Dust Girl Sarah Zettel Book Review

Straight up, it took me a long time to warm up to Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel. I felt as though I had been dropped into it with no idea of what was going on. I didn’t immediately feel grounded in the story. Frankly, though, once I had a better sense of place and world, Dust Girl went from being a chore to read to a story that I absolutely wolfed down.

Dust Girl Sarah Zettel Book Cover

Dust Girl

First things first – there are fairies in Dust Girl, actually, all over Dust Girl which was really a bit dismaying as I thought I was getting a Dust Bowl historical fiction, but was actually getting a fairy story set in the Great Depression. You see, the main character, Callie LeRoux is half-black and has never met her father. She and her mom run the town’s only hotel. When a giant dust storm happens and honestly, I had no idea what the frick was happening during that scene, Callie’s mom disappears. Callie discovers that she is half fey. My initial reaction was to peace on out of reading the book.

Yet, I am glad I persevered with Sarah Zettel’s young adult debut, because it has kind of a Blood Red Road vibe to it, what with the dust and the walking and all. The world building was pretty interesting, especially as I’ve never been privy to a historical fantasy set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. I really thought the setting was unique and such a different take on magic. The fairies in Dust Girl use magic based on wishes and draw from the wishes and hopes of those around them to make things happen. It is actually kind of cool to read.

However, to be honest with you all, I did find some of the action scenes very confusing. There were various points during the book when a fight or a chase was going down and I could never really get a clear picture of what was going on in my mind. I found that to be off putting. Like, so much would be happening that I didn’t know if we were in fairy land or human land.

Also, because Dust Girl is the first of The American Fairy Trilogy, a foundation is laid for romance. Yet, we don’t get any sexytimes or even some kissing or any of that ilk. I did like the chemistry between Callie and Jake. Jake is a transient boy who mysteriously shows up, is like a human compass, and carrying a terrible burden inside. Oh yes, he’s one of those emotionally broken types and the wanting to fix him is SO legit you guys.

Finally, I want to note in this review that I wish the cover of Dust Girl had featured a girl of color instead of a white girl, because as I mentioned above, Callie is half-Black. Seriously, whitewashing does us no favors as readers and I honestly thing the cover could be so much better and less generic and ordinary looking if it was true to what is inside and accurately reflected the content.

Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.

Other reviews of Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel:

Great Imaginations – “The writing was solid, the characters were solid, and so was the world-building (for the most part), I just felt the story itself fell flat.

The Sweet Bookshelf – “a really fun YA read with a fresh twist.

A Cupcake And A Latte – “Captivating, magical, and completely addicting

Bunbury In The Stacks – “Zettel has created a story that is eerie, fresh, grimy, and full of meaning, and I ate it up

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Thanks for linking up, April! I’m glad you liked it better than I did. I’m also glad my review didn’t hinder your reading experience. I hate when that happens. Do you think you will read the next one? I wasn’t really involved enough in the story to continue with it, I don’t think.

    I also agree about the cover. Not cool.

    • No problem! I am more than happy to link up. Also? I try to not let negative reviews influence me and try to make up my own mind about books, and because of that it drives me nuts when authors freak over bad reviews like us readers are so weak minded we can’t come to our own opinions.

      I like Zettel’s writing style, so yeah, I think I will continue on with the story.

      I do hope more of an outcry is raised with the cover.

  2. It’s so good when a book goes from being boring to enjoyable and I’m glad that was the case for you and this book! Although as soon as you mentioned that Callie is half Black, I scrolled back to look at the cover and was disappointed with the girl they chose to represent her, not cool.

    • I like when that happens too — when I go from not feeling a book to being into it.

      And yes! It is absolutely ridiculous to put a white girl on the cover of a book about a girl of color. WTF cover designers.

  3. I’m more interested in reading this now that I know Callie is half Black – that must be an interesting perspective, given the time period. But like you, I’m disappointed in the cover. Sigh.

    • The cover does suck — but Callie’s perspective is fantastic. And I know in the past that if enough people raise their voice in an outcry against whitewashing the publishers sometimes change the cover like for Justine Larbaliester’s Liar (totally butchered her last name) and for Magic Under Glass. So I hope enough people voice their unhappiness over the whitewashing.

  4. Seeing the girl on the cover made me wonder if she was Hispanic or maybe of Mediterranean origin… but yeah, she doesn’t look like she’s half black and honestly looks more white. Which is a shame. All that being said, the premise of this sounds interesting, but I don’t know if I could get into it with all the confusing action scenes. I’ll probably just enjoy it vicariously through you! 🙂

  5. Boo on the white-washing. That actually makes me wonder if I should read the book at all, but I guess I shouldn’t punish the author for something she had no control over. Still. Annoying.

    • Yeah, usually authors don’t get a say on their covers so I think instead of punishing the author we should speak out against it and make some noise about it.

      • Would publishers really listen to us? I mean, if people keep buying books with white washed covers, why should they listen to us.

  6. based on this review, I may try it again. I got about 10% into it profusely and just couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on, like you I felt dropped into the story and it was strange.

    • Yes! I almost gave up on it, but then was like well this is pretty short so I’m just going to continue it.

      You learn much more if you stick with it, I will say that.

  7. I’m seeing a lot about how hard this book is to get into but I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy/historical fiction cross over. It sounds intriguing!

  8. I think I was able to click with this one a bit more than you, think it was just the right book at the right time for me. Thanks for talking about the whitewashing though, you’re the only other person I’ve seen mention it.

  9. I somehow deleted everything I had wrote, and now I don’t remember what it was, but GREAT REVIEW! I totally agree with you. I’m going to link to your review when mine goes live tomorrow.

  10. I kinda like it when there’s a slow burning romance in a trilogy instead of getting them together in the first book and then meaning the only way is down from there! I prefer a Ron and Hermione will they won’t they kinda thang! Maybe I would like this…except then they went and messed up the cover didn’t though so now I’m not sure again! x

    • Yes, the will they won’t they is THE BEST. Because you are holding out the hope and then when it happens it’s like this big and huge payoff.

      And I’d check it out despite the cover.

  11. I love this review mostly because it’s the first one I’ve read and need to read this story ASAP. although it sucks that they white-washed the cover, but actually not surprised by it. I just wish pubs didn’t do that. 🙁

    thanks for the great review, April! I LOVED Blood Red Road and can’t wait to read this one!

    • Right, it’s dumb that they whitewash covers.

      I am glad you love this review ahhahaha.

      It does feel like Blood Red Road with that sort of desolate on the road feeling, there isn’t dialect or anything, but I just felt that same sort of vibe.

  12. I think this one is sitting on my Kindle (probably because I couldn’t remember what it was about!). Sometimes, I have difficulty persevering when books don’t catch me right away but I think I’ll have to stick with this one, since it turned out to really capture your attention.

    • I do that all the time with books, they hang out on my kindle because I have not a clue what they are about.

      I’m kind of a masochist, I just stick with a book until the very end, I have this sort of inability to DNF.

  13. Other than the awkward beginning, it sounds like you enjoyed this book quite a bit.
    I’m glad, I always love when a book surprises me in a good way.
    I don’t know if this book is for me though, since I don’t tend to like fairies all that much.

  14. True confession: I had the same idea about this book that you did. Well, that or that it would be like Blood Red Road, which had me pretty excited. However, I give the stink eye to pretty much all stories with fairies so it made me less excited when I found out it was a fairy book. Again, though, at least it is not contemporary paranormal romance. I have been having a hard time sticking with books lately so I think this one is probably not for me at the current time but I’ll keep it on the back burner for later down the line.

    • It’s a good idea, keeping this on the back burner. I know that if I am not in the mood for a book, but read it anyways, I end up really resenting it. It’s definitely one of those right book at the right time sort of reads.


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