Book Review: The Heartland Trilogy by Chuck Wendig

rssI recieved an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Heartland Trilogy is Chuck Wendig's young adult series set in an alternate future America, possibly an alternate reality all together. (There are similarities but never anything to tie this world directly back to ours).

The premise begins with a world, the Heartland, swallowed by a genetically modified strain of corn, which is possibly sentient... and evil. It reminded me of a piece by the onion, Monsanto Harvest-Resistant Corn Now Engulfing Most Of Midwest. It's kind of an goofy seeming premise at first, but Wendig makes it work as the books go on to explore the culture and class systems within this world, which is much bigger than just one town in the middle of nowhere.

It centers around a healthy sized cast of characters, most of them hailing from a nowhere town called Boxelder. The characters are, almost universally, both likeable and realistic. Wendig's heroes are fleshed out but they're also flawed.

Wanda's character showed some really well done development of a female character. In particular I rooted for Lane, even before I knew he was gay. Wendig has an awesome defense of his artistic choice ,on par with Kluwe's epic rant, to a fan who objected to gays being in young adult fiction.

For young adult reading this series doesn't come across as being for teens although most of the characters are in that age range. Most YA is pretty sophisticated-- teenagers don't want to read the books their parents approve of, anyway. There's sex, drugs and swearing... and all the good stuff that's all too rare in adult speculative fiction.

Some characters I connected with less, like Rigo-- he never seemed really essential to the cast and had the unfortunate burden of humanizing the fledgling badasses, often to minimal success (Or having good ideas but never being the one to execute). It's pretty clear who the good guys are and there's not a lot of profound ethical debate. The villains tended to be a bit one dimensional at times, although this improves over the course of the books.

It makes a timely statement about income inequality in modern day America, with the privileged classes literally living far above the day to day struggles of the poor farmers they exploit. The politics are light but they're there and you can hear a few choice GOP talking points coming from the central antagonists. There's a lot of other themes explored, from class to the environment as well as the characters' personal struggles with becoming adults and the meaning of family.

The overall message is positive, but the books' main goal is to entertain and they do so beautifully.

Wendig is a master of language. Every sentence is a delight to read in how he phrases his descriptions in a tight, evocative way that very few writers can. He's clear and concise without flowery language, or words that send you to the dictionary. Wendig balances well-written and simple with seemingly no effort at all.

The chapters are short and read quickly. You could burn through one volume over a weekend. Check it out if you need something to read. I don't give out stars or anything but this is a good series.

Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out October. Sign up for the mailing list for more info. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest . (You can also follow him on Goodreads and even Amazon)

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