Gunslinger Girl by Lindsay Ely – YA Dystopian Western Marks Debut

Book Review: Gunslinger Girl by Lindsay Ely – YA Dystopian Western Marks Debut

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

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…

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.

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!

Content: There is some sexual content and profanity throughout the book. Some of the situations also become intense as do some of the “violent” descriptions.

Synopsis: 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. – Goodreads

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


  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.

    1. Let me know what you decide, Kathy - that cover is most definitely eye-catching and I love how unique the story is. :)

  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. The cover is FABULOUS!! Hope you enjoy if you read it, Nina. :)

  3. Great review! I can't wait to try this! :)

    1. Hope you enjoy, Lauren - and thanks for the kind words. :)

  4. This one has been on my radar for months now. Hoping I get to read it sooner or later :-) Nice review!

    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.

  5. 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. :)

  6. This is definitely not something I typically gravitate to, western-ish, but I am a bit curious about the way you describe the world so perhaps I will check it out someday!

    1. Hope you enjoy this one if you decide to give it a chance, Sara. It's most definitely unique. :)

  7. 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. :)


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