Rome, Lux, and Mercy are three of the girls of Cottonwood Hollow, a small, rural Kansas community not unlike the ones I drive past when I leave Manhattan.
This book isn’t just about small town Kansas though, it’s about the power of female friendship and the magic contained in this community.
The girls of Cottonwood Hollow are different; they’ve each got a talent. Rome is a Fix, she can fix anything that’s broken. Mercy is an Enough, so for example, there’s always just enough gas when Rome’s car is running on empty. And, Lux is a Siren with power over men.
Miranda Asebedo is also an alumni of Kansas State’s department of English. “The Deepest Roots” is her debut novel. I’d like to be an author someday, so it’s cool to see that someone with a similar background (born and raised in rural Kansas, member of the K-State English department) has accomplished this.
If I had to classify this book I’d call it rural fantasy, which isn’t a genre that technically exists, but it exists in my heart. This is the kind of book that I love to read and this is the kind of book I’d like to write someday.
Asebedo writes about rural Kansas really well. The setting and dynamics of Cottonwood Hollow and Evanston feel real to me. From the boys that hang out at gas stations to the close connections that you have with your community when it’s small, the richness of the setting really benefitted this book.
“The Deepest Roots” also starts with a tornado, which adds an immediate element of action to the story, and grounds the setting even further in Kansas. Plus, it helps provide tension and introduces us to the relationship between Rome and her mother that the rest of the story relies upon.
My favorite thing about this story is that it is about female friendship, and female empowerment in a community that often feels like it doesn’t value its women. For example, the girls from Cottonwood hollow are known as freaks by outsiders because of their talents, and Lux is often targeted because she’s a Siren.
When things start to fall down around Rome, Lux, and Mercy, it would be easy for them to fall apart. Secret keeping tests the bonds of their friendship, and there are moments where it gets perilous and their fighting gets raw and cuts deep.
However, friendship is what saves these three girls in the end. The theme of friendship that Asebedo presents is important, because it’s easy to get catty and caught up in the little things, but the depth and value of a friendship should be more important. Friendship shouldn’t be thrown away at the first hint of trouble, but rather treasured.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just about friendship, there’s also a cute romance plot in this novel, and I applaud Rome’s flirting skills, but it isn’t the most important thing. It’s basically a given that a YA novel has to have a romance, and Asebedo fulfills that, but doesn’t let it overshadow the real themes of her novel. Plus, cute romances are a lot of fun to read.
Additionally, there are very real connections between each girl in this novel and her mother, which I find unique. Young adult literature has a trope where parents aren’t really hands on, but there is no lack of parenting in this novel. The focus on maternal relationships in “The Deepest Roots” goes above and beyond what I’d typically expect, and we see each girl in context to the relationship she has with her mother.
“The Deepest Roots” also handles tough topics like poverty and domestic violence. Asebedo doesn’t shy away from dealing with these subjects and exploring them in depth. That adds grit and realism to her story, especially because it’s important to see representation of these subjects.
I can’t write this review without talking about the magic, while it is a big selling point of this novel, it felt almost like a background aspect of it. However, it was really cool when it came into play. The world building and details about Emmeline Remington were well developed, and the magic served the plot and helped define the characters.
I loved every single bit of this novel, and I cried at the end because the final scene came together really well after the trials and tribulations that the characters experience.
If you like a little bit of fantasy, female friendship or solid Kansas descriptions, this is definitely something you should read. Plus, you can support a K-State alum in the process.
While Cottonwood Hollow isn’t a real place, it feels like it, and I’m glad I got to visit it through this book.