September 29th, 2023
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Fault Lines

Fault Lines, September 2023
by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Running Press Kids
Featuring: Oscar Mendez; Dexter Mathews; Vivian Spry
385 pages
ISBN: 0762480998
EAN: 9780762480999
Kindle: B0BRJ5Z4B6
Hardcover / e-Book
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"Beware of big firms bearing gifts in this YA adventure"

Fresh Fiction Review

Fault Lines
Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted September 12, 2023

Young Adult Fantasy | Young Adult Coming of Age | Young Adult Adventure

Vivian Spry is growing up in West Virginia, where a fracking company is making its presence felt, and a tree she likes falls into a sinkhole. FAULT LINES is a serious and engaging YA adventure rooted in a rural community, where the kids can’t get away from schoolmates and online activity can turn to bullying. A good diversity of characters appears, like middle-class Latino boy Oscar Mendez.

A newcomer, because his mom, a veteran soldier, was hired with the fracking firm, Dexter Mathews starts in school. He doesn’t like sports, but he’s determined to sign up for the army like his dad, just for the proverbial pay and college. He joins a gym running a free offer. Viv works at the gym and starts training him, so they learn to get along. From Dex, Viv gains the information that there is a drilling company and separate contracting pipeline companies, and from the internet, she discovers that accidents and toxins have been produced by the activity. But when an energy firm comes offering money, it’s hard for poor people to resist.  

The description of generational poverty in Appalachia reminds me of DEMON COPPERHEAD which I read earlier this year. With not enough jobs and some adults injured by accidents or PTSD, it’s difficult to muster the funds for college, a home, or a car. We hear of someone addicted to opioids, which like cigarettes do harm while wasting money. Big exploitative companies like poor, under-educated towns, and pit one neighbour against another.  

Author Nora Shalaway Carpenter tells us that she grew up in just such a town, on just such a mountain, with just such exploitation. Perhaps this is why she gives her heroine a sixth sense, to set her apart from the other kids and adults because there doesn’t seem to be any normal answer to the problems. I don’t like the implication that superhuman powers are required to deal with big situations, because it leaves a young reader feeling that they have nothing to offer. I can think of a possible way out of Viv’s immediate plot problem, which requires talent and work but not ESP.

I also disliked that all the name-calling hinged on sexuality. Maybe this is how they talk in that area. And kids keep assuring others that they are not gay, or (the nicer ones) that it wouldn’t matter if they were gay. If kids don’t get along with classmates, there is no other club to join. The environmental message is strong in FAULT LINES, and even if it’s a veiled Romeo and Juliet story, I’m pleased that Viv and Dex work together and get along, whatever their family differences. I’ll look out for more by this author.

Learn more about Fault Lines


Riveting, powerful, and a little bit magical, Fault Lines offers readers a slow-burn romance alongside an unflinching examination of socio-economics, gender expectations, and environmental ethics.

Ever since her aunt died four months ago, seventeen-year-old Vivian (Viv) Spry is aching to figure out where she belongs. Her father has become emotionally distant and even her best friend has found a new sense of identity in her theater group. Unfortunately, nobody in her rural West Virginia town has time for an assertive, angry girl, especially a girl dubbed “Ice Queen” for refusing to sleep with her popular boyfriend. On top of everything, she discovers a strange ability to sense energy that really freaks her out. The only place Viv feels like it’s safe to be her true self is the tree stand where her aunt taught her to hunt. It's the one place she still feels connected to the person who knew her best. So when fracking destroys the stand and almost kills her, Viv vows to find a way to take the gas company down.

When Dex Mathews comes to town—a new kid whose mom lands a job laying pipeline—his and Viv's worlds collide and a friendship (and maybe more?) slowly blossoms. But Viv’s plan to sabotage the pipeline company could result in Dex’s mom losing her job, putting them on the streets. Now Viv and Dex have to decide what’s worth fighting for—their families, their principles, or each other.

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