New Adult—Wild West Style
Do you ever go to the bookstore and buy a book simply because you like the cover? Vengeance Road is one such buy for me, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.
As the parent of a pre-teen girl who loves to read, I’m always on the lookout for books I can share with her.
What topics do I look to share with my pre-teen?
Every kid is different. I’m a big believer in trusting my gut, and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. Keeping that in mind, I look for topics that deal with things my daughter is also dealing with or is interested in.
Here are a few of the topics I know will resonate with her:
- Crushes. Need I say more?
- Watching friends couple up and understanding how it should and shouldn’t impact her friendships.
- Dealing with the turmoil of puberty (Lord, give me strength!).
- Things that interest her specifically (she is a lover of cats and animals, fairytales gone awry, books about books, magic, etc.).
- Common scenarios or instances at school with characters making good judgment calls in a high-pressure situation.
- Being unexpectedly good at something and failing at other things.
The most important factor I look for in any book I plan to share with her is how well it’s written. She is more engaged and interested in books that are well-written—just like the rest of us.
The Review of Vengeance Road
This is a spoiler-free review of the book, so I’m treading lightly. I don’t let anything slip that isn’t revealed in the back-of-the-book description.
The story begins with Kate telling us—in her Western dialect—her perspective of her father’s murder.
It doesn’t take long to figure out Kate’s no shrinking violet. Her story from her perspective makes it clear that she’s living a rough life. She’s not living in a lush prairie or forested haven. No, she’s in Arizona Territory in the year 1877. Somewhere between the Grand Canyon and Phoenix, Kate and her father are humble homesteaders eeking out a moderate existence in the hot sun. Or at least they were. Now suddenly, it’s just Kate.
Bowman does a good job of painting a colorful picture of life in the Wild West at the time.
Determined to exact vengeance for her father’s brutal murder, 18-year-old Kate disguises herself as Nate and takes off after the men who not only murdered her father but also burn the only home she’s known to the ground.
Along the way, she discovers her father’s killers are one of the most wanted, most dangerous gangs in the territory. Not deterred, she keeps with only one goal—to kill the men who took her pa.
I gave Vengeance Road a five-star rating on Goodreads. Here are a few of the reasons why.
1. Bowman did a good job modeling first love between two new adults.
How many young adult novels have you read that include an epic love story to beat all love stories between two kids barely old enough to drive legally? I’ve lost count.
I like that Bowman portrayed a love story within this grisly tale of loss and determination. Love, especially at age 18, doesn’t always work out. And relationships are rarely as cut and dried as we often see in stories. I especially enjoyed that this love story felt more realistic in its earthly characterization. It wasn’t another epic love story to beat all love stories.
2. It’s a western with a female protagonist.
Who doesn’t love a good western? What’s more, who doesn’t love a good western with a respectful view of women and a female protagonist taking the lead?
Now, let me warn you, there is a saloon or two complete with saloon girls if you get my drift. There’s nothing explicit, so take a breath. A western without a practical, street-smart saloon girl wouldn’t have quite been a western for me.
That said, the saloon girl is treated with respect and dignity by Bowman.
3. It introduces indigenous people in a respectful manner.
The indigenous people of the Arizona Territory at the time had already been relegated to living under the rule of the white man with a reservation being formed in the Arizona Territory five years prior to this story. Bowman gave readers a glimpse into what that meant for one Apache girl in particular.
She also presented Apache ideals in a respectful manner. The indigenous people weren’t portrayed as aggressors or perpetrators, but instead self-reliant people who lived by a certain code that did not align with the values of others.
4. The characters felt whole.
Kate and those around her felt like real people with real problems. Keeping characters grounded and genuine in a Western takes skill, and I think she navigated this well.
5. It’s a fun historical fiction.
Historical fiction novels tend to feel heavy to me. Often, the historical fiction books that sound interesting are interspersed with info dumps for the history buffs reading. I’m an impatient reader, and I like that Bowman keeps the history as part of the backdrop.
If you’re considering letting your pre-teen read this, give it a read for yourself first. There is gun violence, tense situations, and romantic situations as well as a couple of references to “paying for a poke” with the saloon girls. Kate is involved in dangerous situations where she chooses to kill the other person in favor of saving herself.
You know your teen or pre-teen well enough to know if this particular story is right for them. My pre-teen pacifist who has demonstrated her ability to separate fiction from reality is a good candidate.
Would you like to peer into the novel I’m currently writing? It’s a new adult, urban fantasy/sci-fi novel, and I’ve got a sneak peek into the first three chapters ready to go for anyone who joins my newsletter.