If you’re a fan of Annie Oakley, westerns, dystopian novels, or all of the above, you need to add Lyndsay Ely’s debut novel Gunslinger Girl to your to-read list. Immediately.
About ‘Gunslinger Girl’ by Lyndsay Ely
James Patterson presents a bold new heroine — a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Annie Oakley: Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow’s West.
Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….
In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.
‘Gunslinger Girl’ book review
When I was younger, my grandma somehow got me hooked on the story of Annie Oakley. I loved how she defied expectations of how a young woman should be and act, as well as how she paved her own path. I read everything I could (that was at or just above my elementary school reading level) and thoroughly enjoyed the musical Annie Get Your Gun. In fact, I think I’ve gone to see that musical twice in my life (which is pretty impressive for me). Needless to say, Annie Oakley had a huge influence on me as child.
The first thing that endeared me to Lyndsay Ely’s Gunslinger Girl was the way Serendipity Jones evoked the same kind of love and admiration from me. She is independent, empathetic, and doesn’t conform to what others expect of her. Plus, her name is SERENDIPITY JONES. How badass does that sound? (In other words, she’s my kind of gal.)
But, with all the similarities she shares with Annie Oakley (her sharpshooting abilities being the most obvious), she’s so much more. Serendipity is a reluctant hero. For all of the bright parts of her personality and skills, there are darker and cloudier aspects to match.
For instance, take the duality of her name. Though her given name is “Serendipity,” she chooses to go by “Pity.” While her nickname at first seems to be in opposition to her given name, it also fits perfectly. Serendipity’s life is a series of events and occurrences, the earliest of which evoke pity from the reader. Going by this dour nickname gives the reader an idea of situations she has endured in the past as well as her belief in herself, rather than in allowing fate (or serendipity) to control her life.
Like Pity, the majority of the characters in this novel exists in shades of gray. No character is all light or all dark. They’re gritty yet hopeful, jaded yet motivated, each to varying to degrees and effects. And that’s what makes them enjoyable and also dangerous. From a kick-ass bartender/head of security to a clever bounty hunter to Max, a compassionate kind-hearted artist who designs sets and costumes, the characters in this novel defy a lot of gender stereotypes and really draw you in to the story.
In addition to the characters, the premise and story of Gunslinger Girl make it a really difficult novel to put down. After running from her boring commune and terrible father, Pity yearns to find somewhere where she can live out her life the way she wishes. Pity finds what she’s looking for in Cessation, a decadent Las Vegas-like city, but, as you might expect, her independence and comfortable life comes at a price. While there is an overarching conspiracy in the novel that Pity gets very much tied up in, the most intriguing parts of the story are when Pity grapples with her morals and how far she’ll go to maintain the life she has earned for herself.
And then there’s the romance plot. I’d be remiss not to mention it because it gripped my heart and didn’t let go, even after I turned the final page. Max and Pity’s chemistry is undeniable from their very first meeting. They balance each other wonderfully, each providing the other with extra support and confidence when it’s needed most. Both of their pasts have driven them to where they are now and they must face them in order to move forward, both together and as individuals. My favorite YA novels have unforgettable romantic pairings and Gunslinger Girl is no exception.
Lyndsay Ely’s debut novel is captivating from start to finish and a worthy addition to the James Patterson Presents catalog. The book’s combination of the Old West and a dystopian future creates an addictive world of lawlessness and cruel justice. With so much to discover and explore, both inside and out of Cessation, there’s never a dull moment in Gunslinger Girl. Though there aren’t currently any plans for a sequel, you’ll be asking for one once you reach the end.