Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas

Quarantine: The Loners
by Lex Thomas

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 416
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication date: July 10, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, thriller, survival

First in the Quarantine series. From Goodreads:
"It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.

In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive.

{ I received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley. }

I love survival stories. Exploring how characters react when their survival instincts kick in is fascinating to me. Quarantine: The Loners follows brothers David and Will as they struggle to survive in the aftermath of an explosion that traps all the students in their school and the spread of the virus that's slowly making them deadly to not only adults on the outside, but to each other on the inside as they grow older. It is indeed "frighteningly dark" - there is some pretty graphic detail of dangerous and deadly situations, but it makes for a fantastic feeling of fear and heaviness that swallows you up and lets you get totally lost in this gripping read.

The story is told in 3rd person, with the focus bouncing back and forth between the main characters. I liked this approach because you got to see what was happening all around the school, how one character's actions affect another and what sorts of plans are being made behind other characters' backs. The action was nearly non-stop; with all the students fighting for resources, territory, and respect, there was always something dramatic happening. I flipped pages like crazy, staying up way into the night because I just couldn't tear myself away in the middle of the action.

The only small complaint that I have is that I would have liked a little more detail about the first weeks after the explosion, when they're all trying to adjust to life trapped inside their school and the dawning realization that help may not be coming anytime soon. The book skips forward pretty quickly to months after the explosion, when they've already formed their own sort of society with gangs and leaders and jobs and trade. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here, but I wish I could have read more about how they got to that point. I can appreciate why that was all cut out, though - it keeps the action moving by cutting right to the heart of the plot.

The dynamic between David and Will is great. Will has epilepsy, so his older brother David has always played the role of protector for him. Now that Will is older, he's getting sick of it and is ready to play the hero on his own. But no matter what he does, he always ends up in David's shadow. And no matter how hard David tries to make the right choices, he seems to always anger Will. Will is so desperate to strike out on his own that he makes reckless, dangerous decisions that he knows are foolish, but he can't seem to help himself. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Like when he's raiding Varsity's stuff in the gym, and he decides to stop and throw a basketball... I was like, "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!? You just got away with stealing from Varisty - forget the ball and GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE!!" And I honestly almost shouted all this out loud at my Kindle.)

In the midst of all the chaos happening in the rest of the school, I was surprised to find a nice little love triangle between David, Will, and Lucy, a girl that Will met the summer before. It's alternately touching and frustrating. Frustrating for Will because he knew her first and then David moved in, but also frustrating as a reader because the two guys do ridiculous things when she's around. Will puts his desire to impress her over his need to provide for himself and his brother, and David becomes uncharacteristically, devastatingly careless about all other things when the chemistry between he and Lucy heats up. You know they're both putting themselves in terrible situations, and you just want to scream at the book to make them snap out of it and act right.

The action all leads towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion: you know the gangs are going to fight until only one is left standing. But at the last minute, the plot gets flipped into an unexpected cliffhanger of an ending. Right when you're sure there's about to be an epic final encounter between two rival characters, things you didn't expect (at least not yet) suddenly happen, and you're left in suspense with the last line. I desperately wished the next book was already out - I would have snagged it and kept right on reading.

Anyone interested in survival stories (or curious about what would happen if you were trapped for years in a life-or-death situation in your own high school with your fellow students) should definitely give Quarantine: The Loners a read. I can just about promise you'll be scoping out your own long-term hiding places the next time you walk down the halls of your school.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book! It was totally crazy and out there, but I couldn't put it down either! And I had the same thoughts on the love triangle. lol Great review! :)

    ~Sara @ Forever 17 Books