Posted in Horror, Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Contaminated 2: Mercy Mode keeps the pressure on!

contaminated2Contaminated 2: Mercy Mode, by Em Garner (Egmont, Sept. 2014), $17.99, ISBN: 9781606843567

Recommended for ages 14+

Contaminated 2 picks up right where Contaminated left off – the government is closing in on all the Connies, taking them – and sometimes, their families – away to testing facilities. Horror stories abound. Soldiers routinely test citizens for any sign of contamination, whisking them away if even the propensity for contamination shows up.

Velvet, her sister Opal, her boyfriend, Dillon, her mom, and an elderly neighbor are living in Velvet and Opal’s home, scavenging supplies from nearby homes and trying to live on the quiet and stay off the government’s radar. Her mother is showing huge improvements, including conversation, cleaning, even cooking and knitting. Life is still hard, but Velvet knows they have more than so many.

It can’t last, though – soldiers come and burn down the house to smoke Velvet and her family out. She finds herself a test subject in one of the labs she’s heard horror stories about, where a doctor puts her through test after test. As Velvet – and readers – figure things out, the book becomes all-consuming. Will Velvet escape? What secret are the doctors hiding? Will anything ever be the same again?

The fantastic character development we got in Contamination continues here in Mercy Mode. Velvet grows as a character, but we start getting more information about her parents, which really fills in some gaps. I would like to have learned a little more about what caused her mom’s improvement, which tends to be explained away as “remarkable”, but that’s not an issue that will affect your enjoyment of the book; rather, it’s fodder for book discussions that SHOULD take place after reading this series.

Is there going to be a third in this series? The way the second book leaves off, it could go either way. But man, do I have a wish list of things that I want to see if there is.

Em Garner’s author page has links to social media and information about her books and appearances.

Posted in Horror, Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Teen, Uncategorized

Contaminated: A YA tale of horror and infection

contaminatedContaminated, by Em Garner (Egmont USA, 2013). $9.99, ISBN: 9781606843543

Recommended for ages 14+

If losing weight was easy, everyone would be thin – or so the saying goes. But when the diet drink ThinPro hits the market, no one can argue with the results – it tastes pretty good, too, so people are drinking the stuff like it’s Gatorade. One huge problem, though – to keep up with demand, the manufacturers start messing around with the formula, and it becomes tainted with something like Mad Cow Disease. And that something makes holes in people’s brains, contaminating them and turning them into rage-fueled maniacs.

Contaminated begins in the aftermath of this outbreak that left most of the US decimated. The Contaminated – called “Connies” – have largely been put under control by the government; first, through forced lobotomies, now, through the use of collars controlled by electrodes put into captured Connie’s brains. Velvet, a 17 year-old who lost her father and mother to the Contamination, has been struggling to take care of herself and her 10 year-old sister ever since the outbreak. She constantly checks the neighborhood kennel, where Connies have been released to be claimed by family members, for her mom. One day, she finds her and brings her home.

The thing is, the government is keeping a lot of secrets now, and there are whispers that the Contamination isn’t under control. Connies are being taken into custody again, whether or not they’ve been claimed by family, whether or not they’re contained by their collars. Velvet struggles to keep her family together and her mother hidden, especially when Velvet realizes that her mother is improving. As her Pennsylvania neighborhood becomes more and more of a police state, how will she keep her family safe?

This isn’t a zombie tale, the walkers aren’t back from the dead. It’s an infection tale, rooted in a concern over what we’re putting in our bodies and what this stuff really does to us. The infected are rage-zombies, if anything; they lose the ability to connect with society and just want to inflict violence. We get the story through Velvet’s eyes as she lives through the fallout of the infection. She’s a teenager forced into adulthood too fast, with a 10 year-old sister who frustrates the hell out of her, but whom she loves and clings to for a sense of normalcy in the middle of insanity. She fights to keep her sister in school, even though she questions what the heck school is going to do for anyone now, in this new era humanity is in. She works awful jobs to keep her family afloat. She has the added burden of caring for her mother, a shell of a woman retrieved, like a stray animal, from a shelter. It’s a tense story, it’s a story of survival, and finally, it’s a story about family.

Short story: I LOVED this book. While Velvet is the only character that is really developed, she’s all we really need, because it’s HER story. The situation? Frighteningly plausible and will make you look at that weight-loss drink a lot more differently. If you’re into post-apocalypse stuff, grab this book, but don’t expect Walking Dead scenarios with walkers taking bites out of people in the streets. Like the best zombie stories, this is a story about how humans cope with the end of their world.

Posted in Horror, Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Quarantine 3: The Burnouts brings the post-apocalyptic trilogy to a tense end

quarantineQuarantine 3: The Burnouts, by Lex Thomas, Egmont USA (2014). $17.99, ISBN: 9781606843383

Recommended for ages 14+

The third book in Lex Thomas’ post-apocalyptic series continues the story of Will and David, the brothers from McKinley High, where the kids are quarantined in the wake of a disastrous infection. Lucy, the last of the group from the previous book, is still inside – for now – trying to survive, and Hilary, who’s finally, completely, snapped, brings a reign of terror with her as she takes control of the school and all the gangs within it.

The publisher has called this series “Lord of the Flies in a 21st century high school setting”, which is spot-on. The kids inside the school have split into factions that fight to survive life inside the school. It’s a no-man’s land where children will do whatever they are forced to in order to make it to “graduation” – when the disease breaks and they can leave the building, assimilating into life on the outside.

I couldn’t put this book down. It’s got action, fantastic pacing, strong characters, and pulls no punches in its storytelling. There are references to sex, pregnancy, drug abuse, and violence throughout the book, so if any of these are issues for readers, this isn’t your book. It’s a powerful, gut-wrenching book that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you read.

The world in Quarantine isn’t safe inside or outside the McKinley walls – on the outside, there are those who want to destroy what the citizens have put together. They want to destroy the school and destroy the disease that rages on within its walls. The citizens on the outside – the families of the children inside – have to fight to stay alive and keep their kids alive.

The book hits shelves on August 22nd. In the meantime, check out the first two books: Quarantine: The Saints and Quarantine: The Loners and get ready.