Viral Nation - Shaunta Grimes
ISBN - 09780425265130
Publisher - Berkeley
Release date - July 2nd 2013
Find - Book Depository/Goodreads
'After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.
Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.
When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.' - Goodreads
This is one book that I was so pleased to be asked to review - even if it was by accident ;) I'd put this on my Amazon wishlist months ago so when Shaunta got in touch I almost bit her hand off saying I would love to read and review it!
Our story opens with what should be a happy occasion - a new baby - but this is no ordinary day and lives are most definitely not happy! A virus is spreading throughout the United States, wiping out millions with no hope of survival, until there's a knock at the door of the Donovan family sadly too late for Clover's mother. Fast forward sixteen years, Clover has just finished school and been accepted to the Academy where future researchers, engineers, doctors and leaders are groomed. The orientation day doesn't quite go as planned for Clover and things rapidly go downhill for both her and her brother West.
Clover, the main character, is autistic and has a service dog named Mango who was one of many things I loved about Viral Nation. I will freely admit I don't know much about autism although I do have friends with children who have Asperger's. With what little information I do know, Clover came across perfectly with her tics and traits, her coping mechanisms. I loved West, Clover's brother, who is the trigger for all the adventure in the book and Jude, the boy she meets at the Academy before things go pear-shaped. West was written so realistically, he genuinely loved Clover but wasn't afraid to show his frustration with her, and their situation. He's had to more or less raise Clover by himself after their father joins the Execution squads but not once do you get the sense he would ever give up on her. Jude was a wonderful character and I loved how he "got" Clover although after some rather relevant information is disclosed about how he is so good with her it was easy to see why and made you fall in love with Jude just a little bit more. I also love that there's just a hint of romance which takes Clover completely by surprise, not something easy to do!
What I loved most though was that I was expecting another straightforward YA dystopian novel but oh how wrong I was! YA dystopian time travel has just become my new favorite genre. What's different about Viral Nation is that whilst everyone is being wiped out by this virus or plague it turns out there is a time portal under Lake Tahoe which allows people to see two years into the future. This portal is operated by Time Mariners or more specifically, Messengers whose fans Clover is recruited into.
From start to finish Viral Nation was a fast paced read that I didn't want put down until the last page was turned and that's exactly what I did. Apart from anything, it was easy to see how the descriptions of what happened and how people lived after the outbreak of the plague was eerily possible in our world and how the bad guys weren't always the bad guys, how they thought they were doing the right thing with their best intentions even though naturally they weren't. The world Shaunta has created, with the plague and time travel, was exactly the sort of books I wanted to read, both her writing, characterization and world building were amazing. There were some fantastic plot threads starting to unravel by the end with some twists and turns that took me completely by surprise. I can't wait to see where Shaunta takes Clover, West and the rest of the gang and I can only hope I'm lucky enough to read the next book in the series early again! This gets my top rating of five clocks because I did stay up all night to finish Viral Nation, turning the light off at 5am!