January 06, 2013

Deviants (The Dust Chronicles, Book One)

by Maureen McGowan
Amazon Children's Publishing
312 pp.
Ages 12+

Trust is a big issue in any relationship: bosses and employees, husbands and wives, friends, parents and children, leaders and citizens, and even in ourselves.  So much of our society requires some element of trust in order function without stumbling into anarchy.  But how trust is earned or given is not necessarily obvious.  For that matter, what does it take for trust to be lost or questioned? 

In the dystopian world in which sixteen-year-old Glory currently resides with her thirteen-year-old brother Drake, her trust lies in the rhetoric (e.g., Haven Equals Safety) of Management who rule over Haven, the domed community protected from the outside world of dust and cannibalistic Shredders.  Glory also trusts in her knowledge that her father was a Deviant who killed her mother three years ago and injured Drake, leaving him a paraplegic.  Her father may have been taken by the Comps (Compliance Officers) and publicly expunged to the outside but Glory has been left to protect Drake, who would be considered a Parasite if Management knew of his existence.  With only her best friend Jayma knowing about her brother, Glory is constantly vigilant about keeping him a secret, especially now that he is displaying his own Deviance, a scale-like armour that covers his torso when stressed.  For that matter, Glory realizes that she too is a Deviant, able to focus her strong emotions to inflict pain.  Luckily she is able to use this "curse" to kill the rats she needs to supplement her rations to feed Drake.

But two developments occur that have Glory questioning who and what to trust.  Eighteen-year-old Cal, who graduated from GT (General Training) at the top of his class and is recruited to join the Jecs (Junior Ethics Committee) for the opportunity to become a Compliance Officer in Training, asks Glory to apply for an official dating license with him.  Luckily, Glory really likes Cal, although she does worry that the strong feelings she has for him could pose a threat to him.  And when he shares with her that he knows of Drake's existence, she is especially concerned for Drake's safety.  Secondly, a young man named Burn, whose strong healthy physique is in contrast to that of most inhabitants of Haven, tells her that her father is alive and that Burn has been instructed to get her and Drake to safety.

What follows is an anxiety-wrought, perilous venture that has Glory questioning her firmly-entrenched beliefs and emotions, while continuing to focus on protecting her younger brother.  Sadly, in their dystopian world of overcrowding, rationed food, televised expungings, violent Shredders and a gun-toting military-like community, it's hard to believe Glory can find anything worthy to motivate survival.  But Maureen McGowan ensures that there is some brightness amidst the worlds of Deviants.

Most readers will find similarities between popular dystopian novels such as Blood Red Road (Moira Young, Doubleday Canada, 2011) and The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, 2008) but all fictional dystopian societies, including those of George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World emphasize totalitarian governments and the dehumanization of the masses.  But Glory and Drake's beliefs about the murder of their mother takes Deviants from an exposé of an undesirable society to a story about a family with a secret lodged in destruction, love and redemption.  A story in which trust can be superfluous and imperative, depending on ... everything and anything.  But isn't that how trust works?  

And it's with this trust issue that Maureen McGowan ends Deviants, the first book of The Dust Chronicles, leaving the reader questioning Glory's shift in allegiances, both real and virtual, and apprehensive about her newest venture.  As with any great novel, Deviants has trapped the reader in a world in which gratification is only as near as the sequel.  Let's hope dust isn't allowed to settle before Maureen McGowan offers up Book Two of The Dust Chronicles.


  1. Thank you so much for the review!

    Librarians and teachers might be interested to know that I have a short story, "Out of the Ashes", that's a lose prequel to Deviants, and set in Toronto, available through McGraw-Hill Ryerson's iLit program. :)


  2. It really is a fantastic book. The pace will leave you absolutely breathless.