The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

The Salt Line

Holly Goddard Jones

"With this intense, arrestingly vivid fever dream, Holly Goddard Jones fully realizes a completely original and wholly terrifying dystopian nightmare." -- Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn

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In the spirit of Station Eleven and California, award-winning novelist Holly Goddard Jones offers a literary spin on the dystopian genre with this gripping story of survival and humanity about a group of adrenaline junkies who jump “the Salt Line.”

How far will they go for their freedom—once they decide what freedom really means?

In an unspecified future, the United States' borders have receded behind a salt line—a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what's left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.

Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks—and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line.

Advance Galley Reviews

I have read several dystopian novels, and while this one can certainly be described as such, it has enough of our modern day in it to make it relatable. It is also a good old-fashioned thriller that takes a sharp, unexpected turn about a third of the way in. By using multiple characters' POV, the story weaves us through their present and their back story so that we see that most of the characters- heroes and villains alike- are both good and slightly flawed. The author is great with the descriptive elements. My only complaint is that she often drops phrases into the middle of a sentence and I found myself losing the sentence thread. I had to go back frequently and re-read the sentence without the long and laborious middle phrase in order to understand it. There were also a couple of dangling plot points. For example, one of the characters mentions the possibility of "being reported to Public Safety and Morals" if found pregnant outside of marriage, but at no time did it explain why an unmarried pregnancy was cause for concern or what the punishment might be. On the whole, I would recommend this book to those who like a story that is out-of-the box while keeping you on the edge of your seat.

As far as dystopian novels go The Salt Line was a refreshing change from the dozens of YA dystopian novels I've been reading. Its about living in a world behind barriers and walls where society is controlled by the fear of ticks. These ticks aren't your regular run of the mill creepy critters. The females burrow into the skin to lay their eggs inside human flesh, and later when hatched, the offspring burst from the skin and crawl away to feed on anything nearby. That in itself is horrifying but isn't deadly. The disease they may carry, however, definetly is and its not a pretty way to go. Its enough to make most people never hestitate to stay within the confines of their walls, but a select few actually pay a fortune for the opportunity to see what life is life outside the barriers in all its tick ridden glory. A tourist company takes rich travelers on a adrenaline filled journey to see nature is its purest form. There are many rules in place to prevent injury/death, but even so, everyone is still at the mercy of the ticks. When a group cross the salt line, and begin their adventure, they find themselves taken hostage and caught in a deadly feud bewteen corrupt individuals inside the walls and a small community living out in nature. From there it becomes less about the fear of ticks and more about the fear of not being able to make it home alive. . This book was really really good. The story wasn't very fast paced and its not for people who need suspense and twists and turns in every chapter but the premise was pretty unique and the writing style, in my opinion, was a breath of fresh air. Too many dystopian novels have taken on a pattern but didn't even graze the common premise. It wasn't about one person being special somehow and saving the day or trying to lead a revolution to overthrow a corrupt government. In a general sense it was about a group of people, most strangers to eachother, who end up caught in a terrible situation and they must work together to make it back home in one peice;all while trying to avoid getting bit by killer ticks. The narrative switches every chapter between a few characters on the expedition whichs gives a great dimension to the story. Each character is really well written and their backstories are intricately woven into the plot. While reading this book i never knew what direction it was going to take me but i enjoyed the ride all the same. It was slow going at first but once the story found its rhythm I became invested in the characters and needed to know they'd make it out alright. I really liked that the antagonists were portrayed as people with hopes, dreams and fears like the rest of the characters. They were just people that had a lot at stake and a community to protect. Their actions, although harsh, were understandable and to a degree even defendable. I was conflicted at how i wished to see the issues resolved and was hoping for a happy ending for everyone. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes dystopian novels as well as anyone who really doesn't. This one just might change their minds.

**5++/5 Goodreads Stars** Readers are thrust into a dystopian world divided by disease, borders, and fear in Holly Goddard Jones' masterfully written The Salt Line. In the not too distant future, the world has been infested with ticks. The majority of these ticks cause Shreve's disease, which kills those it infects. In response, the entire world has been cordoned off into quarantined enclosed zones. Those quarantined, also known as "Zoners," have been told that the exterior world was obliterated, destroyed via massive fires designed to burn landscapes clean of ticks. Despite the danger that the exterior world (out of zone) poses, it has become a tourist attraction full of abandoned towns and historical sites that capture how humanity once lived. Outer Limits Excursions (OLE) provides an outlet for this adventure or "dark" tourism, catering to the uber elite who have the pockets to bankroll such trips. The first portion of the book sketches out a group of characters who have decided to take such a trip. It explores the motivations leading these well-off tourists to take fate into their own hands and risk their lives for a glimpse into what once was. There's Edie, who is whisked away from her life as a poor waitress by Jesse, a mega pop star who charms her. There's Wes, one of the Zones' wealthiest men alive due to his tech savvy and entrepreneurial prowess despite his youth. There's Marta, who is the wife of a mob boss, and who cares more about her sons than anything else in her life. There's Andy, who leads the tour group for OLE despite his shady past. I often have a hard time following a book with so many characters, especially if the author neglects to flesh them out and make them seem human. This was definitely not the case with The Salt Line. I was rooting for each character despite their flaws and sometimes nefarious intentions. The author makes you care about each character by telling their back stories and how those shape their actions and beliefs. The author avoids stereotypes and generalizations; she really wants to you to empathize with each of the characters, to truly understand why and how they act the way they do. This was a fantastic read, one that I hope ends up on the big screen in the near future. It was brilliantly written and I could not put it down. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy dystopian thrillers and sci-fi. I really hope she writes a sequel to this because I will be first in line to grab it! Thank you to Penguin Random House's First to Read program for an advanced ready copy of this book.

I received an advanced copy of the Salt Line from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review. I decided to give the Salt Line a try because the description made it sound like something I have never read before – a refreshing change to say the least. I’ve read plenty of dystopian novels in my time, but never once has a novel incorporated an insect as the reason for the world going to hell. Needless to say I was intrigued. The world has gotten even smaller – but not thanks to overpopulation. There’s a new breed of ticks out there and they carry fatal diseases (as well as causing severe damage on their own). This caused humanity to flee into safe zones. Naturally the curious and exceedingly wealthy can adventure out into the wilds, but it’s worth noting that you pretty much have to be both in order to make it work. This should probably go without saying, but if you have a phobia about bugs you should seriously consider staying away from this novel. Heck, I don’t have a phobia and I found my skin crawling hours after having read it. Seriously, I kept thinking things were crawling on me…it took me longer than I’d like to admit to put two and two together there. I haven’t read anything else by Holly Goddard Jones, but based on what I’ve seen in the Salt Line she very clearly is awfully talented in world building. The dystopian world came to life in ways that I probably should wish it hadn’t – the threat from the outside seemed so real (as did the barrier and the tech introduced throughout). I did find myself wondering if other animals were affected by the ticks – but there were limited examples of this one way or the other, so I find myself wondering still. The perspective shifts were used to flesh out the world in addition to creating and building tension. Seeing the different character’s way of thinking helps the reader to realize that there’s even more going on than meets the eye (which is saying something), unraveling layers upon layers of depth. As a bonus: while there’s a decent number of characters the perspective switches between, it never hits the overwhelming point. My biggest complaint about the novel was that the book I started reading wasn’t the book I finished reading. It starts out as a dystopian world where the ticks are the biggest threat. Then (spoiler warning) it turns into a government conspiracy where humans are the real enemy. The ticks become nearly irrelevant. Considering that the ticks were the biggest draw (for me at least) that was pretty disappointing. I would have loved to see more about them (even if they made my skin crawl). The Salt Line appears to have set up for a sequel (though it also has one of those endings where if there was no sequel it wouldn’t drive you bonkers). I think I’d be willing to read the next one, despite my complaints about this one. Holly Goddard Jones is a fantastic writer and I’d be curious to see where she brings her world next.

This book started out differently than expected, and I found it difficult to invest in the characters, but gradually grabbed my interest when the plot moved along. A dystopian world is divided into zones with a salt line area inhabited by dangerous ticks. Wealthy risk takers can go there for an adventure in the remote area, The world building was a novel idea but lacked follow through. The adventurers on this cursed trip, Edie, Mara and Wes, the main characters, are taken as hostages to a remote village beyond the salt line. The action picks up and you need to finish to see who ultimately survives the encounter. Plot twists and surprising connections and deals are revealed in the end. The actions of a couple of the survivors are hard to believe and may set up for more to come. Some awkward sentence structure and long information inserts slowed down the flow. A good read if you stick with it.

Overall the content of the book is appropriate for most teenagers it does start off with some really intense swearing, mention of abortions, and sex but nothing entirely too graphic and it really isn't a big focus of the story . There a plot twist at the end of the first part of the book that pushes the characters a different direction than what you would've thought you'd be reading about. It's not altogether unpleasant and in fact keeps the intrigue up. I will argue that I like the first and second part better than the third which seems to rush to put things together so that they can be tied up with a bow. Overall though great read and solid character development. A good read for dystopian junkies.

I don't normally read many dystopian novels so this was a leap outside of my reading 'comfort' zone. Because of that, it may have taken me a little longer than usual to get my head around this new world. That said, several of the concepts, such as reliance on tablets and apps for communication and news, were pretty relevant to present-day, and the idea of wealthy thrill-seekers paying to go on an excursion like this, was also well within the scope of my imagination. What I had trouble with, more than anything, was that I didn't find myself really caring too much about the people in the book, and I didn't feel like there was enough invested in anyone to make a reader worry too much about their fates. I wanted the backstory of how those living behind the Wall to be delved into more, as well as more gory details as to how the ticks really messed with everyone! I think the ending may have been rushed through but I also wanted to rush to know that the last 'survivors' got out okay. Overall, this was a pretty 'light' read for a survivalist dystopian novel that I thought could have been fleshed out more. I just couldn't tell if that was because it wasn't my normal genre to read or not. All that said, I'm glad to NOT be living around these disgusting killer ticks!

I was really excited to get my hands on The Salt Line. I have to give this book credit for being such an original end of world scenario. The Salt Line takes place sometime in the future after the world's population has retreated to different zones, protected from the wild behind chemically burned lines. Everyone is frightened of ticks, which I get I live in a highly populated tick zone myself. I will spare you the details of why these ticks are so horrible. The story is about a group of rich individuals who pay to take a risky trip outside of the salt line to see nature and get a thrill. From there they run into a group of people who live outside the zone and drama takes place.  If I give you much more detail it runs the risk of spoilers. While I enjoyed the originality of this novel I really wish the story was told a little different. The world building and character development left a lot of room to be desired. The first part of the book was amazing, I really wished it was expanded upon and told on its own. The 2 & 3 part of the book were good but I felt rushed and could have also been expanded into another book or two. Lastly I see another one or at least a need for a sequel. I was left wanting to know more about this world she built and I hope I get to. With that all being said The Salt Line is a good read for when you want a little drama and adventure.

The America of the future is overcome by ticks burrowing into people's skin and spreading a terribly debilitating disease, forcing people to reside with safe zones. But for those who wish to experience nature and the world beyond safety in Holly Goddard Jones's The Salt Line there's the option of an expensive excursion, where safety isn't always guaranteed.  With the fear of a tick-spread disease, civilization is cordoned off within a salt line, where the earth is scorched to provide a safe barrier. Civilization seems to keep functioning as it always had as people continue to work, grieve, love, and attain fame and fortune as they always have, even if the technology and state of the world have changed. When the most recent collection of intrepid explores go out of zone, they unknowingly become part of a larger plot between groups to make money and gain control over a drug supply. In order to survive, alliances and difficult decisions must be made.  The novel follows a fairly standard dystopian structure, with the country divided into sections, the government in on nefarious plans to keep citizens under control, and rebellions coming from those who live outside the boundaries of "standard" or accepted society. Despite the expected and familiar ideas used to help build the world, there were aspects to this speculative story that were interesting and unique, including: the pervasive technology used in both everyday life and survival out of zone; character studies (which negatively impacted the narrative's momentum); and an element of "when nature fights back" against humanity. I found the reliance on tablets a good depiction of how contemporary society finds it difficult to socialize and interact with others without a screen in front of them - the obsession and addiction is real and disconnecting can be difficult, although this story takes that disconnect to an extreme.  Overall, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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