While countries battle each other over rights and access to the antidote, normal people struggle to care for the inflicted and rebuild their lives after a huge portion of the world’s population has perished. We learn in the first few chapters that a rebel force exists, whose primary function is to bypass the corrupt government and develop a cure for 104 on their own. But germ warfare is big business, and the government is willing to put a lot of time, effort, money, and manpower into destroying the rebels and their growing network of spies and scientists.
The story opens post-apocalypse, and we meet the main protagonist, Skye, as government soldiers launch a surprise attack on her family’s home. The family is torn apart, and Skye’s mission becomes to find and rescue her mother.
Not far into the search she meets her co-protagonist, William, who has his own reasons for joining in her mission. At this point, the author breaks out into a dual first-person narrative. The narrative device works, because it allows the reader to know what each character is thinking when they’re in the same situations, and also to know what each character is doing and thinking when they are separated and have their own adventures.
There are two aspects that impress me most about this novel. One is that the author manages a complicated plot line with intersecting subplots. The second is the author’s ability—through her character’s interior thoughts and spoken dialogue—to develop organic and believable relationships.
I’d like to point out one more thing, then you can read it for yourself. As you read the excerpt below, I want you to notice something pretty spectacular. Notice that there are spoken words between the two main characters, Skye and William. Those are in quotes. There are other people in this scene, but they don’t matter. All that matters is the building tension as Skye comes to accept that she and William must be separated.
Look at the third-to-the-last paragraph and you’ll see that the author told us what one of those other characters said, but we didn’t have to see it in quotes: we didn’t have to hear it. That other character fades into the background as the reader is pulled tightly into the emotional exchange between Skye and William.
I keep reading these paragraphs again and again, reminding myself that this wasn’t written by a New York Times bestselling author! Such vivid action; such superbly-rendered emotion. Just enough description of what their bodies are doing as the scene unwinds. Action that adds to the emotional tension. It’s absolutely captivating.
When I tell him about the parachute he looks confused. But only for a second.
“Skye, you’re going with Philip.” He turns to steer again.
“No—” I start.
“Yes. Go tell him.”
“We can’t just escape, and let the government catch you with Ryan tied up. They’ll put you in jail, or force you to tell them about Philip. Maybe worse.” I unbuckle myself and lean close to him.
“The government won’t hurt me.” William tries to sound convincing. Radio static interrupts us and a man’s voice comes on, giving orders to Philip. We ignore it. “Go and tell Philip.” William lets go of the joystick, startling me. The beeping starts again, fast and loud. He ignores that too. “Skye.” He puts his hands on my shoulders. “I’ll be fine. Go with Philip. Find your mother. I’ll be waiting for you when you come back.”
“But I’ll never be able to survive without you.” I know I have no choice but to leave him. Philip yells for me to hurry. “I’ll come back for you,” I say with tears in my eyes.
“Just find your mother.” He looks into my eyes for a few seconds, then turns back to fly the Chinook. I duck out of the cockpit. Philip rushes toward me and secures the parachute. Then he goes back into the cockpit, probably to give William instructions.
When he comes back, Philip pushes a button on the ceiling and a loud screech sounds in my ears. The door to our right opens slowly. The wind is so fast and loud I can barely hear Philip. He grabs William’s backpack with the codes, then hooks us together. He yells to me, saying that I don’t have to do anything except jump. He’ll open our parachute.
We step to the edge. The Chinook hovers in midair. I look to my right and see two large red helicopters coming closer. Then I look down, and one thought goes through my mind before Philip jumps, pulling me down with him. I’m not thinking about how scared I am.
I’m thinking, Why am I leaving William?