Nadia and her brother Rabbit survive the BluStar epidemic when their Special Ops uncle injects them with an experimental vaccine. Unfortunately, their mother is not administered the vaccine in time, so they are forced to follow their uncle’s instructions on survival without any parental guidance. Using the skills that their soldier father taught them before he died in Afghanistan, the resourceful youngsters set off from their home in Washington in search of their doomsday prepped grandfather and his top secret abandoned mine in West Virginia. Along the way, they come across some of the 5% (in the entire world) that have survived the plague – grannies with shotguns who aren’t very welcoming, an intimidating homeless boy who is definitely more than meets the eye, and those guys who love living in anarchy during a disaster. In the midst of the chaos, they are offered a few chances to stay put and rebuild civilization with likeminded individuals. A chance to make a new family. Should they embrace the good that they find or press on toward the last of their family who might have not survived?
Kizer throws a few curveballs when it comes to whether the kids should trust an individual or group, but some of the people they encounter are straight out bad news, no doubt. It’s scary enough being a young person during a disaster, but the harsh reality of being a girl is addressed a few times. Because this book is geared toward pre-teens and teens, the author glosses over it a little. While she can be descriptive at times and the dialogue is believable, I wish that she hadn’t skipped some great opportunities for backstory. The book begins when the children’s mother passes away. Kizer mentions in passing the preparations that they’ve made while waiting for her to recover or die, but she writes almost nothing about the months of waiting and hiding in their homes while the outside world falls into chaos. I think she missed a big opportunity by doing this.
Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes love that a book I read is just the one book (I hate waiting for sequels to come out). But not when it feels like there could have been more. And while I know that it’s all the rage in YA right now, I think this book could have been split into at least 2 books, maybe 3. I think that the months of hiding could have easily been 1/3 or 1/2 of the first book. And the first book could have ended with their first encounter with a place to possible call home. The second book would have picked up there and shown them moving on. They have another chance to stay put, which is where the second book could have ended. Or, Kizer could have ended book 2 when they make it to the mine in West Virginia. And then I would have loved to hear more about what happens to them afterward. Boom! Book 3. But this was all we got.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It could make a pretty good movie but I don’t think it will be one.