Take A Peek Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

My Thoughts:

I’m trying to reflect on the reading experience separately from my feelings about the ending, so here goes: Wilder Girls has a terrific, terrifying premise: On an island off the coast of Maine, the student at a girls’ boarding school are starving, fierce, and desperate after eighteen months of isolation and quarantine. They’re all infected by the Tox, experiencing flare-ups in which their bodies are modified and distorted and changed — scales here, spiny growths there, gills, and spikes and other random mutations taking over their bodies. Once it’s bad enough to go to the infirmary, the girls never return.

For most of the book, the plot delivers. Conditions worsen. The girls don’t know if they’re being fed lies. The wild parts of the island seem to be closing in. We also get brief chapters from Byatt’s perspective, as outsiders attempt to treat her, maybe cure her, although her condition becomes more and more extreme, and the treatments seem cruel and painful.

I was wrapped up in the story and really intrigued by the overall plot. So what was my problem with this book? Either the ending is unsatisfyingly incomplete, or this is a set-up for a continuation. I don’t know which, and that’s part of the problem! We’re left hanging at the end, with only the most partial of explanations about what the Tox really is, what caused it, and what it means for the surviving girls. I really needed more from the ending — so while I was caught up in the story and enjoyed the book overall, when I finished reading the final pages, I felt frustrated and annoyed.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts! If you’ve read Wilder Girls, what did you think of the ending?

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: July 9, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

**Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Take A Peek Book Review: The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a postapocalyptic take on the perennial classic “Little Red Riding Hood”…about a woman who isn’t as defenseless as she seems.

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….

My Thoughts:

The Girl in Red brings together so many elements that I absolutely love in books. Pandemic? Check. Breakdown of civilization? Check. Woman having to survive on her own? Check, check, check.

Red, in her earlier years, was an avid consumer of horror and disaster films, and so she knows the rules. Be prepared. Always have your weapon and pack ready. Never split up. Don’t do the stupid things that movie characters always do, because that leads to very bad things. And if you want to survive, you’ve got to learn fast and do whatever it takes.

I loved Red. She’s smart, strong, and determined. Left alone suddenly and tragically, her only hope is to avoid what she’s sure will be certain death in a quarantine camp by making her way to her grandmother’s isolated home in the woods, which means trekking through hundreds of miles of forest and defending herself along the way, all without being discovered or captured or exposed to the deadly disease that’s ravaged the world. Also, as a biracial, bisexual, disabled woman, Red is a breath of fresh air as a main character, especially since she’s a survivor who never lets anything, including her prosthetic leg, keep her from her path.

The plot is exciting and filled with danger. I love how the author flashes between present day, as Red progresses on her journey and uncovers all sorts of disturbing secrets, and the past, as she and her family prepare their escape and have their plans fall apart as the crisis escalates.

My only quibble here is that the end comes much too soon, and there are so many plot threads left untied. What happens next? What caused all the bad things (being vague here…)? I certainly hope there’s a next book, because I’m dying to know more. (I just wish this book was clearly marked as book #1 in a series, so I’d have been prepared to feel left hanging at the end.)

The Girl in Red is a great read, and I want more! I haven’t read anything else by this author yet, but that’s clearly got to change.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Girl in Red
Author: Christina Henry
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: June 18, 2019
Length: 308 pages
Genre: Speculative fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

**Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Book Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

In the world of young adult fiction, the sub-genre of global natural disasters is one I find particularly intriguing. When life as we know it is suddenly wrenched away from us, what’s left, and how do we survive? In the best of these types of YA novels, we follow a sympathetic main character on a trajectory from childhood to unexpected early adulthood, as physical survival and the struggle to retain human morality force the character to shoulder responsibility and find his or her untapped strengths and determination.

I’m happy to place Ashfall in the “best of” category. Ashfall is the story of 15-year-old Alex, a normal, somewhat sullen suburban teen boy whose world is swept out from under him:

I was home alone on that Friday evening. Those who survived know exactly which Friday I mean. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing, in the same way my parents remembered 9/11, but more so. Together we lost the old world, slipping from that cocoon of mechanized comfort into the hellish land we inhabit now. The pre-Friday world of school, cell phones, and refrigerators dissolved into this post-Friday world of ash, darkness, and hunger.

Alex has refused to go on a family visit to cousins in Illinois and is therefore home alone in Cedar Falls, Iowa when all hell breaks loose – more specifically, when the long-inactive supervolcano located under Yellowstone erupts with spectacular and devasting impact. Civilization dissolves practically immediately as the world is inexorably coated with a heavy layer of ash. Scavenging, looting, mistrust, and violence are rampant among the survivors of the initial disaster, and starvation is lurking right around the corner. Within days, Alex begins to shrug off the last vestiges of his childhood, leaving the questionable safety of his neighbors’ protection and striking out cross-country through a ruined, nightmarish landscape on a quest to reunite with his parents and younger sister.

Along the way, Alex is forced, time and again, to choose between self-interest and doing the right thing. He receives help when he expects none, and chooses to help others, even when doing so imperils his own meager supply of food and water and could mean the difference between life and death. What’s interesting here is that Alex is not portrayed as a selfless hero. The author shows us Alex’s internal struggle, his thought processes, and his decision to be a person who tries to do right. It’s not easy for him, but it’s a sign of Alex’s maturation that he realizes that securing food and shelter will not be enough for him if he has to shed his essential goodness; physical survival without the survival of his humanity will not suffice.

We follow Alex along a difficult and sometimes gruesome path. He meets Darla, a strong-willed, feisty, talented farm girl with her own tragedies to confront and accept. Darla becomes Alex’s travel companion and soul mate, and their deepening trust and affection for one another help give Ashfall much of its heart. What could have been merely an exciting adventure story becomes a much more personal journey toward love, family, and adulthood.

When I picked up Ashfall, I had expected to read a story about physical survival in a nightmarish, post-disaster world. I’m pleased to be able to say that Ashfall provides a deeper, more moving experience than expected.

The sequel to Ashfall, Ashen Winter, is due out in October 2012, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. I’ve become quite fond of Alex and Darla, and I can’t wait to see how their story continues to unfold.