Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Let's Hear it For the Boys - Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas

July 10th, 2012
Publisher: Egmont, USA
Pages: 416
Copy: From Publisher
Summary: Goodreads

As original as The Hunger Games, set within the walls of a high school exactly like yours.” – Kami Garcia, New York Times best-selling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures novels

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.

"Take Michael Grant's Gone and Veronica Roth's Divergent, rattle them in a cage until they're ready to fight to the death, and you'll have something like this nightmarish debut...Thomas' whirlwind pace, painful details, simmering sexual content, and moments of truly shocking ultra-violence thrust this movie-ready high school thriller to the head of the class." - Booklist (starred review)

I started Quarantine: The Loners because I had been asked to review Quarantine: The Saints, and you can't read the second without knowing what comes before, right?  I hadn't heard anything about it, which was a little odd - it's been out for almost a year - so I wasn't too sure what I was getting into.  It didn't take me more than about 20 pages though to realise that this is a hidden gem.  Loners starts of with a huge bang, literally, and then slides provocatively into chaos and mayhem.

We meet all the characters fairly quickly, but it is the slow reveal of their true selves that I found most fascinating.  The relationship between brothers David and Will was amazing.  Seeing that relationship from both sides highlighted just how much of what we see is personal perception - not necessarily the truth.  Add in the fact that Will is epileptic and they are both crushing on the same girl and it's instant fireworks. Two other characters that intrigued and appalled me were Sam and Hillary - what a pair.  Sam is a little stereotypical at the beginning, but by the end - wow, he is such a nasty piece of work.

Mr. Thomas takes the natural arena of cliques in high school and turns it on its head.  I think if you take the best parts of The Hunger Games, Gone, Maze Runner and then throw in a bit of Lord of the Flies you might just begin to get an inkling of what it is like at McKinley.( Don't forget Divergent as well, as Booklist suggests!)  The pace of the story is frenetic and it truly illustrates the clichés 'survival of the fittest' and 'dog eat dog'.  But in the end, I was just saying 'yeah for the little guys!'

This story grew on me with every page I read, and when I got to the end I was smiling, not because of what had happened, but because the last line is just so typically Sam I couldn't help myself.  I'm off now to start on Quarantine: The Saints, and I suspect it's going to be a whole different set of problems for everyone.  I can't wait.

Note:  Quarantine: The Saints is out today, July 9th.  and there is a special promotion on Quarantine: The Loners - it's available as an e-book for just $1.99 until July 2nd.  Trust me, it's worth buying.

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