to pay attention again, something else random would happen. I like a bit more order to my stories than this.

Overall, I'd say check this book out from the library before you buy it. I know a lot of people have loved it, and the setting is wonderfully done. However, the characters, while believable, are not easy to relate to... at least in my opinion. Also, there are a lot of plot holes. I wouldn't say avoid it completely, but I would say try before you buy.
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