‘GUNSLINGER GIRL’: YA Dystopian Western Marks Debut


STORY: Serendipity “Pity” Jones is living a tough life. A life that’s forced her to be skilled in one specific way: a sharpshooter. As she and her best friend make plans to escape Pity’s cruel and domineering father, tragedy strikes. Along the way, Pity loses everything but her six shooters. Left for dead, she’s rescued by a band of misfits bound for the glittering (and lawless!) city of Cessation… gunslinger girl

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‘GUNSLINGER GIRL’: YA Dystopian Western Marks Debut. Review of the 2018 YA dystopian western from Lindsey Ely. Text © Rissi JC
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REVIEW: Figuring out how to describe this debut novel is proving a task. Part of the quandary is that it’s not totally within my wheel house of genres. Weird, I realize, as this is to say since I did request a copy of it. (But, come on! I couldn’t help it because a. its synopsis sounds kick-butt cool and b. that cover art is amazing.) The blend of genres (western and dystopian) also seemed too good to pass up. Despite the tone this review is setting, don’t let me fool you. I did enjoy this book. That said, there are some opinions I walked away with that aren’t five-star quality.

‘GUNSLINGER GIRL’: YA Dystopian Western Marks Debut. Review of the 2018 YA dystopian western from Lindsey Ely. Text © Rissi JC

We’ll discuss those first. This book is decadent. I’m not sure what other word to use. It’s set in a world of power and debauchery. As its synopsis alludes to, parts of it harken back to The Hunger Games as it compares its heroine as a cross between “Annie Oakley and Katniss Everdeen.” It’s an accurate portrayal of who you’ll meet inside these pages. Pity has the sharpshooting skill and abilities of the famous western figure and the survival mentality of the pop icon.

The colorful world in which this story takes place will make readers who wish for something beyond “cookie cutter” normal happy. The politics or “system” of the world isn’t one I’m overly fond it. It echoes back to The Hunger Games, which is uses a form of control I’m not fond of. The loss of a character’s choice is not something I like reading about, though in all fairness, as a reader, its purpose isn’t lost on me.

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Pity is a fighter and unique character, and a heroine I did enjoy getting to know. The characters that support her lead are interesting and entertaining. Though subtle, there is a thread of romance that weaves through the story. There’s danger, excitement and moments of quiet. In short, Gunslinger Girl packs a lot into its story. Ely’s debut is a memorable one sure to make fans of the genre happy. It effortlessly combines a desolate (dystopian) world with the imagery of western. The latter is a genre I don’t see much in fiction, so for that alone, I applaud Gunslinger Girl.

Those who like everything tied up in a neat bow will be disappointed in the open-ended conclusion (at this time, there is no follow up). The end is a kind of new-adventure-ahead kind of place, but this doesn’t translate to the same in terms of character connections and relationships. 

Full of twists and unexpected reveals, this is an exhilarating novel. Fast-paced and unique, Gunslinger Girl is, in short, a memorable debut. The blended genres suit each other, and the storytelling keeps its reader engaged and eager to flip pages; especially because of its gun-toting, fierce heroine who seems unafraid of most everything!


Author: Lindsay Ely
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publication Date: 2018
Genre: Fiction; Dystopian, YA Lit
Source: Publisher Provided ARC – thank you, Little Brown
Rating: ★★★½

Sincere thanks (and apologies for the review delay) to the publisher for providing an ARC copy of this book; all opinions are my own

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Great review Rissi. this book grabbed my attention when I saw it at the bookstore. I've been thinking about reading it, but haven't decided.

  2. Yes, I want to read this book. I absolutly adore the cover and the plot sounds super interesting and different! Pity sounds really cool!

    1. I can see that; judging by the synopsis, it's a book well suited for you. :) Hope you enjoy, Rachel – and let me know what you think if you read it.

  3. I have to say, this appeals to me a lot! I mean, you know you had me at Katniss haha. Though the open ending part bugs me especially if there is no sequel. Still, I think the things you didn't like were actually things I might like, so I am even more excited to read this one! Thanks for the awesome review, I haven't seen much about this one yet, and yours was super helpful!!

    1. That's awesome, Shannon!! This one certainly doesn't have an overt romance, so I know readers who tire of that trope will love that. I really admire the uniqueness of this one. It has its own distinct style, but for a girl who likes a little more completeness (not that this ending is BAD), I just couldn't quite love that conclusion.

      Let me know what you think of this one if/when you read it. :)

  4. I'm so pleased to have found this review, just after finding this book in fact. The western addition to it made me cautious, but that its has other worldbuilding elements has me curious.

    1. This one is distinct because of its western dystopia setting/feel. Hope you enjoy if you read it, Verushka! I'd be curious to know what you think of it. :)

  5. This one peaked my interest as it sounds like a book I would love and I've had great luck with some of the other "James Patterson Presents" books. I appreciate how honest you are on what you didn't like and liked, which will help me decide if I really want to read it. Hmm.

    1. Hope you enjoy this one if or when you read it, Tressa. I did enjoy it at the time, but it's also such a decadent world that I think that was a little off-putting. That said, I admired its unique storytelling approach and the well blended genres (so clever!). I kind of have a thing about characters being "controlled" or "forced" to do something for sport; i.e. against their will, so I'm sure that was part of my reservation. Let me know what you think if you read it. :)

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