Bullet Catcher, by Joaquin Lowe, is one of the coolest books I’ve read for ages – it’s a YA genre-mash of wild west, steampunk and sci-fi and brings a really original twist to the old gunslinger legends.
About a young down-on-her-luck girl called Imma, this desert-based tale is about how Imma decides to leave her hometown and seek a new life. When she was an orphan her brother, Nikko, abandoned her to try his own luck in the desert wilderness…but he never returned. So when Imma meets a stranger in town, she sees a chance to become someone new and hunt for her lost brother.
The stranger is the Bullet Catcher. He is everything you’d want from a grisly, old, experienced, wild west-tainted gunman…except he doesn’t use guns. He bends bullets in mid-air and bounces them off himself in a rare, magical skill of bullet catching. And this twist is what totally captivated me to this story.
What arises from Imma’s meeting with the Bullet Catcher, is a mythologically exciting backstory of ancient wars between the real gunslingers and the bullet catchers. Imma learns to be a catcher, until she finds her brother again…and he is the desert’s top, evil gunslinger baddie. And he wants to indoctrinate his sister into the ways of the gunslinger, so he can destroy the bullet catchers once and for all.
The story is pretty violent in places, and has swear words, so it is definitely upper-MG or more probably YA. But the level of violence is in context with the story of blasted Badlands, drunken gunslingers, cyborg gun-shooting technology and a general feeling of apocalyptic wilderness and desperation.