Title: The Boxcar Baby
Author: J.L. Mulvihill
Genre: YA, Steampunk, Dystopia
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Born in a boxcar on a train bound for Georgia. At least that is what Papa Steel always told AB’Gale. But now, fifteen years later, the man who adopted and raised her as his own is missing and it’s up to AB’Gale to find him. Aided only by a motley gang of friends, AB’Gale train hops her way across the United States in a desperate attempt to find her papa and put her life and family back the way it was. Her only guide is a map given to her by a mysterious hobo, with hand written clues she found hidden in her papa’s spyglass. Here is the Great American Adventure in an alternate steampunk dystopian world, where fifteen-year-old AB’Gale Steel learns that nothing is as it seems, but instead is shrouded in secrets and mysteries … and that monsters come in all shapes and forms.
The Boxcar Baby is the first book of the Steel Roots series.
*My Book Review*
DISCLAIMER: This book/eBook being reviewed was provided free of charge for an honest review.
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed dystopia novel – and what a book to get back onto the bandwagon with. I have been hanging out to read this book for AGES! Make sure you check out the character interview with main character AB’Gale Steel following my review, she’s such an awesome person 😉
Kids and young adults will LOVE this novel and, no doubt, the consequent books in the Steel Roots series. There is plenty of action, loads of adventure and a main character that is feisty and completely lovable. Not to mention the intrigue of a dystopian-steampunk universe and a swarm of characters that all have their own unique voices and stories to tell.
The Boxcar Baby is told through the eyes of 15 year old AB’Gale Steel, a young woman who had a safe, secure life in a hard world – until her papa goes missing. AB’Gale is naive and the story is told beautifully through her eyes as the horrors of her world are uncovered in her search for the man she calls Papa Steel.
The story flows organically from what feels like one tale to the next, yet, at the same time, bringing the main story along for the ride. AB’Gale gets caught with many people on the road and she is confronted with many situations she must tackle, each time she does what she feels is the right and just thing to do. She is a gallant character that is strong and a beautiful role model for impressionable young female readers.
At times I found I was pulled out of the story due to the repeated use of the same words within sentences and paragraphs. Each time I took a breath, realised what had caught me out and dove right back in. While, technically, I found this broke up the story, young readers probably wont even notice it is occurring.
While I absolutely adored AB’Gale, at times I found her just a little heartless. For example, when her grandmother is taken away and the family farm redistributed, AB’Gale seems to only linger on this gut-wrenching event only briefly. I would have liked to see a little more angst here as she is definitely a character that is morally upstanding. Her family does mean a lot to her and seeing her grandmother and home taken out from underneath her would, surely, have shaken this 15 year old girl to the core.
But these are but minor occurrences in the grand scale of things. I really, REALLY enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next one in the series. Overall I am giving The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill 4 out of 5 stars.
This now takes my tally of books for the Dystopia Reading Challenge to 13 and also gives me the Revolutionist badge:
Character Interview with AB’Gale Steel:
Want to hear more about the main character in The Boxcar Baby, AB’Gale Steel? Well, I was lucky enough to catch up with Abby (as she likes to be called), and here is what she had to say:
Hi AB’gale, I’d like to ask you a few questions (if you don’t mind):
Sure no problem, and you can call me Abby if you like, most of my friends do.
Can you tell me a little more about the System and they way it is
Well I don’t know too much about the System, but everyday I’m learning that it’s not too nice. Papa always said it’s a government for the Richies and not the Scrubs. I just know that if you’re too poor to pay your own way they put you in a workinhouse and that is where you stay. I know old folks go to the oldies home and you never see them again. I guess I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life up until now and I’ve never questioned the world I live in because I’ve never had to. I’m only fifteen but I guess I’m going to have to grow up a little faster now and find out what makes this place tick.
If you could pick any workinhouse to work in, which one would you
choose, and why?
Oh, I wouldn’t pick any workinhouse at all, those places are just horrible. Once you go in there you’re stuck until you die or you’re too old to work and then they put you in the Oldies Home. No Ma’am I’m not ever going to go to one of those places. I suppose if I had to then maybe I would want to be in a place where the work is not too hard and the matrons are nice, maybe I could work at the oldies home then I could be with Granny, but they probably wouldn’t let me do that.
Who do you think your parents really are?
My parents? I sometimes wonder if maybe they were just folks trying to make a living and got caught up by the System. I don’t think I will ever find out and it doesn’t really matter because Papa Steel raised me and he deserves my loyalty, him and Granny.
What do you think has happened to your Papa?
I don’t know but it’s very suspicious, my papa wouldn’t just disappear like that so either he is on the run, hiding, or someone has him.
Can you see you and Joey hooking up again in the future? Or did what
his mother did to you enough to make you close that door?
I am so mad at that woman I could just spit! But Joey can’t help who his momma is. Joey is my best mate and I hope I do see him again someday once I find papa and get all this mess straightened out.
What’s your favorite thing to wear from the Steampunk universe?
Goggles, I saw someone wearing a pair of goggles while driving a steam carriage one time and I think they are Gichi!
And, finally (another one just for fun), if you could go back to your Papa’s work shed and find any item there, what would it be?
One summer Papa and I made this little toy squirrel together. It looked just like a real squirrel only it we made out of brass and watch parts from bunches of old watches Papa had. After we worked on the mechanics we fit it all neatly into a mould papa made from melting down the metal bodies of the watches. All you had to do was wind it up and it would walk a few steps and then bend down and pick something up. Of course we had to make sure we placed the object, usually an acorn or nut, right in its path so it could pick it up. The real squirrels were scolding it from the trees above because they thought the mechanical squirrel was stealing their acorns. It was great fun and I have to smile thinking on it. I think I like it best out all papa’s inventions because we made it together.
Thanks so much for spending the time to answer these questions Abby, I can’t wait to read about your next adventures in the Steel Roots series 😀
Your welcome, thank you for having me here, and if you hear of news about my papa please let me know.
I sure will Abby!
About the Author
Born in Hollywood and raised in San Diego, CA, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past fifteen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaing fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of steampunk, published through Kerlak Publishing. The Boxcar Baby, the first novel of her Steel Roots Series, was released by Seventh Star Press in the summer of 2013.
J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, among them “Chilled Meat”, a steampunk thriller found in the Dreams of Steam II-Of Bolts and Brass, anthology (Kerlak Publishing) and “The Leprechaun’s Story”, a steampunk urban Fantasy found in the anthology, Clockwork, Spells, & Magical Bells (Kerlak Publishing).
J.L. is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Arts Council of Clinton, and the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.
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