Young Adult is the new black. Big name authors are defecting from adult fare and writing for a younger audience. Not to worry, though, adult readers. Even if your favorite authors are now writing for your kids (or grandkids) much of young adult is very much worthwhile for all ages.
When I heard Joe R. Lansdale had written a young adult, I had to grab All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky. I wanted to scream when I realized the story took place in the Dust Bowl. I've been doing research for a YA based in that time period for months now. Damn.
But, on with the review:
Writing coaches tell you to start the story off when everything changes. In this case, it's when Joe Catcher's mother dies of dirty pneumonia and his father hangs himself in the barn leaving Joe orphaned. He's not quite sure what to do when Jane and her brother Tony show up from a neighboring farm. Jane's got a plan. She's going to steal a car and they're all going to Tyler, TX where she and Tony have family.
Thus begins an epic adventure involving outlaws, hoboes, and even a traveling circus. Joe's got a perfect feel for the perils of the Dust Bowl and he depicts this calamity with pitiless accuracy. The characters are well-drawn: Joe's an honest sort, Jane's sneaky and deceptive, and Tony's just a little kid who wants a home and a family after he's lost his.
Warning--once you start this book, you are not going to want to stop. There's no point where you feel the kids are safe enough to leave.
My only complaint, Joe's depiction of Pretty Boy Floyd is pretty darn close to Woody Guthrie's. Not that I object. Plainly, Woody was right and I don't think Pretty Boy Floyd would come back to haunt Joe, either.
All the Earth Thrown to the Sky is an excellent selection for young male readers. They're going to love the action and suspense and get a little history lesson thrown in. I suspect anyone from Oklahoma would enjoy the book as well.
Order All Earth Thrown Sky as an eBook (or hardcover, which ever suits your tastes).
Rebecca Kyle, October 2011