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See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten!
To compare any post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel to The Hunger Games and call it better than that bestselling series is the kiss of death. Putting that claim on the paperback cover? Eek. I picked up Blood Red Road a couple of months ago solely because the jacket copy for its sequel Rebel Heart sounded right up my alley, but I didn't expect to love it. Surprise surprise, but I really did love it! Call it the kiss of death for my credibility, but I honestly enjoyed Blood Red Road more than I ever enjoyed reading The Hunger Games.
It took over a week to finish Blood Red Road, but none of that is due to the novel's faults; classes and outside obligations kept getting in the way of precious reading time. Once free time did come around, I devoured large sections of the novel whole and found myself emotionally engaging with the book and reacting to it in ways I feel like I never do. Saba comes such a long way from the beginning, when she is content to follow her brother Lugh as he leads the way, to the leader and fighter she's become by the time the novel's climactic scenes arrive. Most of the characters get development just as strong. Even Emmi, Saba and Lugh's annoying little sister, turns out to be less annoying than originally thought and actually pretty useful.
The nonstandard narration is what originally warded me away from the novel when it came out. There are no quotation marks to indicate dialogue and the language is heavily colloquial, which means "misspelled and often wrong according to proper English" here. I expected that to annoy me and my by-the-books love of English, but it works out surprisingly well. The way it makes readers pay attention so they can figure out who is saying what may be what makes it all so engaging! It sure made me stop skimming (I confess, I am often a skimmer due to wanting to get to the good stuff) and really look at these characters' struggles.
There is no explanation for how our world became Saba's though that is clearly the case. It works in a way because we're more able to immerse ourselves in her world of deserts, storms, and desperate fights for survival without getting bogged down in backstory of how things got that way. People who like explanations for their post-apocalyptic wastelands will not be too big a fan of that choice, though. I'm big on worldbuilding and having the "how" and "why" of a setting if it's dystopian or post-apocalyptic, so it nagged me a little while I read. Not horribly, but the concern sat in the back of my mind and still sits there even now, waiting patiently to find out how we became known as Wreckers and what the heck we wrecked when.
The novel's focus is finding Lugh. Nothing trumps that, especially not the romance. Though that sounds good at first, but that inability to give the romance a little more time to develop put a damper on my enjoyment. Most of that development is left to the heartstone Saba acquires early on and how it gets hot when she gets near Jack, meaning he's her heart's desire. A rock really and truly directs the romance from the get-go and they later say they both knew they wanted each other and it was meant to be at first sight. -sigh- Fated or magic-rock-directed romances don't work like that, okay?
Despite all those concerns, Blood Red Road is a solid read. So solid, in fact, that the errands I have to run in order to get my car spider-free may or may not have been planned to take me by a bookstore where I can buy the new paperback for Rebel Heart, its sequel and the book whose jacket copy/buzz so entranced me. If you're feeling a little exhausted with post-apocalyptic YA, give this a try. Maybe it will break you out of your slump or become a new favorite!