Summary: (taken from GoodReads) It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.
And then you’re dead.
When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.
Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.
Because how will she go on if there isn’t?
Thoughts: I went into this book expecting something bigger, something more overblown than what was actually contained within the pages. A pseudo-zombie virus, then entire world being struck down by the virus, virus that causes violent bloody death within 24 hours of infection, anything like that.
What I got was something much more low-key, and thus something far more believable and relatable. A mysterious virus starts infecting residents of an island community. It starts slowly, with cold and flu symptoms, and then progresses to nerve damage, loss of social inhibitions, hallucinations, and then death. Ingenius, really, the way that Crewe handled the virus causing a lack of social inhibitions. Not only does it increase the chances of the virus spreading itself to others when the infected get close to you and try to talk your ear off, but it also mimics some infections that have been noticed in mice (possibly other animals too; I haven’t kept up with that as closely as I used to).
The book was written journal-style, as the protagonist Kaelyn is writing to a friend of hers who has moved away. This gives us a great opportunity to see things from her perspective while still giving a good reason for exposition and narration that can sometimes feel awkward in other first-person viewpoints. It also allows us a very interesting perspective when Kaelyn becomes infected and starts to become incoherent. The writing style was very personal and delightfully smooth and easy to read because of this.
There were many things in this book that impressed me, most of them subtle and best appreciated when compared to other books and what this could have so easily been. Kaelyn comes up with a reason why certain people survived, but rather than her being the only one to notice the breakthrough, she finds that the trained adults have already done it. Teenagers do their best to organize relief and assistance, but they’re not the only ones who manage to keep their heads together. I’ve read so many books in which inexperienced teenagers manage everything where adults fail that not seeing things done that way was a real treat. The book also doesn’t flinch away from death, occasionally gruesome death, and gives realistic reactions from the characters.
Also noteworthy was the romance, which didn’t even begin to begin until the book was three-quarters done. Gav and Kaelyn grow closer as a way to cope with the crisis, and happily, the book doesn’t switch to dealing solely with their budding romance. It keeps its focus on the epidemic. Very refreshing.
My biggest complaint with this book is the ending. It took me looking it up to discover that this was a series, and so the story will continue. Unless you go into the book with that knowledge, the end of the book seems like a hopeful ending but with many loose ends. It felt awkward when compared to the rest of the book, and weirdly, I would have preferred something that was more obviously a cliffhanger.
Still, awkward ending aside, the book was extremely well done, and definitely is one worth reading if you want an interesting — and more importantly, realistic — speculative YA novel. Crewe displays some real talent here, and I feel very confident in recommending this book. This is a good example of how to write a book that’s both simple and complex, and well worth the read.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)