Sunday, December 25, 2016

WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER BY RAE CARSON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson.


I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I knew it had something to do with a girl who can witch gold from the ground, but nothing else.

The story is set in 1849 America. Slavery is still very much a thing, as is prejudice against First Nations peoples. Following a teen named Leah, we set out on the journey from Georgia to California, following the Gold Rush. Leah has always had a gift of being able to find gold, and when her father becomes ill, she takes on the role of unofficial man of the house. Her best friend Jefferson decides he is leaving his abusive household and leaves for California. He tells Leah to come with him, but if not, he'll wait for her in another state. Leah is focused on staying and helping her family until she arrives home and finds her mother and father both murdered. Her mother's last words were telling her to run. Soon her father's brother comes to claim the property, including her. Leah decides its now or never and makes a run for it.

Leah disguises herself as a boy, a lady traveling alone would raise too many questions and would leave her even more vulnerable and sets out west. Along the way she meets some kind souls, and some not-so-kind souls. I really loved that this journey wasn't a piece of cake. A lot of times when you get stories like this, a small chunk is a journey, usually written in an unrealistically easy way. But Carson makes sure to focus on the journey, not the destination.

One of the main things I loved about this novel overall is the ferocity of Leah. She meets many obstacles along the way but she perseveres and never gives up, even when she wants to. I also loved the pro-girl message of the story, how she was worth more than just someone to marry off and bear children. It wasn't super in your face, but it was definitely a prevalent background image throughout the story. There is also a point in the novel where she gets her period (something I would definitely NOT look forward to in 1849 traveling the country). I was a little surprised that something like this was included, not because it's not an issue, but just something that isn't really brought up in fiction, especially YA fiction, even though it is a perfectly normal and accepted part of being female. Off the top of my head I can think of 2, maybe 3 novels that mention menstruation, out of the almost 600 books I've read in the last 3.5 years. That's kinda pathetic.

I also really loved that this story was more about finding yourself than it was about finding a partner. Leah and Jefferson have a bit of awkward history, but it doesn't really take up a lot of the story once Leah figures out what is really important - her survival. They are still really good friends, but there wasn't a lot of romantic tension. I think having her fall head over heels for Jeff would have been a little too much for this story of which the main message is about self-preservation.

This story also touches on some important elements of American past, the treatment of minority groups. I think Carson handled the topic very well. She was quick to point out the faults of the 'white man' in situations where they were rightly at fault. Leah frequently stood up for those who were being blamed for things they didn't do. Slavery was a major issue touched on, it isn't abolished for another decade or so and there are a lot of nasty comments made. Likewise, with the Native Americans, the group comes across in their travels. They are blamed for everything from 'looking suspicious' to trying to steal one of the children (for what reason I have no idea). Carson rightly shows the falsehoods of these claims and that the things being said are offensively out of line and not at all correct. I'm saddened that people once thought this way about any group of fellow humans.

The ONE MAJOR issue I had with this book was that it was so. stinking. slow. Like by 200 pages in, I wasn't sure I could make it. Leah's attitude and energy could only carry the story so far before things just dragged on. I think this is a common problem people generally had with this book, but I still feel bad. I think the story could have been even better if it was just a hundred pages shorter. Because of the content, I was able to keep going, but there were times when I couldn't see where the plot was going and if anything was really going to happen. Because this is a story about a journey lasting almost a year, and every detail is documented. But there wasn't really an end game to hope for. Almost everything was resolved by the end, I think this would have been a great standalone.

I'm not sure what the sequel will be about, and I'm not sure it's super necessary.

Overall, great message and main character, but so SLOW.