by Jesus Ibarra
Details on how to win a copy of Dead Set at the end of this review.
Richard Kadrey, best known for his Sandman Slim urban fantasy series, enters the world of YA fiction with Dead Set. Not a completely unexpected thing, as YA fiction has become an incredibly popular genre, with almost every popular urban fantasy author writing a YA novel. However, Dead Set strangely does not read or feel like a YA adult novel. It doesn’t focus on a lot of the current YA tropes such teenage romance, someone finding their destiny and or trying to save the world. Kadrey avoids these trappings by making Dead Set all about dealing with grief– specifically the grief of the teenage character, Zoe, who is still mourning the loss of her father.
Zoe herself is really lost. Her life has been turned upside down as she and her mother struggle to deal with not only the mourning of their loved one, but the financial impact as well. So naturally, when a strange man Zoe meets at a record store offers her the chance to reconnect with her dead father for a price, she automatically says “Yes.” However, it becomes increasingly clear that the price she willing to pay is far more sinister than she originally thought. That is the basic premise of the book, without revealing more of the plot.
Again with the hint of supernatural goodness, the overall arc of the book is Zoe dealing with her grief, which was fantastically written by Richard Kadrey. If there were any doubts that Kadrey is an amazing versatile writer, this book will erase them. Kadrey is adept at making the written word on the page make you feel something, which to me is the whole purpose of books. Because of this, I found myself not only rooting for Zoe but actually empathizing and relating to her experience, even if it did contain a brief supernatural journey. Her catharsis was well incredibly cathartic. No word is wasted and being a short read, it is jam packed and quickly paced to hit you all in the right places emotionally and intellectually.
Even the more fantastical elements aren’t just there for mythology sake and really have a greater impact in the story. Even if you remove the more fantastical elements of the story, you are still left with a great fiction book that can be enjoyed by anyone. In addition, Richard Kadrey did something that I didn’t think possible–his writing style let me actually enjoy third person narration. I am not particularly a fan of “third person” and often I won’t even read a book if it’s in this point of view, only because sometimes authors get so overwrought with description and extraneous things.
Richard Kadrey wastes no sentences, always keeping the momentum of the book going. This story is so good I hope it remains a “stand alone” and even though it’s been marketed as such in a world where sequels run amok, there could be another story set in this universe. I would actually recommend this to anyone, not just young adults because it is that good.
To enter to win a copy of Dead Set, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Set,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 11, 2014. U.S. residents only.