Lori Ann Stephens
Dystopian Fiction / Coming of Age / Suspense
Publisher: Moonflower Publishing
Date of Publication: November, 2022
Number of Pages: 334 pages
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In the new Republic of Texas, guns are compulsory and nothing is forgiven. Blue Running is a gripping coming-of-age thriller set in post-secessionist Texas. A fast-paced, page-turning book, it looks unflinchingly at what the future could hold, and finds hope there.
Fourteen-year-old Bluebonnet Andrews is on the run across the Republic of Texas. An accident with a gun killed her best friend but everyone in the town of Blessing thinks it was murder. Even her father – the town’s drunken deputy – believes she did it. Now, she has no choice but to run. In Texas, murder is punishable by death.
On the road she meets Jet, a pregnant young woman of Latin American heritage. Jet is secretive about her past but she’s just as determined as Blue to get out of Texas before she’s caught and arrested. Together, the two form an unlikely kinship as they make their way past marauding motorcycle gangs, the ever-watchful Texas Rangers, and armed strangers intent on abducting them – or worse. When Blue and Jet finally reach the wall, will they be able to cross the border, or will they be shot down in cold blood like the thousands who have gone before them?
Some things are worth dying for.
PRAISE FOR BLUE RUNNING:
“Brilliant.” —Heat Magazine
“A fast-paced story that races along, and stays with you long after you’ve finished it.” — The American
“An important and unforgettable read.” — Armadillo Magazine
Periodically I pick up a young adult novel because often they offer scenarios and situations that make one really think about important social issues. That’s why, when I got the opportunity to get a copy of Blue Running and review it as part of this blog tour, I quickly signed up.
Wow! What a story!
Right from the start, fourteen-year-old Blue is a most engaging character. She’s basically on her own after her mother managed to get out of Texas before it was closed down and became the Republic of Texas, controlled by a Christian government. Her father, who is the deputy sheriff in their small town of Blessing, is drunk 95% of the time, so it leaves Blue responsible for figuring out how to cobble something together for a meal and take care of her father who often just passes out after drinking. While that situation of living in poverty, alone with a drunken father, might harden somebody, Blue seems to navigate it with a certain practicality and positivity.
This is her life and she might as well accept it and get on with doing what she needs to do.
It’s hard to imagine what she would have done had the accident with her gun not killed her friend, Maggie. Nobody in authority, even her father, believed it was an accident and Blue faced murder charges if she stayed in Blessing. She knew her father had no influence over authorities above him and he couldn’t help her, so she had to escape the threat of jail for something she didn’t do.
With no plan and no money, she sets out for the border and somehow get out of Texas and maybe find her mother in California.
What happens to her along the way should never happen to any teenager, and the danger is relentless, especially after she teams up with Jet, who has connections to the drug gangs that she never wanted. Those gangs operate unhindered in the Christian Republic of Texas, and the people stuck there live in fear of the swarm of motorcycle riders who will surround them and kill everyone just for sport.
The Republic has a wall around it to keep the Texans in and people that are called scalers out. The scalers, who are primarily undocumented immigrants, are shot by people patrolling the border, some of whom are official and some who have just set themselves up as protectors. Since Jet is an immigrant, that raises the bar of danger for the girls, even though they feel safer traveling together than alone. Two can be very resourceful.
The tension is always high in this incredible story as these girls fight their way past, or through, one threat after another, to make it to the wall and a crossing that will allow them to get safely into America. Many of the people they encounter along the way cannot be trusted, and the girls are careful with the small amount of money they have to get a meal now and then.
There are some moments when the danger eases just a bit. For instance, when Blue and her companion find the community in Austin called The Neighborhood that’s made up primarily of artists. Those people live in a commune-type society and support each other’s art, which is a good thing for Blue who has incredible talent as a sketch artist.
But even that proves not to be a safe place, so they are on the run again.
Lori Ann Stephens has written a story that I will remember for a long time. She didn’t pull back from the reality of what life could be like if Texas was to secede, something that has been considered in Austin, and through it all, I was rooting for this young girl who faced things head on and managed to remain rather innocent and true to that part of her that choses positive instead of negative.
Blue Running is a tough read in places because of the horrible things that people do to each other – too much like real life – but it is also an incredibly satisfying read. There is kindness. Gentleness even. And a perfect ending. I highly recommend the book for the pure enjoyment of a first-rate story that is so well-written, but also because sometimes we need to look at the dark side of our world and think about what we could do to bring a flicker of light to the darkness, like Blue invites us to through her story.
Novelist, librettist, lecturer Lori Ann Stephens grew up in North Texas, where she developed an addiction to the arts. Her novels for children and adults include Novalee and the Spider Secret, Some Act of Vision, and Song of the Orange Moons, and her award-winning work has been noted by Glimmer Train Stories, The Chicago Tribune, and the English National Opera. She teaches Writing and Critical Reasoning undergraduate courses, as well as creative writing graduate courses, at Southern Methodist University. She lives in Texas and is a bit mad about her cat.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
Paperback of Blue Running
with autographed bookplate mailed separately
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/19/23)
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