Over 1,500 people die from a flu strain released into an air vent in a crowded shopping mall, and the quarantined survivors descend into chaos in this protracted second installment of the story begun in No Safety in Numbers (2012).
As in the first, four ethnically and economically diverse teens share an alternating third-person focus. Lexi, the geeky daughter of a high-powered senator, is arguably the most sympathetic as she struggles with her relationship with her power-hungry mother. She becomes interested in Marco, who has forged an uneasy alliance with a pair of jocks who were his tormenters before the mall locked down. He is preoccupied with impressing Shay, who is filled with hopelessness and angst that is perhaps understandable given the circumstances, but many may lose patience with her. Shay is also the object of desire for Ryan, an athlete with principles that guide him to take care of two orphaned children. A great deal of time is spent in developing the characters, but they still come off as somewhat stiff. Inauthentic teen dialogue (“Well, frak him right in the ass”) is also likely to pull readers out of the story.
Ostensibly an adventure tale, the slow pacing leaches energy from the central mystery of the virus, its cause and the horrors surrounding it, making it more of a snoozer than a thriller. (Thriller. 14 & up)