Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: The Loners

The Loners (Quarantine, book 1)
By Lex Thomas
Expected publication July 10, 2012 by EgmontUSA

David Thorpe was considering skipping the first day of school this year until he remembered that it was his younger brother's first day of high school. But before the day is over, David will wish he had stayed home. An explosion rocks McKinley High and before David's own eyes, a teacher dies. Soon, all the teachers will be dead and the students will be trapped inside, quarantined.

So, I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. It's very much riding the wave of dystopian YA fiction. But, then I read the author bio, where I discovered this is a pen name for two people, both of whom love B-horror films, much like me. I mean, I guess I should have figured it out sooner, considering how absolutely low-budget horror flick this premise is - the majority of the book takes place a year after the explosion. A year in which the kids have been quarantined and left to fend for themselves, relying on biweekly food drops from the government and anxiously awaiting their personal "graduation day": the day the virus leaves their body and they must be escorted to the outside before the other kids infect them and they die (like all the adults at the school did in the initial aftermath of the explosion). I mean, really? The government completely abandons like 1,000 teenagers to fend for themselves for over a year? It doesn't seem very likely. However, if one can just accept the completely ludicrous premise, this book is actually quite good. I don't necessarily think it's entering unfamiliar territory - left to their own devices, the high school cliques become gangs that fight each other, often to the death, over food and supplies. The teens engage in all sorts of behavior traditionally frowned upon - one kid begins to make moonshine and soon they are all imbibing on occasion, some other kids take refuge in the chemicals of the science labs, and a good percentage of the kids are having sex (one gang, after all, is The Sluts). I don't really think this is a new or revolutionary concept. However, this book goes to some dark places and I find that admirable. Some of the stuff in this book is just plain disturbing, yet the authors never shy away from depicting the horrors this situation hath wrought. Additionally, this book is about more than just the dystopic society the kids find themselves unfortunate members of - in fact, the most compelling part of this book for me was the relationship between David and Will. I know I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again - the sibling relationship is rife with material for authors to mine. I was eager to see how the relationship between the brothers would survive this unbelievable circumstance they found themselves a part of and, in this, the authors don't disappoint. I had not realized this book was the first in a series when I picked it up, but it certainly ends on a cliffhanger, so I expect I'll be picking up the next book, if only to see how dark this world will continue to be. This book will definitely by enjoyed by fans of dystopian lit.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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