ARC Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

15985355Rating: 3 / 5
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Publication date: July 2nd, 2013 by Berkley Trade
Number of Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
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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.

——–

Ok, premise-wise, Viral Nation isn’t really that original — a virus has struck the world and left a majority of them dead and crippled. One day, a cure was found because man has discovered time travel, and the crisis was averted. Now what we have is a thriving community where everyone is at the mercy of a particular corporation as they need their suppressants to go on living. We have a plot where things aren’t really what they seem, and there are shadows lurking in the backdrop, eager to have more power, and will stop at nothing to get it. It’s not really a new thing; I’ve read similar themes before. The only difference is some of those were executed better.

I’m really sad about my rating. I enjoyed this book for the first 50-60%. Even though it’s not original, I thought the prose and narration were pretty well done. Yeah, some things would need a bit more exposition, but what was there was enough for me to really like it. After that mark, though, things started becoming less fun and dark, and becoming more contrived and absurd. You know the feeling where you think it could’ve worked out if it only weren’t for this and that? Yeah, that’s how I feel basically. And there are a lot of questions. A LOT.

Clover, the main character, was pretty cool. I was a bit worried when I found out she was autistic, because something like that could easily be screwed up if you don’t build up her character enough and you make her inconsistent, but I think the author wrote her personality and mannerisms well enough for me not to call bullshit. As expected, Clover’s extraordinary. She has this ability to memorize and remember everything she’s seen. She easily gets panicked and cries out whenever someone touches her. She hums, and rocks herself when she’s feeling anxious and about to blow up. I really liked how she didn’t let her condition get in the way of her dreams. She can stand on her own and doesn’t take bullshit from anybody.

I liked Clover’s relationship with her service dog, Mango, and with her older brother, West. Their loyalty and care for each other were very heartwarming. You can really tell from their interactions with each other that they’ve come from a long way. To be honest, I don’t see much well-crafted sibling relationships in Young Adult as good as this one, so that’s a plus.

But the romance… wasn’t that great. Both of their romances felt forced in order to fit with the plot, and very random. I didn’t think it was developed very well. Take Clover and Jude’s romance, for instance. Clover went two years into the future, and the older Jude there kissed her. She comes back, she tells him they kissed, and after that they’re all lovey-dovey and “I’ll protect you!” This led me to think that the romance only happened because she became aware it happens in the future, and in their timeline, I didn’t really see any scenes with both of them that could really justify their love for each other, and their having knowledge that it does happen somehow in two years doesn’t really count. West and Bridget’s romance, on the other hand, was even more contrived. Perhaps because as a character, we don’t really get to see Bridget much, so I didn’t feel that connected or involved with theirs. But like Clover and Jude’s, they didn’t have enough scenes that made me feel their love for each other was believable. They spent some time in the sick bay, some time in a ranch, and then “I love you! Be careful!” “I love you, too!” ._. Come on, dudes and dudettes. It’s gotta be more real than that.

The world-building needed some work, too. There were a lot of things that weren’t really clear with the city they live in. I also really lament the fact the book didn’t give us an overview of what happened with the rest of the world. Did only America survive? Did they share the cure with the other countries? How is it outside? It was very limited. The time travel aspect felt underdeveloped, too. So people go to the future, get data from there, come back and make adjustments according to what they found out. I was wondering… if they’re so keen in changing the future, why won’t they just go back to the past and prevent the virus from happening in the first place? Aside from that, I don’t think they used this time travel thing enough. The heroine uses it twice and that’s it. I mean, it’s obvious that it’s such a big deal in this world, so why give it less exposure than it deserves? There’s so much potential in the concept, but they only used it for “Oh, what happens to me in the future?” “Am I still alive in the future?” “Oh, this person murders this person in the future!”

*facepalm*

Guys, I think you need to get your priorities a little straighter here, yes?

And the band of heroes… ugh. You see, there are some side characters here. And apparently, they have a bigger role in the future (of course). The book tries to portray them as the next heroes, but they only appeared to me like a bunch of clowns. I mean, how am I supposed to believe they’ll change the world when they don’t even do anything? All they do is sit down, and wait for others to tell them what to do, data that of course comes from *ding ding ding* the future! Like, guys. If you’re gonna be heroes, at least do something honorable by yourselves… how you’ll become this and that in two years or more is really baffling as y’all act like schoolchildren. There were so many inconsistencies at this part, and that’s why after the 60% mark, I started enjoying it less and less.

I think this book still has a lot of potential, and I’m hoping the next instalment will work on that one. Yeah, it went downhill after a while, but I’m not losing hope. Not yet, anyway. I’m still interested enough to know what’ll happen next, and I hope the sequel will finally play its cards right.

Final verdict: 3 / 5 stars

An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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  1. says

    Having a little sister being autistic, I think I’ll love Clover for that reason. Plus she does sound pretty awesome! Though plots being absurd kill it for me a bit. Eh.

    Great review, Faye! <33

    • FayeFaye says

      Oh yeah, Mango is the absolute best. I just wish he had more screen time. Whenever he comes up, it’s always just to appease his master who’s about to have a panic attack haha