Vengeance Road is the first Western I’ve read. What’s more, it’s the first Western Young Adult novel I’ve ever come across (not that there aren’t many more I’ve missed). I knew as soon as I found it that I had to analyze it as my last post in this series of book deconstructions.
What’s more, this book follows the Story Grid methodology to a tee. It’s a quick read that keeps you entertained. Every scene seems to turn and keeps the pace moving. Kate is a great character to follow. Every time I found myself wanting something to happen, it didn’t take long for the truth to come out. Nothing hung on too long.
Let’s take a look at how the global story plays out.
Oh, and here’s your warning: Spoilers Ahead. Proceed with caution.
1. What is the Global Genre?
Vengeance Road is a long form, arch-plot, realistic, drama that turns on justice/injustice. Normally, Westerns turn on freedom/subjugation, but in this case, the story is definitely a Western, but one where the “lone ranger” leaves their town in order to take vengeance on the criminals who killed her father. That makes it a Vengeance Western. There is also a love story subplot and a mini-revelation. Kate does mature, but mostly in the context of exacting her revenge and realizing there’s another way.
2. What are the Conventions and Obligatory Scenes?
- An inciting attack by the villain: Waylan and the Rose Riders kill Kate’s father. She later learns it was at the request of her own mother.
- Hero sidesteps responsibility to take action. In this case, I’d say Kate doesn’t follow her father’s advice and instead goes after his murderers in order to get revenge.
- Hero lashes out. She starts killing.
- Discovering and understanding the villain’s object of desire. Kate knows the Rose Riders are after gold. It turns out her mother is too.
- Hero reaches an all is lost moment. Kate just about sacrifices herself to save Jesse.
- The showdown. When Kate kills Waylan and Jesse kills her mother.
- The hero’s sacrifice is rewarded. They inadvertently get the gold Waylan had already taken from the earth.
- A harsh, hostile landscape. The desert.
- Hero, Victim, and Villain. Kate is the hero. Jesse is the victim and hero. Waylan and his Rose Riders are the villains but then so is her own mother by the end.
- Hero wants to stop the villain and save the victim.
- Hero operates outside the law. Kate ends up killing in order to get justice.
- The large power divide between the hero and the villain. That shows up in the numbers: Waylan and his group are 7 strong. Kate is alone until Will and Jesse join her followed by Lil. Additionally, Waylan is vastly more talented with a six-shooter.
- Speech in praise of the villain. This is when her mother describes what she’s done and that she’s orchestrated the whole plot.
3. What it the POV/Narrative Device?
This story is told in first person with the dialect of an under-educated woman pretending to be a boy from the Wild West. It’s past tense and the dialect fits perfectly with the location and time period.
4. What are the Objects of Desire?
Kate wants to take revenge on her father’s killers. She needs to accept help and open herself up to love so that she’s not fully alone now that her father is gone.
Jesse wants to forget his past and find the gold that he father never could. He needs to be able to let go of his past in a healthy way and to learn to put the needs of others above his selfish desires.
5. What is the Controlling Idea/Theme?
Justice prevails when the hero uses her gifts, learns to accept help, and takes down the tyrannical people only after gold.
Put another way, when the characters learn to value life over gold and revenge.
6. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?
Kate finds her father murdered and follows his instructions to find Abe in Wickenburg, where she joins two young men on the way to kill the Rose Riders.
When Kate is shot and the boys find out she’s actually a girl, they make a deal to help her if they can have the gold, which leads to the boys betraying her.
Jesse and Kate together hunt down Waylan Rose to extract revenge and find her mother in the process.