When I first began reading Dust by Arthur Slade, I didnâ€™t realize it was a YA novel. To me, the writing was cold and hypnotic, and it unfolded the way that darker, more severe, stories about serial killers and children do. Nevertheless, this is most assuredly a young adult dark fantasy.
Like â€œMr. Darkâ€ in Something Wicked This Way Comes, a pale, desiccated stranger appears in the region, and immediately, bad things start to happen. Unaware of the danger, the local farmers and the townâ€™s banker fall under his spell and buy into his scheme to save them from the drought. Good luck with that.
As we follow an eleven-year-old boy named Robert, who is desperately searching for his younger brother, Matthew, we come to learn that not only has Matthew disappeared but many other children have as well. And the grownups donâ€™t seem to noticeâ€”or care. When we come to know Robert, we can see why he believes it is up to him to find his brother.
One of my favorite things about this novel is the world-building. It takes place in Horshoe, a small town in Saskatchewan during a terrible drought. In the US, the drought occurred in the early 1930s and led to the Dust Bowl. Farmers are barely able to grow any crops due to a lack of rain. Itâ€™s always hot, and thereâ€™s dust everywhereâ€”grit that blows into peoplesâ€™ homes, clings to their clothes, and invades their food. Itâ€™s this kind of detail that makes Dust such a compelling read.
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The children were disappearing.
And the worst thing about it?
No one noticed
A rainmaker brings rain to a drought-stricken town. The stranger amazes the townspeople with magic mirrors and bewitches the children with his beautiful butterfly.
First, one child vanishes. Then another. And another.
Only one young man sees through the lies and decides to act.
Youâ€™ll love this dark, mysterious young adult novel. Winner of the Governor Generalâ€™s Award.
Get it now.
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