So I used to read a fair amount of young adult fiction. Up until a couple years ago, it probably took up a good 40% of my reading each year, and was the first section I’d go to in the library, even as an 30-something. I appreciated the willingness to experience along with the avoidance of pretension just for the sake of it I found in YA literature. This included YA dystopian novels, which often told interesting stories with bold, frequently female protagonists. However, anything plot that does well in the YA market gets immediately replicated by hundreds of other writers until the genre is inundated with dumbed down duplicates of the same boring ideas, and dystopians are one of the two subgenres I think have suffered the most from this (the other being supernatural romance, but I’ve never had any interest in those myself). So I started reacting to that subgenre with eye-rolling instead of interest.
I’m really glad I didn’t give up on the subgenre entirely before I discovered this book. This is exactly what I want when I look for a young adult novel set during the end of the world. Skip to the next paragraph if you’d prefer to go into the book with absolutely no information on the basic plot. In this book, we smash cut to protagonist Tasha’s new world: one with an extreme class divide where only certain people have access to health care (sound familiar?), accessed here through a clip inserted in the neck…but the chips have gone wrong, and caused everyone with them to become, basically, zombies. The book manages to avoid becoming a boring twist on zombies, though, especially since there is no contamination for the characters to worry about.
The strongest part of the book is Tasha, who is bold and complicated and defies all the stereotypes given to YA female protagonists: she is not “not like other girls”, she is not a chosen one, she is not overly concerned about boys nor is she oblivious to them, and she has a rich inner life that is included in the story. As the book proceeds it adds more interesting and complex characters, touches on societal issues without feeling preachy, and offers plenty of action without letting the action become the only part of the book worth reading. Halfway through finishing it, I went out and bought the next book in the series, knowing I’d NEED to read it. And I’m usually someone who complains about everything needing to be a series! This is highly recommended. For anyone worried about reading violence and gore, I will note that while the book doesn’t go into excruciating detail, it does not shy from describing violence. If you’ve got a weak stomach, it may not be for you.