“Book Review: Sandstorm”
Reviewed by Samantha Hui
A runaway drama turns heist thriller in this tale of growing up too fast
Sandstorm is entertaining every step of the way. Yarrow places her reader right in the center of quippy, fast-paced, and oftentimes dark action, making this novel a must-read for young adults coming from all sorts of backgrounds.
“Thieves are the only people honest enough to admit we own nothing on God’s earth.”
Sandie Donovan begins her story of deception and debauchery with the betrayal of her father Frank. Sandie’s determination to track down her estranged father leads to her ending up at Recovery Ranch—essentially an abusive bootcamp for young adults recovering from addiction—where Frank once again abandons her.
When Sandie tries to fight back against a Recovery Ranch counselor about to harm one of her friends, her friend is seemingly fatally hit. Sandie is threatened with blame for her friend’s death and goes on the run to prevent a worse fate for herself than the abuse at Recovery Ranch.
“Men with obsessions were the most easily conned.”
Escaping from Recovery Ranch and trying to lay low, Sandie is taken under the wing of Russell, a conman and jewelry forger. When his kindness runs out, Russell reveals himself to be possessive, angry, and dangerous. With the desire to finally live life clean and honestly, Sandie transforms her skills as con artist into an acting career. She even finds love with a film producer. But her resolve to lead a legitimate life is cut short when an expensive piece of art is stolen, and her lover goes missing.
“The only difference between a thief and a conman is that one takes the loot and runs, while the other rewrites the story so all the money is delivered to him, or in your case, her.”
Sandie Donovan is a complex character, walking the line between childhood and adulthood. She is stuck in a perpetual lie that forces her to take on different names and, thus, different personalities. At points, she is given the pet-name of Sandstorm, which seems to be more a description of her situation rather than that of her nature: the events in her life have led her into a suffocating and blinding sandstorm that she needs to pull herself out of.
The most moving aspect of this novel is both Sandie’s cutthroat attitude in the face of life’s corruption as well as her vulnerability that shows us that she wishes life to be different. Her coldness is an affect she puts on to shield her from the harsh childhood that has led her to where she is now. She is both powerful and pitiable.
“I learned how imaginary feelings can be the most genuine, especially for people like me who hate showing our emotions.”
I personally had some trouble with the pacing at the beginning of the novel. It feels a bit rushed for the first few chapters, sometimes coming off as a forced exposition necessary for the rest of the book to begin. Perhaps the quick progression of time is meant to emulate Sandie having to grow up much faster than she should have.
However, I could simultaneously appreciate how the pacing and style of the story seems to take on the same rhythms of a screenplay or stage play. The story is action heavy, but it is always in service of character development. Though some characters have small roles in the book, each and every one is necessary for the story.
“Happiness isn’t tangible. It can’t be stolen. It sleeps inside each of us waiting for a reason to awaken.”
I highly recommend Sandstorm to readers sixteen and older. The book deals with heavy topics such as substance abuse, physical abuse, and sexual exploitation. Though these are often deemed to be more adult topics, this is a coming-of-age story in the sense that too often, kids are put in a place where they are forced to grow up much too fast. But at the center of this story, there is heart, and there is forgiveness.
Publisher: DX Varos
Genre: Coming of Age / Women’s Fiction
Print Length: 225 pages
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An excellent review of what is clearly an excellent book!