Expected Publication: September 1st, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher (ARC)
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.
When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate.
In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.
I will admit that westerns have never really been my thing. A lot of people were excited about Vengeance Road because of its western aspect and the rarity of that in YA, but what drew me in was the story of revenge. (And Erin Bowman, obviously. And also THAT COVER.) And thankfully, VR definitely delivered on the revenge front.
For those of you that don't know, Vengeance Road is written in dialect. I knew that going in and I'd read excerpts and such, but I was still nervous. I never managed to finish Blood Red Road because it was written in this manner (though it was a little more extreme in Blood Red Road). People said I would get used to it, and I suppose I did, but half the time I was converting it to the language we speak without even thinking about it.
I think Vengeance Road definitely stayed true to its western claim. There were deserts and horses and shoot-outs, oh my. Like I said: this isn't what drew me in. I didn't really know what to expect of it. Thankfully, I did end up enjoying it quite a bit. We get to see saloons, the thirst for gold, and so much more. Every bit of it felt authentic to me (although I am certainly not a history buff) and it was really fun to see such a different world.
Kate's impersonation of the male species was discovered a little sooner than I expected, so I do wish we'd gotten to see a little more of that. But Kate was a fantastic character who wasn't going to let anything - certainly not logic or reason - get in the way of her hunt for revenge. I loved the way she charged into things simply because I think it's definitely realistic. People react in all sorts of ways to things like what happened to Kate and her father, but the anger and rage is one of the easier things to read for me because I can never handle all the doom and gloom. Kate is strong and vulnerable and headstrong all at once and I loved her.
Jesse and Will, the two that Kate meets along the way, felt very real too. They had distinct and vibrant personalities, their own sets of issues. They definitely weren't cardboard cutouts. Sometimes I wished that we could get more quiet moments with all of them where they could actually have a real conversation that didn't focus on all the depressing things in their lives, but I understand why we didn't. Jesse and Kate had a few of those - one of which was quite adorable, in its own way - but I guess I just wanted more. This left me feeling like their relationship was a little underdeveloped, but not by much.
I think Kate and Jesse fit together really well, like two puzzle pieces, though I don't quite understand why. (I'M SORRY I SAY THAT SO MUCH.) There wasn't an instant attraction, not really - Kate was pretending to be a boy and hunting a murderer, so I mean. Not really time for a boy there. Their relationship had a bit of a slower development - at least it appeared that way to me; I'm not really sure about the timeline of the novel right now - and it was fun to watch and definitely something I could get behind.
And let me tell you, ERIN BOWMAN HAD ME SO NERVOUS AT THE END. I thought people were going to die and then I thought people were never coming back and IT WAS A LITTLE STRESSFUL.
tl;dr: Despite my personal hesitance about the western aspect, I did really enjoy the setting and found the entire novel a refreshing change from the usual YA I read. I loved the main character and the entire story of cold revenge. This is absolutely 100% something you need to check out if you haven't yet. 4 stars.