111. Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas
Publication: EgmontUSA (July 10, 2012), eARC, 416pp / ISBN
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Read: June 28-29, 2012
Summary from Amazon:
It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.
A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.
In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive.
I’m a big fan of sci-fi/horror survival-after-an-apocolypse stories, and YA books that deal with that whole thing are especially good. Quaranteen (or Quarantine) is made even more interesting by the fact that it all takes place inside one high school, which means the craziness gets ramped up by about 50.
The story started off strong, with lots of action, thriller, and horror elements. The whole breakdown of civilized life into clique-based gangs was pretty cool, too, and the visual elements woven into the clique-gangs made for some awesome mental pictures.1 I also liked that the hero (or one of the heroes) didn’t immediately devolve into he-man woman-hater thug; in fact, he went almost entirely in the opposite way, into someone who did a typically “female” job for money. That dynamic was interesting to watch, especially since he then turned it around again when he became the leader of a clique-gang himself.
The interaction between the different gangs was, I think, more realistic than what you’d find in Girl Who Owned a City, for instance. There’s more danger, more death, and less inclination to rebuild society into something more idealized than it was before. So in that way, Quaranteen is actually very dark and kind of disturbing. Which is neat! You don’t get a lot of YA sci-fi that’s willing to go into the dark places of a human heart.
However, that said, I did have some problems with Quaranteen. The writing style, after the first half of the book, went somewhere that made me not like it as much. There was a lot of “She felt this, and she didn’t like that” stuff, which can get annoying after a while. Also, I didn’t like the way the female characters were portrayed. The main female protagonist, Lucy, first shows up as a damsel in distress, and then later she becomes a temptress dressed in white. It’s almost like the symbolism (or tropes?) created the character, rather than the other way around. Luckily she gets more of a personality at the end of the book, but by that point I was skeeved out because it seemed like every OTHER female character only showed up to either hit on one of the male protagonists or to kick someone’s ass. Since we get such a depth of personality with the male protagonists, I thought that really sucked.
The ending (a cliffhanger, of course), DID make me want to read the next book, however, despite my problems with the writing and the portrayal of teenage girls. So that’s good, I guess. Overall, I’d say this is a decent addition to the YA dystopian fad, albeit one more centered on the sci-fi elements than anything else.
The good stuff was good but the bad stuff was pretty bad.
Out of the Blue: “I’d recommend this novel to fans of dystopian and adventure novels. The love triangle aspect isn’t overdone, so you can read this safely even if you aren’t into romance. This would be a good book for boys, I think.”
The Book Stoner: “The first half of the book is fast paced but it slowed down in the second half when the story focused on Lucy, David, and Will’s relationship. The last few chapters dragged on for a while and then it just ended abruptly.”
Sci-fi Fan Letter: “Unlike the Hunger Games, there’s no underlying message here. The book is violent and makes no attempt to mitigate that or teach anything. I was expecting the book to center on survival, instead it was more about gang warfare and a romance between the brothers and a girl they’re both attracted to.”
Apparently this has now been (or will be?) optioned as a movie. Which makes sense, because a lot of what goes on in the book is more visual than otherwise. It DOES kind of read like a novelization of a movie, too…hm.