From the Back Cover:
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.
When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.
Vengeance Road was one of my most anticipated titles of the year. I love that we're getting more YA historicals, but a YA Western is new territory for me, and the idea of this book was irresistible. After reading the first chapter, which gave me the oh-man-this-is-gonna-be-a-good-book goose bumps, I was sure this was going to turn out to be one of my favorite books of the year. But alas, it didn't.
It started off amazing. Kate is one tough, capable gal, and the reader can't help but feel for Kate and root for her as she buries her murdered father and sets off with a heart full of hatred and vengeance. As Kate follows the trail, disguised as a boy, she discovers her target is none other than the most feared outlaw in the West, Waylan Rose, who terrorizes towns and stage coaches with his band of criminals, the Rose Riders. Kate can't figure out why someone like him would go out of his way to murder a small-time farmer, but a trip to visit her father's closest friend reveals more about her father than she could have dreamed. Reeling from the revelation that nothing about her father or their life together was what it seemed, she becomes even more determined to hunt down the men who ruined everything. But she has a problem. The Colton brothers, Jesse and Will, are determined to ride with her, and though she first resents their presence, she soon comes to appreciate the value of safety in numbers. On the trail of a notorious gang of criminals is a dangerous place to be. Though she claims she has no place for soft emotions, the older brother, Jesse, really gets under her skin. But what will he do when he finds out that she hasn't been quite honest with them about who she is and what her mission entails? And will the lure of gold bring them closer together or turn them into enemies?
So I have mixed feelings on Vengeance Road. I was hooked after that fantastic beginning, but the tone of the story started to change around the midway point. I was disappointed that a girl with as much gravity, self-reliance, and know-how as Kate's got became such an immature brat in the presence of boys. Her constant bickering with the Colton brothers grew wearisome. And a new character was introduced, a Native American girl named Liluye, but her full potential was not realized. I thought her dialogue was stilted, her character flat, and her role in the story rather too convenient.
The story does get full marks for being unpredictable, but I felt like the surprises weren't fully developed. One plot twist punched me in the gut, and while I can appreciate realism in a story, I couldn't help but feel like it should have served a larger purpose. The big climactic twist toward the end, I never saw coming, and that's great, but it was resolved as abruptly as it occurred and didn't leave much room for processing, and so it just didn't seem as plausible or impactful to me. And finally, the ending felt too rushed. I still had questions and doubts about what the future holds for Kate. But despite the issues that kept me from loving the book (and I do seem to be in the minority in this based on other reviews), Vengeance Road is still worth a read for anyone who loves YA and historical fiction. Kate has a great voice, the story is tough and gritty and holds no punches, and the description and period detail are excellent. Definitely something different in the world of YA.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
*Please Note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program. These are my honest and unbiased opinions, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.