Now THIS is what young adult dystopian writing should be like. Go read this book now! Rootless was amazing, perhaps all the more so by comparison because I started it in the middle of limping through a lackluster book of the same genre. But I think it would have blown me away regardless of when I read it. I didn’t even mean to read it when I did. I had picked up a stack of books from the library, and flipped through all them to read the first page or so, out of curiosity. Only with Rootless, I was sucked in right away and just didn’t want to put it down, until I was finally finished with the book.
The main character, Banyan, lives a harsh, lonely life, and watching his growth throughout the book is wonderful–how he goes from barely understanding concepts like friendship and love to embracing them and fighting for what matters, although in his own way. There are no easy answers in this book, though, and a shocking high body count, given the relatively sparse cast of the book. The world Chris Howard has imagined is breathtakingly shocking, brutal, and stark, and yet he sketches it out so skillfully that I never felt grossed out or disgusted by the violence. Horrified in a shocked, surprised way, but not in a gory way.
I think Howard’s descriptions, or lack thereof, are one of the brilliant things about the book. I didn’t feel like I was drowning in words and needless descriptions. Settings and character introductions seemed to flow seamlessly along with the story, instead of distracting from it and losing momentum. And yet what descriptions there were were incredibly vivid. I felt like I could SEE the scorched bare landscape and smell the foul dusty air.
Howard is clearly taking a jab at companies like Monsanto, but it’s a well deserved one, and a chillingly apt comparison. Imagining a world without trees and other plants is almost more than I can bear, but I did bear it, and came out richer for it.
The other characters are also skillfully sketched. Fiery Alpha, sad Hina, obnoxious Sal, enigmatic Crow, and repulsive Frost, as well as a few other characters, stuck out vividly in my head. I cared when characters died. I cared when they suffered. I hoped for their success, and I cannot wait for more books in this world. I don’t see any more listed on Goodreads yet, but the last page of Rootless says “End of Book One”, so there had BETTER be another book or two. It’s not the ending was a huge cliffhanger–there was enough resolution to make the book satisfying–but there’s still so much that can be explored. I want more of Banyan and his world!