Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Rebel Heart

Bibliographic Information:

Young, M. (2012). Rebel Heart. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. (9978-0-385-67186-6)

Dust Lands bk. 2

Plot Summary:

Rebel Heart, the second book in the Dust Lands series, follows Saba and her family’s attempt to move on from the deception and destruction sown in Blood Red Road. Lugh wants nothing more than to take their small family and start a new life at the Big Water. He wants to forget his time with the Tonton and all the misery they have lived through.

Saba, however, is being followed by too many ghosts to allow her to find peace. When a message comes from Jack, she decides to risk everything to find him and get him away from the Tonton. While hunting for Jack, Saba is reunited with another of her nightmares, DeMalo.

Critical Evaluation:

First person narrative is a common motif in young adult literature. This narrative mode has many benefits to an author. First, the immediacy of the telling can quickly draw a reader into the plot. It also a great way for an author to control the information the reader is receiving as the narrator’s understanding is limited to, and shaped by, his own experience and what he has been told. Young uses this technique to demonstrate the duality that exists in Saba’s character: she is strong and determined but vulnerable and filled with guilt.

Through allowing Saba to tell her own story, Young depicts the typical flawed hero often associated with high fantasy plots. Young’s post-apocalyptic setting provides a contemporary feeling to the typical hero’s quest. In this, the Dust Land series follows a current trend of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels starring strong female protagonists which includes The Hunger Games, Legend, Shatter Me, and Divergent.

Saba has many similarities to the female protagonists in the books listed above. One of the main differences is her voice. Young’s future is one where literacy is limited; where the very language is decaying. As a result, Saba’s dialect is filled with misspelled words, contractions, and grammatically incorrect sentences. The result is jarring and uncomfortable to a reader used to novels following the rules and conventions of English – which is the point. This devolution of language is echoed in the harsh, barren landscape where Saba lives.

Reader’s Annotation:

Saba, now known as the “Angel of Death,” has successfully rescued her brother Lugh but at what cost? The sacrifices made have marked her and her brother. When a message comes from Jack, she knows she must risk going to New Eden to rescue him but New Eden has some more surprises for her – who is Jack really working for and what does she really want? Maybe there is a place for her in creating this brave new world – maybe she does not have to be its’ destroyer.

Information About the Author:

Although Moira Young was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, she graduated from high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After completing a history degree at the University of British Columbia, Moira attended the The Drama Studio in London, England. She had a short-lived career in theatre as both an actor and dancer. After retraining, she continued her stage career as an opera singer (“Moira Young”).

Blood Red Road was her first book.

Young was an avid reader in her youth. Explaining she said, “I was hungry for books, I devoured them. Libraries provided boundless food for my imagination, shelves full of ideas and thoughts and possibilities. I’d quite like to be buried in a library, there among the stacks” (“Moira Young: About the Author”).


  • Dystopian
  • Post-apocalyptic
  • Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – voice, hero tale
  • Companion book for dystopian unit

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read-alikes for The Hunger Games
  • Girls kick butt too
  • Unique narrative voices

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Lexile Level: HL420L

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Sex

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:

I chose to include Rebel Heart for the following reasons:

  • Blood Red Road won the Costa Children’s Book Award, was a Cyblis Award Winner for fantasy and science fiction. Rebel Heart received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
  • Moira Young is a Canadian author with a Winnipeg connection.
  • Dystopian literature is very popular right now.

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