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These Roots Run Deep

A review of the totally badass Rootless by Chris Howard (and by badass, I mean it has pirates, man-eating locusts, and a mad scientist).

These Roots Run Deep

BOOK REPORT for Rootless by Chris Howard

Cover Story: Shiny Bright, In a Good Way
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Gritty and Intense
Bonus Factors: No GMOs, Gray Characters
Relationship Status: I Will Follow You

Cover Story: Shiny Bright, In a Good Way

I cannot express how glad I was to have a book I could carry around without looking like a total weirdo. The shininess caught my eye first, and I love the sharp, contrasting orange sky and black silhouettes of the crazyass Tim Burton trees. This is definitely not some wimpy romance.

PS: Tomorrow, we'll have a great Q&A between the author, Chris Howard, and the designer, Phil Falco (of Hunger Games cover fame!) to see what really goes through the minds of YA book designers, plus a rad giveaway.

The Deal:

Banyan is a tree builder. Ever since the environmental catastrophe the Darkness, when all life on Earth died out except genetically modified corn, ravenous locusts, and humans, those who can afford it pay tree builders to fashion groves and forests out of scrap metal and other salvage. Trained by his father from practically birth, Banyan's one of the best tree builders, and if he weren't so damn hungry and low on fuel, he would have told Frost to kiss his ass and found another job. But he was damn hungry, and taking Frost's job meant getting mixed up with Frost's kids and wife and the crazy-ass ex-Rasta bodyguard Crow … and a quest to find the mythical trees -- real trees -- of Zion. Pirates, evil corporations, man-eating locusts … and this book is just the beginning.

BFF Charm: Yay

Normally, I'd think a kid as tough as Banyan wouldn't be interested in making friends, but this poor guy is so vulnerable and sweet and mother effing LONELY, that I think he'd even take me on, even though I would bring absolutely nothing to the table. Oh, I could teach him to read. That'd be cool. Anyway, I love Banyan. Like his father told him, he's a builder, not a fighter, but damn, I'd have him and his nail gun at my back any day.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Banyan meets a girl who matches him -- and then some -- in hard knocks, and more than outclasses his gentle soul in ferocity, so OF COURSE he falls for her immediately. She's feral and rough, and while there wasn't much nuance to their relationship, their few intimate scenes were pretty hot. Banyan's love and hurt were also sweet counterpoints to the nonstop painfest of the book.

Talky Talk: Gritty and Intense

Imagine a combination of Patrick Ness, Nancy Farmer, and Paolo Bacigalupi. Now, crank it up a couple more notches and you have Chris Howard. Every word is doled out with the intense care you'd dole out drops of water and food if you were on a life-or-death guerrilla mission in an environmental wasteland, and each one cuts and stings. The story lets you catch your breath as a joke, nothing more, and I can't wait for the next one.

The only issue I had was with the treatment of Sal, the "fat kid", who's a classic fat kid trope -- dumb, annoying, slobbery. I let it go, though, since I figure being fat is probably a huge sin in a world where there's nothing to eat but GMO corn, and not enough of that available, plus, some stuff later in the book. But I can see it getting to some people, especially overweight teens.

Bonus Factor: No GMOs!

So the big disaster seems to have been predicated by GMOs, among other evil environmental waste (YOU GUYS. STOP USING DISPOSABLE PLASTICS. This is [one of ten gazillion reasons] why. THESE ARE REAL PEOPLE, and that trash isn't just theirs. It floats all the way across the oceans from YOUR HOUSE, and if you don't know how nasty cholera is, read a chapter of The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson and prepare to vomit). Ahem. Anyway, let's just say I'm a huge fan of the big-picture messages of the book. And make sure you recycle that can when you're through with it, okay?

Bonus Factor: Gray Characters

I wasn't totally sure how to describe them, but what I mean is no one is totally who he or she seems. Everyone has moral and ethical shades of gray, neither good nor bad but HUMAN, and that means lots and lots of plot twists! Who doesn't love a good plot twist?

Casting Call:

Yeah, so I don't know shit about this kid, Malcolm David Kelley, but he looks a bit like I pictured Banyan. We don't own a DVR, don't have more than basic cable (like, no box, just a wire into the back of the TV), and turn the TV on maybe once a month (unless it's Downton Abbey season), and a toddler for whom we're too lazy to find a sitter since our babysitter moved. Anywho, so what that means is I don't know any actors or actresses who started working after, say, 2009. And do you know what? It took me 200 -- TWO HUNDRED -- names on IMDB's advanced search for boys born between 1991 and 1999 to find THREE black guys. THREE. And one is on Glee, and I'm not going there. Freals, Hollywood? Freals?

Relationship Status: I Will Follow You

I will follow you wherever yooooou may gooooooo
There isn't a corporation too evil and omnipresent
There isn't a cornfield too full of man-eating locusts
To keep me awaaaaaaay
Awaaaay from the next book in the series.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from the author.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Rootless is available now!

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.