Author: Moira Young
Publication date: August 2nd 2012
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books
Paperback, 393 pages
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I have a small confession to make, though it’s hardly a secret since my review is here for all to see: I wasn’t really a fan of Blood Red Road. In fact, I was so disappointed by it that I never intended to read Rebel Heart. That said, I’m happy it showed up on my doorstep completely unexpectedly. Painful as it may be, I like the direction the story is taking.
Rather than focusing on giant killer worms, Moira Young decided to explore the extent of human cruelty and willingness to survive. The pacing is noticeably slower, but Rebel Heart undoubtedly offers more than its predecessor – at least to a reader with my preferences. It is emotionally intense, grim and layered – I could actually feel the dust on my skin for the first time, and it was a most welcome feeling, one that told me Young has finally done it right.
If there’s one thing I admire about Young (other than the language, of course), it’s that she’s more than capable of surprising me. This is what sets her apart from most Young Adult writers: she goes where the story takes her, regardless of what it might mean for her, and even when it’s not easy for her characters and, ultimately, her readers.
Whatever objections I had to Saba’s character in Blood Red Road (and I had quite a few) no longer apply. It’s almost like she was still a work in progress then, and now she’s finally completed, damaged but consistent, well-rounded and perfectly clear. I didn’t necessarily approve of her actions or even like her most of the time, but I understood her and everything she did made sense to me.
After what she’s been through in Blood Red Road, Saba simply had to change one way or the other. I’m glad Young chose not to ignore the emotional trauma she would have suffered. Instead, all her decisions have repercussions that could have been foreseen, but in no way avoided. Spirits of the people she’s lost follow Saba’s every step. She is terrified and broken, afraid to touch her bow, and desperate to hide it from Lugh, who is in no better shape himself. Whatever the Tonton did to him left him bitter and furious – at Saba, at their father and especially Jack. It is so hard for Saba to admit that their relationship has changed, that they’re no longer the inseparable twins they used to be and that Lugh can no longer offer the same sense of security and warmth.
Here. Now. Alone. With none but my own heart fer witness, I’ll say it. Without Lugh, I’m able to breathe.
He smothers me. Chokes me. Pens me in. Tethers me to him with his worry and anger and sorrow and fear.
For most of this book, Saba and Jack are nowhere near each other, and yet he is always with her, every second of every day. I’m very uncomfortable with some of the events in Rebel Heart, but I accept them as proof of good writing and I can’t help but appreciate the risks Young decided to take. At this point, I can’t even imagine a happy ending for these characters.
But I’ll end this review on a more positive note. Here’s some candy for fellow Jack fans:
I think about Jack. Of how it’ll be when I see him agin. When he’s holdin me tight an I’m holdin him tighter an the heartstone’s burnin my skin.
I think of what we might say. Him to me. Me to him. I ain’t no soft girl. I don’t know no soft words.
Be with me, Jack. That’s what I’ll say. Burn with me. Shine with me.