Published: October 1st, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Copy: Publisher through Netgalley
3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.
2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.
Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.
1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.
Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape.
I almost didn't get to this one. I kept passing over it, for no real reason that I can establish other than time. Then I decided to give it a go and I am so glad I did. This book is not part of a series - how unusual is that these days? In fact it was originally published in 2008 and has been 'reworked' as a YA novel. Well, it definitely worked.
Countdown was exciting. We join Kira as she is dropped into the frying pan, and we basically have to go through the fire with her to find out what is going on. I've been trying to come up with a comparison for Countdown and it's difficult. In fact I couldn't come up with any book titles, just two movies Death Race and Gamer. I don't know if you've seen either of those, but the idea that you are dumped into an arena, of sorts and you have to play a game to the death for the entertainment of others, just gives me the creeps. Oh, wait a minute, I guess Hunger Games would fall into that category, wouldn't it?
But Countdown didn't remind me of Hunger Games as I was reading. Kira and Rogan are not fighting for any purpose other than as entertainment for faceless 'others' who are watching them via implants in their brains. The action really never lets up. These poor kids are basically given 3 minutes to get out of a room and start surviving tests - each one lasting about 30 minutes. OK, just thought of another book - The Testing by Joelle Charboneau - but again, I didn't think of it while I was reading.
Considering the time constraints in the story, the character development was fairly believable. Not insta-love, but insta-attraction, and I'm a firm believer in that. Kira and Rogan don't trust each other immediately, but have to work to gain that trust throughout the game, and there is one instance where I was beginning to think 'oh no, but Ms. Rowen brought them to their senses, thank goodness.
Countdown is definitely not a feel good, nice book. It's gritty, violent and suspenseful, with believable characters and a story that finishes with a very satisfying conclusion. Please Ms. Rowen, don't be tempted to continue with this one. Much as I'd love it, I'm quite happy with the way it ended.