In Book Reviews, coming of age


Author: Joe Lansdale
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA
Format: Hardcopy
Publisher: Ember
Release Date: 11th September 2012 (re-print edition)
Recommended Reading Age: 13 +

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Contains no spoilers [divider top=”0″]

OVERALL THOUGHTS: Dustbowl, depression era America was a difficult place to be it seems. This is a book for fans of YA which isn’t fantastical or magical, but real, gritty and mature. People looking for YA that does not fit a cookie-cutter mould will appreciate this book and what it achieves.


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SYNOPSIS: Jack Catcher’s parents are dead–his mom died of a sickness and his dad of a broken heart–and he wants to get out of Oklahoma, where dust storms have killed everything green and hopeful. So when former classmate Jane Lewis and her little brother, Tony, show up in his yard with plans to steal a dead neighbor’s car and make a break for Texas, Jack doesn’t need much convincing to go with them. But a run-in with one of the era’s most notorious gangsters puts a crimp in Jane’s plan, and soon the three kids are riding the rails among hoboes, gangsters, and con men, racing to warn a carnival-wrestler-turned-bank-robber of the danger headed toward him faster than a black blizzard on the prairie horizon. This road trip adventure is a colourful ride through Depression-era America.



THE LOWDOWN: If you have read any of my other reviews, you will know that typically I am magic, witches, vampires and the like when it comes to YA fiction. This book was part of an amazing gift my lovely husband bought me for Christmas; through which I get a beautifully wrapped, surprise book each month which is tailored to my preferences but designed to challenge them. I will be honest and say that when this book appeared on my doorstop as the first in the year of books I was a little disappointed. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I did a bit!

This book is not like anything else I have read designed for the YA audience, which I think is a good thing. This is the gift working its magic – forcing me to read books I may usually discount. I read the blurb and was still less than enthused, but I ended up reading it in an afternoon and I enjoyed it.

I have given this book three stars not because there was any fault in it, quite the opposite; I really liked the author’s writing style and the fact I managed to see it through in one sitting was a strong indicator that the story was good too. I only didn’t go more fireworks and whistles about it because, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t light a fire in me. I was eager to see what happened (sign of good characterization) but not delighted or thrilled, or desperate to read again. It was well-written and good but not my ideal read….this is all subjective though of course and I am being very positive about it because I believe many people will relish this coming of age tale set in depression era America.

Our main character is orphaned in the dustbowl – hence the title ‘all the earth thrown to the sky’ and when he joins forces with other ‘down on their luck’ kids a bizarre and twisting tale of travel, discovery and friendship ensues. This isn’t a happy-go-lucky tale, it is filled with some great sadness, challenge and peril, but ultimately it is rewarding and as a reader, it is nice to feel like YA isn’t always something you can fit into a certain tick box.

There’s carnival folk, train-hopping and gangsters along the way so plenty to keep readers interested!

I would recommend you try for yourself. Lansdale is a great writer and I would definitely not shy away from reading more of his work in the future.

Amy Keen
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