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Reviewed by:
  • Dustborn by Erin Bowman
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Bowman, Erin Dustborn. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021 [432p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780358244431 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780358469469 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys Ad Gr. 7–10

Delta and her companions are barely surviving the brutal heat and dust storms of the wastes and then raiders attack, kidnapping her friends and family. Then she herself is captured and brought to the General, who is certain that the map branded onto Delta’s back holds the key to finding the idyllic and flourishing Verdant. The problem, however, is that no one can actually read the map, and Delta flees, thinking the only way to get the General to release her compatriots is to find someone who can make sense of her scars. Her journey takes her to Powder Town, a stronghold against the General; to a lone woman in the middle of a desert inventing (and failing at) a wind wagon; and eventually to Eden, a caved-in bunker where she learns that her world is nothing that she thought it was. The post-apocalyptic setting is richly drawn, with harrowing escapes from dust storms across parched land and a general sense of blistering doom, but the story itself is heavy with info-dumps, particularly in the form of unprompted explanations of plot and/or setting from secondary characters that roll in and out of importance. Delta is a snarky firecracker of a girl, but she lacks the foresight to make any real plan, so the plot starts and sputters with her being pushed around more by circumstance than her own motivation. Thematically, the book works on a more effective scale, particularly when Delta discovers that her world’s history is built on a series of miscommunications and lies, and her authentic struggle with faith and spirituality outweighs some of the book’s other flaws. Readers will be left to ponder the sometimes warring forces of hope and truth—right after they find a cool drink of water.



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p. 291
Launched on MUSE
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