In Holewinski’s debut YA dystopian thriller and series opener, teenage survivors of a catastrophic viral outbreak find a desolate United States where a fiendish few have taken power.
After 13-year-old Andy Christensen loses her mother in a car accident, she and her father opt to spend the summer of 2017 in Bermuda. Then a lethal virus, which started in the United States, kills 6 billion people—all adults, because children, including Andy and her pals Morgan and Charlie Pemberton, are apparently immune. The orphaned kids survive on their own for five years, but after some other boys brutally rape Morgan, the trio decide to leave the island. They set sail for Andy’s home country and soon discover a United States in disarray. After they narrowly elude gun-toting strangers, they meet Ben and Jim Kelly, two cousins who team up with them to look for a new place to live. They endure the heat of New Mexico and later join an Aspen, Colorado, community ruled by a totalitarian, narcissist Russian named Nataliya Ivanova. But in New York City, there’s someone much worse: Sean Taylor, who rules the state and surrounding areas by force. He’s also a misogynist who coaxes women into prostitution and controls people with drugs. When the group gets word that Taylor may have stockpiled some of the virus for his own use, Andy makes it everyone’s mission to put a stop to whatever he may be planning. Holewinski injects realism into her apocalyptic tale: although the survivalists are mere children, Andy has skills that she picked up from her surgeon father, and Charlie’s IQ is off the charts. What they can’t already do, they practice, such as by working on car engines. Melodrama occasionally seeps into the plot, giving readers a reminder of the characters’ immaturity; Andy, for example, takes an instant dislike to Nataliya because the Russian blatantly flirts with Ben and Jim. The novel’s second half is decidedly intense as the group faces danger from Taylor and his unpleasant batch of cronies. Holewinski also drops in surprises throughout her book, including a pregnancy, a kidnapping, and a shock when it’s finally revealed what Taylor’s doing with the virus.
This apocalyptic teen drama’s character interactions may draw readers in, but its vigorous story will keep them hooked.