Rowdy: Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen
Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)
Thrust to the mercy of the Mississippi river, thirteen-year-old Rowdy floats safely away as he watches smoke rise from his burning farmhouse. His father, dead. His brother, dead. Both gunned down in front of him by a murderous gang of bandits. Now alone in the world, his perilous journey of survival begins, challenging and shaping him into the young man his father would want him to become.
Pulled from the waters, he is given a chance by a lone river Captain and his mate. Working the trade routes between St. Louis and New Orleans, he learns to navigate safe passage but more importantly identify dangers both in and on the water. Rowdy has grown strong working the river but must use his wit as well as his strength to confront a bullying crewman and survive a surprise attack by river pirates. Growing up on the Mississippi river was a start for Rowdy, but a new beginning is just around the next bend.
Dodge City, Kansas proves it has its own challenges but gives Rowdy the one thing he has been longing for, companionship. He was warned about Patrick Byrne but was smart enough to procure a sickly horse from Dodge City's most powerful rancher. Rowdy's care for his new horse, Delilah, sees the blossoming of a magnificent animal and loyal friend, yet the rumble of a dark cloud forms over him. Byrne wants the horse back and will go to great lengths to get what he wants. Facing life and death decisions, Rowdy's only option is to run.
Survival is what Rowdy has come to know all too well. His escape across the plains towards Lincoln, New Mexico nearly claims his life. Through a stranger's help, Rowdy recovers but is faced with questions about his rescuer's motives. Deciding to quietly move on, Rowdy finally discovers Lincoln, New Mexico, acquiring a new friend along the way. Rowdy must prove that he is who he says he is, not just to the people of Lincoln, but to himself. Rowdy is finally settling in when hired guns sent by Patrick Byrne find and confront him.
Blood, bullets, and tears bring Rowdy's world to a showdown. Fighting for what was right is his code, living life for others becomes his way, and staring danger in the face is what he must do if he can truly be Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 5 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 7.50 out of 10
Plot: Mullen's story is well-paced and compulsively readable. Though the story drags somewhat in the middle, readers will be drawn back in by Rowdy's unusual journey and eager to know what comes next for these characters.
Prose/Style: Mullen's prose is strong and realistic given the young age of the protagonist. Rowdy's language at the beginning of the story feels genuine and authentic for that of a 13-year-old and is appropriately elevated when the story skips ahead three years. Honest emotion permeates the text.
Originality: All of the trappings of a standard adventure fiction novel are present, but Mullen’s characterization and keen plotting advance what could easily have become a predictable read.
Character Development: The cast of characters at play are well-developed and diverse. Relationships are relatable, genuine, and organically grown.
Date Submitted: April 04, 2020