Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: The Earthquake Machine

The Earthquake Machine

Author: Mary Pauline Lowry
Pages: 326
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Source: E-review Copy (Thanks!!)
Synopsis: The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jes s. But when the INS deports Jes?'s back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation. Determined to find her friend Jes s, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jes s. Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

Buy the Book (The Earthquake Machine/ The Book Depository)

The Earthquake Machine is a one of a kind read. It tackles many hard issues and it's much more raw than the type of book I usually read. I still enjoyed it though. It's the story of a girl finding her place in the world and there's a real journey that changes Rhonda.

What really surprised me was how mature the book was. It wasn't exactly dark, but there was a lot of stuff that you don't usually find in YA. Everything was handled appropriately. I don't think anything was overdone just to shock the reader. Rhonda's journey was really interesting.

Rhonda was a dynamic character. She really grew up and got stronger after the death of her mother. In the beginning of The Earthquake Machine, she was quiet and compliant. She didn't live the easiest life but she was still very naive in a way. I could believe her character since I know people like her at my school. People that are quiet and unsure of themselves.

Maybe the events that happened weren't the most realistic (this is fiction after all) but the way Rhonda responded to them felt real. I didn't always agree with her decisions but I was raised in a completely different environment. While Rhonda believed that women had no futures, from an early age I wanted to be much more than a housewife. I also cheered for Rhonda when she wanted more and I adored her bravery. The best part of the book was probably how Rhonda was well written. You could easily connect and understand her character.

I live in Canada where we learn French so I completely missed out on understanding the Spanish in the book, especially when Rhonda visits Mexico, but there were enough definitions that I understood everything written. Mexico's culture was a huge part of The Earthquake Machine and I loved it. I don't really know much about Mexico and a lot of what I heard wasn't very positive so I enjoyed learning a bit more about Mexican culture. The freedom, the sense of community and revelry they have is incredible.

One issue I had with the book was that it felt really long at some parts and it had to be read carefully  (I was reading it on my Kobo though which I'm not used to doing). The writing was great but the book just takes you in so many directions that it feels like the story is really long. So much happens and I guess I'm not used to all that in one book instead of books written in a series model. I wasn't bored per say, but I wasn't always into the book as much as I could be.

The Earthquake Machine is a surprising read that deals with harsh issues in a clear, unpretentious way. Rhonda's journey is inspiring and thought provoking. There is excellent characterization paired with a great plot that results in a very special read. 3.5 stars, since I thought it was really good,

*** & 1/2 *


  1. Great review. We just heard about this book, but we had no idea what it was about or what to expect. Now we do! :)


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