Three months have passed since all of the adults have disappeared and the kids are struggling in the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone). Everyone is starving through previous mismanagement of food and due to other creature evolution. Let’s just say farming has just gotten a little bit more dangerous. Tensions are building because Sam, doesn’t have the ability to solve everyone’s problems and is just as frustrated as everyone else because no one else seems to be coming up with any solutions to the numerous problems. Moral compasses are failing, good kids are turning on each other and weak ones are defecting. To make matters much worse, there is a sinister creature of some sort hidden deep in the mine shaft that is calling to specific kids to come to it. What does it want? Is it the cause of all that has happened over the past three months? Can Sam get others to pitch in and help? Will he simply give up? His lack of leadership is frustrating others and causing rifts, rivalries and weakness to grow between their faction and the other group (thus strengthening the “bad kids”). Ultimately, can they fight an evil they understand nothing about?
So many questions, and plenty of answers that amount to about a thousand more questions. In learning a little more about the big bad (and I’ll admit, I googled some things too because I needed to know if I should continue), this seems like an almost impossible battle ahead for Sam and his friends. I liked this book a bit less than the first because it wasn’t as fun. And listen, I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun. The kids are starving, they’re fighting the earth for food, they’ve lost their healer and this is not the time to lose their healer…seriously. I thought characterization was strong in the first book, and to an extent, it still is, but it (like many series) relies on stock descriptions of characters when reintroducing them. Only now am I recognizing that almost all of the female characters get described by their appearance. Yes, we get Genius Astrid…but Genius Astrid is also “gorgeous” (not that geniuses can’t be gorgeous). We get super kick ass Lana who healed both herself and her dog after her grandfather’s truck went down into a ravine and then climbed basically a cliff and found a way to survive talking/higher level thinking coyotes (lots of animals are mutating! And I neglected to mention it with the first book because it sounds pretty lame, but these coyotes are terrifying); but Lana is described as cute and having a pert nose. And Diana! One of the most terrifying characters, an intelligent sociopath who has everyone’s ticket and plays people like pawns while looking as if she’s following Caine and his crew; she is always described by her large eyes, long hair and smirk. It must have been in book one too, but I noticed it this time around. It’s kind of lame to describe these obviously strong characters with mostly physical characteristics. To be fair, it is a YA book and I think they’re trying to fan the flames of teen desire because we also get a little bit of that going on with descriptions of Sam’s lithe surfer body…but that was in context of the fact that he’s not built to physically fight people. This is a quibble, I’m still intrigued by the story line although I fear it might be going to far into the sci-fi realm for me soon (based on what I know about the “big bad” of the book). I’m hoping after book 3, we get a little more answers and we get to spend more time with the multitude of characters because this book had small groups splintering off in every chapter, and while it certainly kept the plot moving at a break neck speed, I thought the first book excelled with character interaction and different characters’ motivation (both hidden and open agendas).