Rootless by Chris Howard Review

Monday, May 20, 2013

Title: Rootless
Author: Chris Howard (Twitter)
Publisher: Scholastic
Publish Date: November 1, 2012
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken.

Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo—a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts—the locusts that now feed on human flesh. But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own.
Banyan lives in a world where the trees have long since withered and died. His world is one of the artificial, and he spends his days building trees to recreate the forests that once were. These trees, however, are different. They're made from scraps of materials like rubber and lights, and only the richest of patrons can afford his trees. But when Banyan meets a woman with a tattoo that shows him that the last living trees might be more reality than mythology, he knows he needs to find them...and fast. He's drawn to this last living bit of nature, and he when he sets out on a quest to find them at all costs, he's in for the journey of a lifetime. 

This genre has been so hit or miss for me as of late, but when I first read Rootless, I was really blown away by not only the concept, but the rich, vivid details that author, Chris Howard, offers his readers. This cautionary tale is cleverly disguised in a world of metal, plastic and other man-made materials. Nature is a distant memory, long since eradicated through the meticulous and destructive work of a corporation dominating the nation's food industry. With a world that's carefully-crafted, a strong and empathetic cast of characters and a soulful mission to find what's left of our world, Rootless soars.

Rootless was, in a nutshell, one heck of an epic journey. Think about the best quests you've ever read about, and then times it by ten. That's what this story offers us. We're given Banyan, a teen boy with a steady job as a tree builder, but with a chance to find a piece of our heritage and save what little might just be left of the world. His soul shines through his quest, and his courage, determination, humour and general good-natured persona has us invested from the start. Not once did I find his journey disingenuous or his motives less than honest. We're also given a host of pirates who are incredibly detailed, entertaining and truly original. These female pirates are gorgeous and powerful, dominating the swamplands of Old Orleans, and we're introduced to Alpha, a dynamic pirate with an agenda of her own. Through it all, we're presented with this barren wasteland of a world, and Rootless definitely displays the fact that it is a cautionary tale with complete sincerity. The author could easily have become preachy, but instead, by offering us a faceless corporation, GenTech, we can see distinct parallels between our worlds and the one within the pages of Rootless. It's a definitive wakeup call, and it's also a subtle call to action, or at the very least a commentary on the fact that our world needs a careful reminder of the potentially harmful repercussions of tinkering with our food and crop supply. Most of all though, the plot moves steadily forward, as does Banyan's quest, and we become fully invested in finding this long-lost forest, as well, hoping against hope that there might just be something there for Banyan - and for the rest of the world.

Honestly, I haven't seen to many reviews of Rootless, and that saddens me. It far exceeded my expectations, and it's right up there on my list of favourite dystopians now. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian novels with subtle social commentary.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. You know, the dystopian genre has been so iffy for me lately. I find them to be, more often than not, watered down love stories with only a touch on the dystopian aspect. This was refreshing because it was so vastly different.

  2. Jasprit, this is such a fantastic read, and it's totally different, which is even better! I highly, highly recommend it.

  3. Love your face, too! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did. It was a really magnificent story, and Chris is an incredible storyteller! I hope more people read and become invested in this book!

  4. Wow. A 5/5? MUST READ THIS! I remember you talking about it shortly before you took your break and you had only awesome things to say:) I definitely am adding this to my list, you have never steered me wrong before!

  5. Well, if you *do* try it, I sure hope you love it! I'd hate for this to be the first book that I steered you wrong ;)

  6. I don't read much dystopian fiction, but I like that there's a little social commentary in this one about something that could very well be reality if we aren't careful. Since it's YA, it's also a great introduction to the topics for teens.

  7. It's definitely a good deal of social commentary, and I found that it was a healthy twist on dystopian because the genre has been tiring me out as of late.

  8. Like you, I was very impressed by the premises of this book, but rather wary too, which is why I haven't picked this one up. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, though, and I'll have to give it a try soon for sure. Great review, Melissa!(:

  9. "Think about the best quests you've ever read about, and then times it by ten." - Really? I'm intrigued. Sounds like this story is excellent!

    Fabulous review :)

  10. I know I've never heard of this one, but last January had a lot of great releases so this one must have slipped past the radar. It sounds great, epic journey in a barren land. I'll put it on my tbr which is a laughable list by now. Don't read Jenny's archives.

  11. It's really, really good, Keertana! I think you'd like it if you enjoy the premise because it actually lives up to its potential!

  12. It's quite the journey, and it's totally a journey I want to continue on with Banyan!

  13. HEY MELISSA!! Rootless was one of my top three books of last year. And then I bught and listened to the audiobook a couple of times because I love it so much. I CANNOT WAIT for the next part of the story to come out. It's just a fun, fun adventure story with great characters. Banyan is written so well and I love that he is respectful and has a good head on his shoulder. And those pirates! And I will always love a quest in a story. Just a great, great story. Love it a ton, glad you did too. In fact, I think I first heard about it when I saw you tweet it last year. So thank you. :)

    I promise I'm coming to hang out on your blog soon. PROMISE. Love that your blogging again. LOVE your face.

  14. I have to agree with you Melissa, I don't think I paid much attention to Rootless before, as there didn't seem to be many reviews around for it. But I'm glad that despite this you decided to give it a try, it does sound like a fresh and original story. I also like how the author has incorporated so much into it, but still made it work. I may have to give Rootless a try one day. Wonderful review! :)

  15. I've been sort of burnt out on Dystopian lately, but this really intrigues me - your review has me adding it to my wishlist for sure! (Although yours is honestly the first review I've seen... ) It seems like such a captivating read.

    -Jac @ For Love and Books


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