Vengeance Road (Vengeance Road, #1)Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
My rating: 4/5 cats
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When I were first learning to shoot a rifle, Pa told me that nearly every battle people face is in their heads. If you think you can’t do something, you won’t. If you believe you can, it’s only a matter of time before you will.

this is like True Grit, without all the moralizing

for some reason, i thought this was a middle grade book when i saw it at BEA; a fun, spunky pigtailed girl-western. and now i know what it feels like to be wrong. it lists as YA, but it has definite crossover potential and you could pass it off as adult fiction, were you so inclined.

it’s a true western, in all its sweaty, smelly glory.

kate thompson is eighteen years old when she finds her father murdered – hanging from a tree while their house burns to the ground.

yeah, definitely not middle grade.

kate has been raised by her father henry ever since her mother died of tuberculosis. he taught her many important skills like how to shoot a rifle and play a mean hand of poker, and also encouraged in her the more ladylike pastimes like an appreciation for Little Women. and all of her life, he drilled into her that if anything ever happened to him, she was to go to wickenburg and find abe colton, who would take care of her.

and now something has happened.

because it turns out, her father has been keeping secrets from her; secrets that have led to his murder by the notorious rose gang. kate buries her father, packs up the few things remaining from their life together, grabs her stetson, her guns and her horses and sets off to kill every last member of the rose gang.

definitely not middle grade

disguised as a boy, she sets out for wickenburg, calling herself nate. when she arrives, she finds that abe died a few years back, leaving behind his three children – will, jesse and sarah. jesse gives her a letter henry had left for her which spills his secrets and his intention for her to live with abe should his past catch up to him, no matter how old you are when you read this. but abe’s not there anymore, and kate/nate’s got other plans.

and they all involve bullets.

still disguised as nate, she’s frustrated when will and jesse tag along on her journey, claiming they have business in the same direction. she’s impatient with their chatter, distracting her from her contemplation of the journey ahead and its grim possibilities

And this is where we differ, me and the Coltons, ‘cus for them, walking out of those mountains matters. But I only want to avenge my father’s blood. It ain’t like I gotta live through it to be successful. Besides, what do I got to go home to anyway – a burned house and no family? I just gotta keep my heart beating long enough to fire my pistol six times. Once for Waylan Rose, and once for each of his remaining crew.

So long as they go down, I don’t much care if I go with ’em.

definitely not middle grade

along the way she will both end and save lives, manipulate situations to her benefit, devise a kickass con that ends in the best poker scene i’ve ever read, and develop an uneasy friendship with an apache girl called liluye. there will be treasure maps, haunted mines, native american folklore, shootouts and more fire, and kate will discover more secrets than she expects. it’s a fantastic coming-of-age character study, with growth, acceptance, maturity, and self-reliance. and yessssss, there may be some romantic elements. but it’s not at all cheesy, i promise.

kate is a wonderfully determined character. she’s fearless and unsentimental about the task at hand, feeling a little remorse when she has to kill someone who is on the lower end of the “deserving it” spectrum, but otherwise totally on board with the whole vengeance thing. she’s mildly curious about the ease with which she is able to slip into the role of avenger: I ain’t killed before, and it shouldn’t’ve been so easy, but true to the genre, she doesn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it. when terrible things happen, she allows herself ten minutes of crying, then dusts herself off and gets back on that horse. literally.

it’s written in a sort of cowboy dialect, and after a while, the use of “i’se” made me cringe, but other than that, this was a completely engaging, well-written western. it’s not for the squeamish or the faint of heart, and it is definitely not middle grade, as i believe i have mentioned, but if you are a grown-up who likes grit lit or a teen who likes strong female protagonists, or any combination of the above, this is a must-read.

read my reviews on goodreads

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