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Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
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Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel is the first of the American Fairy series. Callie LeRoux and her mother are living in Slow Run, Kansas, a place that is sinking into the dust bowl of Great Depression. Sand is a constant problem. The crops have long since dried up. The tourists have stopped coming and Callie and her mother keep the hotel open just because there's nothing else to do.

In the middle of all of this, Callie's mother disappears, just as she learns she might be part fae. Callie has only two options, rescue her mother (if she can) or find her father (if she can). Along the way she needs to learn how to hone her long buried magical skills and figure out who she can trust and who she can't.

Zettel blends early 20th century Americana, the cross roads demon legend, and Celtic fairy lore into a satisfying, humorous and compelling read. Dust Girl has a similar feel to Neil Gaiman's American Gods but written for a tween audience.

The second book is called Golden Girl and I will be reviewing it soon. ( )
  pussreboots | May 3, 2014 |
Callie and her mother are two of the few remaining townspeople in Slow Run, Kansas. It's the middle of the Dust Bowl, and everyone who can leave is either one their way out or already gone, looking for better opportunities. Callie's mother won't leave, though -- she believes that, if she stays, Callie's father will one day come back to her. When Callie's mother disappears during a dust storm, Callie must strike out on her own, because it may not have been just an ordinary storm that spirited her mother away. Powerful forces are at play, and Callie will soon find herself wrapped up in a world she never dreamed existed.

The setting of this book is its real strength -- I could almost taste the dust in the back of my throat. Moreover, the faeries in this book fit seamlessly into that setting, though it's one that doesn't spring to mind when one thinks of the Unseelie Court. But, immersed in Callie's world of dust storms and jazz clubs and amusement parks, it all works in an historical-urban-fantasy kind of way. But while the setting was great, the plot and characters were less memorable. I didn't find myself deeply invested in Callie's journey. So, while I found this an enjoyable enough read, I'm not sure whether I will continue with the rest of the series. ( )
  foggidawn | Sep 27, 2013 |
An ambitious and mostly successful combination of magical adventure and historical novel, this story of a half fairy girl set during the dust bowl years really brings that era to life with lively jazz clubs, deserted towns, racial inequities, and mountain high clouds of swirling, smothering dust. Though Callie has never known her piano playing father, her mother is sure he will be returning to the formerly fancy hotel they run and call home. Most people in their dust buried community have already fled, but hope keeps Callie's mother there until she is whisked away in a dust storm that seems to have been magically conjured when Callie tried playing her father's piano for the first time.

Callie sets out on a cross country venture to find her mother with a homeless but resourceful boy she's just met, discovering her magic abilities as she goes. While not effortless and without cost, her magic solutions came a little too easily for my taste. That said I still enjoyed the book plenty and read right through it. I'm looking forward to its sequel. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Apr 23, 2013 |
And then I read Dust Girl, which is quite different in that it takes place in Kansas in the 1930s. And I love the world that Sarah Zettel created–the sense of the suffocating dust, the creepiness of the monsters. I like the characters too, and the way Zettel interweaves Callie’s different identities. So it’s fast-paced, Midwestern based, with great descriptions and good characters. Why don’t I love it?

I just don’t know. Sometimes that happens with books–I think I ought to love them, but there’s something so indefinable that I struggle with how to express it. I can’t even tell if it’s just a personal issue or there’s something very subtly wrong with the book. In this case, I think it has more to do with personal issues in that the book is a US-based fairy tale and somehow, for me, fairies are European, or at least not Midwestern. Cool glades and forests and stone. But I like the concept of what Zettel has done, and she executes it very well, which makes it all the more frustrating that I can’t just be all, “YOU GUYS THIS BOOK!”

But it may also be that the story tries to take on so much–racial identity and being Jewish in the 1930s, and rumrunning and divisions in the Unseelie Court, and music, and finding out that you’re not who you thought you were, and and and. It’s an ambitious scope and I’m not quite sure the book can carry the weight of them. Again, it’s one of those books where I’m really unsure why I reacted to it the way that I did. So if you’re intrigued, I’d say, check it out.

( )
1 vote maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
DUST GIRL is a bottom-of-the-YA-age-group novel that impressively combines historical and fantasy elements. It’s set in Kansas during the Dust Bowl, five years into the drought that’s killed crops and forced established families to abandon their homes and seek better fortune elsewhere. Slow Run, where our heroine Callie was born and raised, has slowly turned from an agricultural center into a ghost town.

That’s not all, of course. Callie’s mother is a little crazy. Callie herself is dying of dust pneumonia, her lungs filling up with dirt that’s slowly suffocating her. And she’s a mixed-race child, with a white mother and a black father, during Segregation.

If you read the book blurb, you know this is a fairy story. That Callie’s absent father is a fairy prince, making Callie a fairy princess. You might think that the fantasy elements would offer an escape from the grim, dry reality of the Kansas Dust Bowl. This is a middle-grade paranormal, after all – surely there will be iridescent wings and silk gowns and marble fountains somewhere along the line? But, no, Sarah Zettel defies expectations.

There’s magic aplenty in DUST GIRL, but all of it is themed. Zettel takes up fairy lore that we all know (the Seelie/Unseelie court, the deadly potency of iron, etc.) and wraps it up with issues like race relations and poverty. For example: the “Unseelie” fairies are dark-skinned, making Callie appear to be mixed race, and one of the court’s primary sources of magic is jazz music. DUST GIRL is, bizarrely, a fairy story that refuses to indulge even the smallest escapist tendency. All of the fantastical elements lead the reader deeper into the history.

My biggest problem with the book was Callie. I had no idea how old she was. The book is narrated from her point of view and sometimes her vocabulary would be very sophisticated but at others very simple. Sometimes her understanding of the world felt very childlike, and at other times more adult. She could have been anywhere from eight to fifteen, and I was never sure. I couldn’t get a really solid bead on her personality, either. Sometimes she was meek and obedient. Sometimes she had gumption. I was never sure what sparked one side of her character to come out over the other and she ended up just plain not making any sense to me.

I think a lot of people are going to love this book. The worldbuilding is a feat in itself. I do recommend it to anyone who’s thrilled at the prospect of a non-escapist book about a fairy princess. Personally, however…because the heroine never grabbed my heart, the book itself didn’t either. I was impressed, but I didn’t fall in love. ( )
1 vote MlleEhreen | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375869387, Hardcover)

This new trilogy will capture the hearts of readers who adore Libba Bray's The Diviners. 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 aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:39 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

On the day in 1935 when her mother vanishes during the worst dust storm ever recorded in Kansas, Callie learns that she is not actually a human being.

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