What I gleaned about the story: Scarlett’s entire world died on her fifteenth birthday. No, really. The entire modern world ended that day. And it all began at her birthday party. Now all she can do is keep on surviving, and try to find enough scattered shards to piece back into some semblance of a life. If you call this living.
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Note: The cover is a complete misdirect. Given the title and artwork, I was expecting a quirky teen romp through some cheesy apocalypse, but what I got was flat-out terrifying.* Sure, it might just be a case of the right reader, in the right mood, at the right time, but there is no cheese in sight here, and instead of a gum-chewing dropout with boys and shopping on the brain, Levesque delivers a complex and nuanced performance from his teen protagonist. IMO, he should really rethink his packaging on this one, because that cover is calling out to the wrong audience. And possibly scaring away the right one.
* Having gone on later to read the rest of the book, I see that the horror element recedes. This is not a flat-out horror story. It’s more an apocalypse SF tale with a horrifying start—which any good apocalypse story should have.
Details: Just finished chapter one and had to pause for a breather. The opening line—The world ended the day I turned 15—shows us a familiar device, but then the author proceeds to paint a believable day in the life of a 15 year old girl, and leaves us hanging. But he never quite lets us forget that somewhere among all the suburban mundanity, a world-ending cataclysm is about to occur. And then it does.
Note: The story is written in the first person, with lots of “I” language, but the events are so real, and so natural, that I didn’t notice any I-echoes. The word is there plenty often, but the language is varied, the thoughts are interesting, and so I never really noticed the pronouns. And this is an important confirmation for me. With patterns and echoes, the damage to immersion is inversely proportional to how engaging the content is.
Details: I hate feeling horrified. I hate the feeling of being dragged through somebody else’s nightmare. So that’s why I hate this book. Because now I might have to read an entire novel from a genre I don’t like. And do you know how rare it is for me to reach the 40-minute mark without a single WTF to report? (A: This is only the 4th time.)
But now I have a decision to make. Keep reading, and immerse myself in all that dread and terror? Or call it done and try to get on with my life without ever knowing what happens next? It’s a tough call. But something tells me the need to know is going to win out over protecting my mental comfort zone. Cover me. I’m going back in…
Later note: I’m glad I carried on. After establishing the horror of the apocalypse itself, the intensity eases up and the story shifts gears into a more directly SF-oriented “lone survivor” tale. Whew!