Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Westward, Yo! by J.A. Campbell - review

e-book - MG to YA
available at Omni Lit as well as and Barnes & Noble
Westward, Yo! is part of the Electric Shorts division of Echelon Press - If I understand this right, there will be more stories by Julie in a series called Into The West - the first of which was Westward, Yo!. (correct me if I'm wrong, please). If the books aren't part of my reading for the library at the school or the afterschool program I work in, I don't usually read books geared toward middle grade or young adult; although I have delved a bit into the young adult genre. Anyway Westward, Yo! has all the things I enjoy in a novel, no matter what age the novel is written for - humor, good dialogue, believable narration (it's all about the vocabulary-believable vocabulary per character), mystery, fun characters, and for the older ones a dose of suspense.
The main character is Tina, who has traveled with her father, mother and younger sister to live in a ghost town in Arizona....and it's hot - hot and dusty. There are a manageable amount of side characters; her younger sister, parents, a rancher and his wife, an elder medicine man and the store owner. There are more, but that's a spoiler.
Tina has had to leave behind city life, a best friend, shopping at the malls, and a horse that her parents leased for her to ride - english saddle. She is a reluctant mover, and like a typical teenager allows her reluctance to show although she's not over the top rude to her parents. In fact, what I like about her character is that she's just a touch sarcastic, yet still shows her affection for her family. Affection and respect. She moves to an arid, hot, very quiet place, with no crowds, and lots of open land and critters. Adjustment is necessary.
Tina gets the chance to meet the rancher and his wife, pick a horse to meet and make friends with and gets invited on a short cattle drive. Here is where the mystery and suspense come in....But don't worry, it's not overwhelmingly scary. I believe it's just enough to give a middlegrade aged kid some chills - and things turn out fine in the end.
I enjoyed the narration and the dialogue (which is a "thing" with me); I think this would be a great novella/series for a 13 and older girl - especially if they're into horses....and shopping....
Julie also does a good job with inserting just the right amount of information - survival in deserts, a bit about legends and Native Americans, horses...and more. It's done in a subtle way without the large info-dumping that sometimes happens. I found this a fun and smooth read. If my granddaughter were older than four, I would definitely read this to her. As it is, I'm sure it'll be fine for her once she gets older.
Looking forward to more about Tina and her family.


  1. Thanks so much Mardel :) I'm glad you enjoyed it.


  2. Mardel, great review. I think with the mystery and the western facts this would definitely find a reading in my 8th grade classroom