Review originally published on my Livejournal account here
.Why I Read It:
It was on my list of "Shiny New Books of 2012" that I wanted to read, and I liked the cover, and The Book Smugglers
largely enjoyed it.
I really liked this book. It wasn't perfect, but there was so much that was so well done that I found myself quite impressed with it. I'm having trouble articulating what I liked so much about it, but I'll try.
The first thing that comes to mind when I try to make a mental list of things I liked about this book is: Kaelyn. I loved that girl. At the beginning of the book, she's just your typical high school student who has slightly different interests than most girls her age (she loves observing and taking notes on wild animals, like coyotes). She's shy and quiet, but she's endeavored to break out of her shell and to try and make friends. How endearing is that? However, once the virus breaks out, that all goes to hell of course, but this novel is still very much about Kaelyn's journey of discovering her identity. For a novel about a big outbreak, it's strangely introspective, but I liked it for that.
I labeled this novel as Apocalyptic because of the survival atmosphere the novel permeates because of the virus, but it's not QUITE apocalyptic because the outbreak takes place on a small island off the Canadian east coast. It doesn't have the global feel that most Post-/Apocalyptic novels have (I think most of them have a global aspect to them anyway -- I don't read quite enough in the genre to consider myself an expert), but I appreciated watching something like this on a smaller scale. It kept the focus tighter, which made it easier to keep everything centered on Kaelyn and her personal growth.
The novel also never shies away from the nitty gritty. No one is safe in this novel, and while none of the deaths SHOCKED me, I still appreciated that Crewe didn't hesitate to kill important characters. The only problem here is that because the novel is written in epistolary format (Kaelyn is writing letters diary-style to her friend Leo) I never really feared for Kaelyn's safety, which diminishes some of the tension.
Speaking of the epistolary format, I've come to realize that I always have to suspend my disbelief when I read novels in that format. When Kaelyn is writing letters to Leo, she writes down conversations and details as if she were writing a novel. Now, I know this IS a novel, but no one really writes letter like that to each other, do they? But this is common of most epistolary novels, because it would honestly be weird to read a book without ANY dialogue (even books that don't use quotation marks still have dialogue), and there obviously needs to be enough detail to be captivating. I dunno, I'm just wondering if they could've/should've been written in a different format.Final Verdict:
I really enjoyed this surprisingly quiet, introspective novel that follows a young girl's journey of personal growth and search for her identity within a bleak and unforgiving viral outbreak. Kaelyn is such a likable character, which is what really kept me glued to the pages and elevated this story for me. The plot itself was fairly tense and kept the pages turning as no one is safe, and it was very nitty gritty and realistic. I'm not completely sold on the epistolary format, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book -- it just made me wonder WHY it was written that way and not another. Either way, I'll definitely be checking out the sequel, The Lives We Lost
, which will be published next year.