Plot Sketch: Kaelyn is busy navigating the ins and outs of moving back and forth between big-city minded Toronto and the small-town minded island she grew up on. She's just seen her ex-best friend leave for school on the ferry and decides to keep a journal as if she were telling him how she feels about what's going on until she can tell him face to face when he comes back for Thanksgiving. But then, the journal becomes a chronicle of an outbreak, the early symptoms, early measures of prevention by the government, (Kaelyn's father is a microbiologist and has inside information sometimes) and the progression of the disease. We see the World Health Organization (WHO) through her eyes. We see the best of humanity and the worst of humanity as she tells her old friend what's going on in their community. We see life and we see death, all through the pen of a sixteen-year-old girl.
Verdict: If you're looking for dystopia, this is not your book. This is not a book about a dysfunctional messed up government in the future with some whacked out crazy totalitarian alien war mutant gladators. It's set now, in the present, in rural Canada. If you're looking for doomsday, suspense, with a little mystery and romance though, this is a sure bet. This is not a paranormal romance. This is not a paranormal anything. It's contemporary. And it's scary.
The epistolary format of this novel allows the reader to connect with the narrator in a more powerful way than traditional prose would. You are able to see the world in a way an outsider could not. I read the entire book in one sitting, even though I wanted to put it down and sleep, I couldn't. And I had a fever. Not only was it powerful, it was haunting, and I'm still thinking about what decisions I would have made had I been in Kaelyn's shoes even today. The book is both technically sound and emotionally engaging. There were only a few plot progression points that I found questionable, but they were easily rationalized and explained away.
The ending will feel rushed if you think that the book is a stand alone. But if you know this is a series going in, you'll be left at the end with a whole passel of questions, and they'll just keep coming.
There was a point in the book where I became so numb to all of the death that my brain kicked in and told me I should be more upset about this one particular death. It was important. It had more impact, power, than the rest of the deaths to that point. Or at least it should have. But, it was like I was linked with Kaelyn and couldn't bring myself to feel any more than she did, which I found to be quite brilliant, even though it left me disappointed in my own humanity. For an author to be able to evoke an intellectual response to my lack of emotional response sort of blew my mind. Good job, Megan Crewe. Good. Job.
We read this for book group and had a blessedly awesome discussion from it. I would highly recommend this for book groups. For parents: I counted 2 instances of the f word. Another woman in our book group counted 5. I thought that they were used in good places for emphasis and were true to the characters who used them, not just tossed in for effect. I was not offended by their presence, but you should know that they're there. Also, I applaud the author for having a gay character whose sexual preference is not a major source of conflict in the story. *claps hands* Oh, and if you are sick, be forewarned, this book might frighten you a little bit more than if you are healthy. And if you're healthy, you still might want some hand sanitizer close by.
This book will be enjoyed by people who like Stephen King's The Stand, Survivors (the British tv series), and pretty much anyone who likes to think about the zombie apocalypse. Oh, and if you're interested in the discussion questions, download them from Megan's site!