11 October 2010

Dust City

By Robert Paul Weston
Published by the Penguin Group
October 2010
ARC courtesy of Penguin Group (Canada)

Henry Whelp is a teen wolf doing time at St. Remus Home for Wayward Youth. Generally, he is a nice kid, liked by other kids and adults alike. But Henry believes he may possibly be bad like his father (the Big Bad Wolf), who is presently doing hard time for killing a little girl (Little Red Riding Hood) and her grandmother. His mother died when he was young - hit and killed by a truck transporting fairy dust - and his subsequent confusion about her death and his father's incarceration not only led to a wayward crime, but to a psychiatrist's office, as well. When Henry discovers the psychiatrist has kept secrets from him, he ponders the answers to long-asked questions: Are there still fairies? If not, what happened to them? Is his father really responsible for a double murder?

Weston leads the reader from there into Henry's trek into the dark, gritty, grimy world of dust, fairies, goblins, dwarves, and humans, known as Dust City. Dust is the drug of choice in Dust City; fairy dust, that is. But it's dust that has been tampered with by Nimbus Thaumaturgical, is inhaled and absorbed by the body, and brings some of the book's characters on some pretty wild head trips.

Characters in Dust City include, Snow White, Cinderella, Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, Rumpelstiltskin, and more. I liked this touch; it made the story less grim, yet more Grimm, if you get my drift. The story itself was slow getting into but it picked up once there was less reform school and more details of life in the city. Weston has a talent for relating to YA readers without dumbing-down his vocabulary and his writing style is fast-paced - once the story got going, there was no holding back.

While this book is marketed as a YA novel for twelve years and up, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than fifteen. It tackles some pretty heady themes, including drug abuse, drug runners, murderers, racism, and genocide. It also contains graphic accounts of violence and drug-induced hallucinations. Overall, however, I certainly recommend this novel for fans of YA fantasy fiction.