Book Reviews

Book Review: The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste


Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

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Phoebe Shaw:

Phoebe Shaw is a typical teenage girl bored in a small town. She experiences disappointing love as they do. Her best friend Jacqueline is her entire positive stronghold in the town that is dying and a family who doesn’t care enough. While she is thrust in a position of helplessness and sadness, she doesn’t give up. In her loneliness, she still fights hard for those she cares about. She also stands up to those eventually who persecute her.

My Thoughts:

Phoebe Shaw returns to Dent street years after leaving it and the rust maidens behind. Back with a mission of closure, she seems to think that her memories have haunted her.

As a teen, she’s in a town that doesn’t want her, a family who tolerate her, a community that loathes her, and a best friend who accepts her. Jacqueline. When they plot to escape, Phoebe finds that she’s one of the rust maidens.

The author did a good job of explaining what a rust maiden was, how they morphed into what they become, her imagery was plain and clear. I enjoyed her book.

There were times in the book that it seemed to crawl, but that may be my own opinion. It took me longer than it usually does to get through this one. I did, however, enjoy it.

The closure at the end was nice and the ending of the novel perfect.

I do have one dislike, I wasn’t particularly into the Adrian and Phoebe thing. It may have been meant to be a teenage escape, but came off creepy. I did think trying to form that bond at the end was a way of making up for that. I just didn’t get a good feeling from it. I was irked by it, to be honest.

All in all solid book and story. A first read of Gwendolyn Kiste for me but I’m intrigued enough to check out further work.

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