If Suzanne Collins’ ground-breaking Hunger Games series gave teenage readers an appetite for the bleak desolation of dystopian landscapes then they are going to feast on Moira Young’s tasty debut novel.
Set in a post-apocalyptic and barren world of dusty desert country, violent conflict, human slavery and a hard-pressed populace fast running out of hope, Blood Red Road is a terse, taut and high octane story driven by brute force, tangible fear, sibling loyalty... and heart-rending love.
Its heroine, Saba, is a fighter, a survivor, a tough-nut teen who will stop at nothing to track down her kidnapped brother Lugh.
She’ll face terror and captivity, see life at its most raw and cruel and she’ll try her hardest to quell the green shoots of a budding romance as she tackles the unforgiving dustlands to find her beloved twin.
Her country was devastated years ago by the destructive high-tech Wreckers and now she inhabits a lawless land where life is cheap, enemies are never far away and survival is an endless battle.
Eighteen-year-old Saba has been brought up by her widowed father in isolated Silverlake. The only person she really cares for is her twin Lugh – ‘He’s my light. I’m his shadow.’
They live in a shanty house made from piled-up tyres and scratch a living out of the dried up soil but Lugh is disillusioned and bitter.
‘Love makes you weak,’ he declares.
When Lugh is snatched by mysterious black-robed riders seeking the ‘Golden Boy,’ she sets out on an epic quest to rescue him.
His kidnappers, she discovers, are the Tonton, a group of men in their prime who act as couriers, spies, informers, bodyguards and sometimes executioners.
They come from a place ironically called Hopetown where the scum of the earth wash up and are controlled by violence and an addiction to an edible plant called chaal.
As she travels through her broken land with younger sister Emmi in tow, the hot-headed Saba will be coerced into cage fighting, join a band of female rebels and discover that maybe love really does make the world go round...
Young’s powerful novel comes with a vibrant collection of characters, a unique narrative style and a dialectical dialogue that grabs attention from the first page.
We see America of the future through the eyes of Saba, a ray of light in a dark and shadowy underworld, her unquenchable resilience and dedication an inspiration amidst adult betrayal and chaos.
A sensational and action-packed read.
(Scholastic, paperback, £7.99)