I will be the first to say that the Young Adult category of books, no matter what actual genre an individual work may fall under, is usually not for me. I have had this conversation over and over again, fruitlessly trying to defend myself and my “mature” tastes. Like wine must be aged, so too do the readers of a book. But when I was asked whether or not I wanted to read and review Sand Runner, a young adult novel that features an extreme, potentially lethal race, I said to myself “why not?”.
And I'm glad I did.
Before I go forward, I must point out that I received a copy of Sand Runner from Brook in exchange for an honest review. Though I did not have to pay for the book, please know that my views here are 100% honest and true.
Ready, set, let's go.
Sand Runner is the premier novel from Vera Brook. It follows the story of Kai, an ambitious - if somewhat cocky - orphan from a small town in the middle of the desert. We are introduced to Kai as he is preparing to race his fellow youth, mostly to impress Sara, the most attractive girl in town. Through this introductory race we are introduced to Kai, who is scouted for the annual No Limits Race. This event is so important that it has penetrated most aspects of everyday life. Fortunes are won or lost on it in state-sanctioned betting, mainstream phrases (“That’s prime time!”) are developed because of it, and businesses rely on it. Kai is recruited by Emily to be her Runner and she his Agent. Together they make up half the team that Kai will need to run the No Limits Race.
Kai and Emily, as well as most other characters in the book, are quite believable. There was no dialogue or actions that made me think the story was unrealistic. Even in the very sci-fi aspects of Sand Runner, such as prosthetic limbs, 3D printed food and the like, the characters and world felt quite real.
The struggles that Kai has gone through make us empathetic, though he conveys a demeanor that is tough rather than broken. Emily, on the other hand, might be my favourite character in the book. Strong female protagonists are not as rare as they once were, but it is still refreshing to see - especially one who has a physical disability. Emily and Kai play off each other quite well and both are reliant on one another to make it through this race.
What intrigued me the most about Sand Runner was the world which Brook has built. Yes, it is a YA dystopian book, that is nothing revolutionary. But the wealth and opportunity inequality that has made the world miserable for most and incredible for a few is due to 3D printing.
In the world of Sand Runner, almost anything can be printed. Electronics, vehicles, even the food that the poor eat is printed with nutrient paste. In the many dystopian stories I have read, seen, or heard of, 3D printing was not has not been the cause of inequality. It is shocking, really, since 3D printing is evolving at such an incredible pace in our world that it has the potential to be such a disruptive force.
But printing is also a major part of the race: the racers have assigned designers who print prosthetics for them to use, which vary based on the day’s race. Different environments, obstacles, and even other players all dictate what prosthetics should be used. It is another way that Brook sets the story apart and I found myself anxious to read what new prosthetic had been imagined for the races.
Finally, the races themselves are well-written and provide more than enough action for a reader of any age group to follow along and enjoy. There was only one single race that involved a series of wires and cables that I did not feel fully immersed in. But every other day of the No Limits Race had me sucked in, my heart probably beating as fast as Kai’s as he ran.
So, as always, we have to ask if you should read Sand Runner. As I mentioned before, I am no acolyte of young adult literature. So if you are, specifically YA dystopian and action books, you should definitely read this book. If you sometimes enjoy young adult books, class conflict, or a unique take on the future, I would also recommend this book to you. I truly enjoyed reading Sand Runner, and look forward to reading what Brook comes up with next!
Click the link below to pre-order Sand Runner before its release on June 2!