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.
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 hero’s quest. In this way, 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 author’s 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.
I thought Blood Red Road was great. Rebel Heart follows a typical pattern for a middle book in a series; it is setting up the elements for the conclusion. Some things are left unsettled and it raises more questions than it answers. So, in other words, you need to read it if you want to know what happens next but it just can’t stand on its’ own.