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 much aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.
If you’re looking for a sweet, quick read I recommend you pick up this book. Although it doesn’t have a lot of deep thinking or commentary on society Dust Girl does have a lot of history and a good bit of magic to keep things going.
The best thing about this book is the worldbuilding. From the research of the depression and the dust bowl in Kansas to the careful inclusion of the fairies, Zettel has built a wonderful world for her book to live in. Callie is a delightful character and manages to encompass all the complications of her age and race in such a difficult time. Jack also has problems with his age and his race, and he also has a harsh past, but he manages to care and is a great tour guide for Callie on her journey. The lack of romance is nice, although there is a foundation laid for a future spark to grow between them. The rest of the characters are well-written, from the Hoppers to Shake and Shimmy, but I won’t spoil them for you.
The plotting was good but not great. I liked the introduction, but it did move a bit slow. I think the reader could have caught up on things had the book started with the big dust storm. The middle of the book was great, with action happening right where it needed to and not bogged down by too much exposition. The ending, though, felt very rushed, the denouement was a bit disjointed and not in the flow of the rest of the book, and the cliffhanger was maddening.
The cover of this book, though, makes me sad. I was extremely surprised when the narrator declared that she had an African American father because of the picture on the cover. I really wish they had used a girl who was the same ethnicity as the narrator of the book, especially one that talks so much about racial issues and segregation. It’s a sad commentary on the book’s publishers.
I received a copy of this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.