Link to my review:
Body of review: Dust City is what you might get if you put Homer, the Brothers Grimm and Elmore Leonard in a room together and had them co-author a novel.
This is the tale of a teenager who is all-too-human, even though he is a wolf. The setting is a world where differences in the inhabitants are marked not by the color of one's skin, or the language one speaks, but by the type of fur one has and the number of his legs.
The animalia are the second class citizens in this world, and the homonids (including such varied types as giants, elves, humans and dwarves) rule.
Our hero, Henry Whelp, begins the tale in a home for juvenile delinquents. Like many a classic hero, Henry is alone in the world; his father is in jail for committing a vicious murder, and his mother is dead. During Henry's odyssey, he travels to many enchanting but eerily dangerous places, including the underworld (twisted dark tunnels under the city) and the heavens (not so aptly called Eden in the story).
Friends and acquaintances made along the way are not always as they appear, nor is Henry's quest as clear-cut as it seems. Henry's father urges Henry to find out where the fairies went. The fairies--who had real magic--disappeared, leaving behind a world bereft of hopes and dreams. In the place of magic was fairy dust, a chemical alternative marketed and sold in pharmacies, but also sold by sleazy characters on street corners.
Is Henry a murderous (big bad) wolf like his father, or is he a good wolf like his mother? Can he solve the mystery of why his father committed the vicious murders for which he is so notorious? Most of all--can Henry solve the mystery of the missing fairies and what their disappearance might mean for the rest of the world?
There is no literature more important to young adults than literature about the odyssey toward truth and self-knowledge. In Dust City, the tortured and tortuous path to this truth is as twisted and as full of dangers as the paths taken by other heroes on the great quest, heroes from Odysseus to Holden Caulfield, and from Huck Finn to Harry Potter.
High school teachers will find this book perfect for reading during an Odyssey unit, for there is much to discuss with students about the journey and what the hero learns along the way. This book makes learning about the odyssey a contemporary, compelling entertainment, but be warned: The story is rife with fairy tale references, so before reading, make sure your students brush up on their Hans Christian Anderson, Grimm and other classic fairy tales. The rewards of the students' own reading adventure will soon become pleasantly and plentifully evident and enlightening.