Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse, is the moving story of a teenage girl, Billie Jo, living in Oklahoma in the time of the Dust Bowl. Dust storms blow across the land without relief, creeping through the walls and seeping through the windows, suffocating the cattle and smothering the wheat. Dust is everywhere; there's no escaping it. Billie Jo is freed from the pressure of everyday life through music. When she plays the piano, it seems as if she is transported to a dream world, far away from the dust and the hardships everyone in her town has been suffering. But a terrible accident is about to change her life forever, scarring her hands badly and rendering her unable to play the piano. And in the aftermath, Billie Jo must look to unexpected places in order to find the solace that she needs during this period of hardship and suffering.
This was a very touching book. The protagonist, Billie Jo, is determined and likeable. She is strong-willed and tough, and she doesn't let hard times get her attitude down, despite all her suffering. Her story is moving, and seeing the events unfold through her eyes gives a unique perspective to the whole book. I also thought the fact that this book is told in free verse was very interesting, and at times contributed greatly to the character of the novel. However, at times the short chapter-poems seemed to flow choppily, and I couldn't help thinking on rare occasions that it would have been easier had this book been in typical novel format. On the other hand, however, the poems are tied in so deeply with the book that the story might have been completely if this were changed. So, overall, this was a great book that is worth reading, especially if you enjoy free verse books or stories about the Great Depression, and it's not at all time-consuming.