Library Blog

YA Book Reviews by Amy: Wild Westerns


Hello Everyone! Westerns have become my favorite genre in the last few years. I have always enjoyed historical fiction, but I think there is something special about the West setting because it held so many new dreams and the start of new lives for people during the time. I also enjoy some of the common themes of Westerns like: revenge versus vengeance, greed and wealth, women’s roles in society and twisting those conventions, and a rich cast of diverse characters.

I hope more YA Westerns will be written in the future, but until then, this is an amazing list of books that I am willing to reread until my next favorite comes out!

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Historical fiction with a slight fantasy twist; Lee Westfall is looking for a better life and she believes she will find it  journeying westward during the Gold Rush. She decides to disguise herself as a boy to follow her best friend, Jefferson, to California and find riches with her uncanny ability to find gold. She bands with a large and unique group of travelers on the Oregon Trail. Her journey is plagued with sickness, deadly Native Americans, fighting within the group, and death is constantly surrounding Lee.

A tough read at moments but is completely rewarding. This is the first book in a trilogy: the second book is Like a River Glorious and the third is Into the Bright Unknown

This title is available on Overdrive.


Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Kate Thompson is seeking vengeance, or as Kate sees it: justice, after her father is murdered by a group of bandits seeking information and secrets from a journal. Disguised as a boy, Kate begins to track down the Rose Riders. On her journey she encounters: a pair of brothers that she just can’t shake, a deadly poker game, a superstitious story that may be true, and a promise of gold. But as Kate has learned, “gold makes monsters of men.”

This is the perfect YA western in my opinion. It has a strong female character and a plot that is fast paced, but also has slower moments of great character building. This story, written with ‘Old West’ dialect, could turn some readers off, but it immerses the readers in the story.

This title is available on Hoopla.


Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman

Considered to be a sequel or companion book to Vengeance Road. Charlotte dreams of being a famous female journalist. Her path intersects with Reece, a young man that has unwillingly joined the infamous Rose Rider Gang, during a train robbery. The two of them must work together or face the deadly consequences. The mysterious coin that Reece carries holds the key to finding his way out of the gang and provides an interesting story for Charlotte to write. But can this coin endanger other lives?

This can be read as a standalone, there are some spoilers of some characters that appear in Vengeance Road

This title is available on Hoopla.


Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist

When Willie’s father steals a substantial amount of money and her family are the ones that will pay, she must track him down and bring him back to face justice. To protect her family, she hires help, a pair of guides to help with traveling the dangerous terrain and deadly creatures that walk around. There is no cure for the disease that turns humans into lesser creatures, but Willie is willing to risk her life to save her younger siblings.

A unique tale that sounds similar to Dread Nation originally, but a fantastic YA in its own right. An eerie journey with heart breaking moments. This story will tug on your heartstrings.

This title is available on Hoopla.


Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

The Civil War did not end the way history has told it; zombie creatures are created from the dead and the world is not safe. Jane is an Attendant, a person hired to protect the wealthy from the shamblers. When her former flame, Jackson, asks Jane to help find his missing sister, Jane and an unlikely companion in Katherine, also an Attendant, decide to head West to a “safe” commune after Baltimore is overran by shamblers. This is a twist on historical fiction with a horror element. Jane is a fierce main character with a strong will.

This year Justina Ireland came out the sequel to Dread Nation called Deathless Divide. If you really like this book and want to read more, check out Three Sides of a Heat: Stories about Love Triangle because there is a short story written by Ireland called Dread South.

This title is available on Overdrive and Hoopla.


Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Samantha must escape the only home she has ever known when the authorities are after her. While on the run, Samantha meets Annamae, a runaway slave. It is difficult enough being Chinese-American and African American, but they are also female in 1849. For their safety, they masquerade as boys while they travel west on the Oregon Trail. They cross paths with cowboys that end up becoming great allies. Can they keep the charade? Will the law catch them?

This is the book that started my journey to loving Westerns. I think what sparked my interest is that it has my all-time favorite trope: woman disguises herself as man, but also the grit and strong female characters. This is a solid beginning getting into this genre.

This title is available on Hoopla.


Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

A futuristic dystopian that has the grit of a classic western; Gunslinger Girl follows Serendipity, Pity, escaping the confines of societal life at the commune and escapes into an impressive town ran by constant façades and revenge. Everyone has a motive, everyone has a past, and everyone can’t be trusted.

Recommended for teen readers that enjoy a strong female main character, multidimensional side characters, and not ever knowing who to trust. This is not a typical western, but it has a similar feel to many of these other books that I mention.

This title is available on Overdrive.


Pokeweed by Brian L. Tucker

In this illustration novella, Ezekiel Snopes has many decisions to make, whether to avenge his sister’s death or stay at home while the French-Eversole Feud has started.

This is a short tale with beautiful illustrations. Recommended for historical fiction readers wanting to learn a little bit more of US history during the late 1800’s.

This title is available on Overdrive.


Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.