**spoiler alert** I had NO idea what this book was about when I started it. I liked that the blurb on the jacket, for once, didn't specify what was th**spoiler alert** I had NO idea what this book was about when I started it. I liked that the blurb on the jacket, for once, didn't specify what was the deal with Melanie and why she had to be chained up in that way, what sort of world were we living in, etc. The Great Mystery stayed a mystery, and it was great! I heard people mention it here and there and thought I'd pick it up.
Let's just say that the first few chapters and anything in Melanie's POV and the ending rated 4 stars and sometimes even higher. Everything else? About a 2. So overall it's an average of 3. I mean. I mentioned Room as a comparison for the vibes I got at the start because the audience is trying to figure out what exactly the environment and situation is through Melanie's eyes. The limits we get from her perspective? Fantastic! This place is all she knows. She doesn't have anything else to compare it to. It keeps us guessing, gets us involved, making connections, etc. It got me acting like Melanie at one point, trying to memorize the details of the location of this 'school' and the schedule for everyone involved. And hey, the unknown aka our imagination is usually creepier than what it actually shown, so even better. I was very on board with this narrating device, and thought it'd go on for the rest of the novel.
(I also like my [super] short chapters. It's like the deal with mini-sized candy bars or whatever that they have where in trying to reason, you end up eating more than if they were regular-sized. I just keep going and going.)
But then it quickly changes tactics and goes to the POVs of not just one adult, but ALL the main adults in this story. Let's have a little more faith in us readers. We don't need everything to be spelled out for us. I think it felt especially needless because the characters didn't really exist outside of the tropes you'd expect in a zombie thriller. If they did venture out more, then maybe I could justify getting inside all of their heads, but nah. I would've been fine with this being shorter as well. If the pace of the story hadn't taken a few hits by now, the trudging and trudging and trudging - I know people complain about the Deathly Hallows camping trip but I never felt that 'til now - through all that territory sure killed it.
What did keep me going was Melanie. She was the shining star in this. The beacon, if you will. ;) I was on board with her love for Miss Justineau, and her struggle with learning her true nature and fighting the worst instincts about it. That question of whether the children were humans after all was one of the most solid themes holding up the book. To see her not just adapt to all these new situations but to cling onto these histories and stories from beloved lessons even if they had no practical use in this desolate world was the most touching thing. I didn't fear for the adults getting bitten as I feared Melanie losing her humanity, in this slow but inevitable downward spiral as she had to venture farther and farther to survive. I'm so glad she remained herself in the end! And seriously impressed me with her critical thinking/lying skills too. It was an inner struggle that kept me reading, and makes me wish all the more that the entire book was done in her POV. This could've been a much tighter story.
I think all those classroom scenes were among my favourites out of everything in this story. I'll admit that if I had expected a zombie thriller and still picked it up, this would've been a 4 stars for what I'd be expecting. Nothing against the genre, but I am a bit exhausted with the zombies for a while, and the middle section felt generic for a good chunk of it. I have this awful tendency of zoning out in long action sequences if I'm not fully engaged, even if it's supposed to be a desperate situation. It just felt like it'd be done before. It's even more of a stark comparison when you compare it to the superb chapters that centred around Melanie.
That said, full kudos for the ending. It saved it for me. I love the full circle (hi, classroom scenes!) and how for most of our main characters, it isn't really a solution that will benefit them but there's a future for the species. As the pages dwindled I was getting worried that they'd find other humans, friendlies, if you will, and that they'd get saved, or some cure was going to be found, because it would've felt completely tacked on. I didn't see a way out for them and I'm glad that it was okay to let go of the previous generation. The end of it for me, to see knowledge getting passed on, was quite hopeful. As time goes by, it'll be okay. They'll find a way to not just survive, but to live. Plus, every day is a Miss Justineau day, so how bad can it really be?...more
A bit of a whirlwind trip in the publishing industry. The premise of this enticed me well enough but I do think that maybe people that are more knowleA bit of a whirlwind trip in the publishing industry. The premise of this enticed me well enough but I do think that maybe people that are more knowledgeable about that world would enjoy this book more. Or would they deem the details inaccurate? Anyway, it felt like I was getting a lot of names names NAMES and it was a hurdle and a half to keep reading and get into a groove. Unsurprisingly, I couldn't really relate to any of these people. But I liked Paul Dukach well enough, so that worked out.
It really is hard to write much of a review for this book. I'll say that it's more of a 2-star for me during the parts that I had to work through, and the second half, once it was more established and we got more of Paul doing what he does, ramped up to 4 stars. I did wonder whether or not I'd be disappointed with anything that was revealed, but the mystery of Ida Perkins was worth it. Overall, an uneven read. I don't regret picking it up though. It didn't make much of a mark on me, so I can't imagine recommending this to anyone.
PS: When will there be an update to the editions available? I only knew about this book having it noticed the smoking (literally, huh) cover that stood out from the other books on the table. It's just exquisite. There was definitely appeal to just holding this as I read it. ...more