Book One in “The American Fairy Trilogy,” this historical fiction/fantasy hybrid is set in 1935 in the Dust Bowl of Kansas. Calliope LeRoux is as unusual as her name. The daughter of a white woman and a black jazz pianist, after her mom disappears in a huge dust storm, Callie learns the truth about her origins. It turns out the father she never met was a fairy prince; so, not only is she fairy royalty – she’s “Heir to the Midnight Throne.” Along with this title, she also discovers special powers, including the ability to see, and (appear to) grant other people’s wishes, and to open time windows. Determined to find both her mother and father, Callie and a Jewish boy named Jack team up and head for California. Unfortunately, they encounter numerous obstacles before even making it out of Kansas, including: life-sized locusts disguised as humans; a violent private detective threatening to put them on the chain gang; untrustworthy fairies out to get rid of Callie; and even bigotry and anti-semitism. Throw in some Woody Guthrie tunes, several kind-of-but-not-really-dead characters, and the kitchen sink, and you’ve got DUST GIRL. Zettel’s writing is without fault, and Callie is a unique, sympathetic and resourceful heroine. Still, the plot is hard to follow and harder to swallow. It would perhaps be better as two separate books: one historic fiction, one fantasy. Thumbs-up only for readers who enjoy mixed genres.
BIBLIO: 2012, Random House, Ages 12 and up, $17.99.
FORMAT: Young Adult