A nightmare scenario plays out in a shopping mall, and a group of very different teens must strategize to survive in this engrossing, if uneven thriller.
Reserved and sarcastic Marco is the first to suspect a problem when he arrives at the mall for work and finds a strange device near a ventilation shaft. Soon, Lexi, the computer-whiz daughter of a preoccupied senator, self-described drama nerd Shay and insecure jock Ryan find themselves trapped along with thousands of others when authorities lock the shopping center down. The third-person narration shifts focus among these four teens as the days go by. A sense of unease begins to grow, and its progressive build allows time for nuanced exploration of the main characters, including the set-up of a love triangle among three of them and the violent antics of Ryan’s self-entitled teammates. However, the docility of the masses extends too long to be entirely believable; even after a hazmat-suit–clad figure carries out Shay’s collapsed Nani, they fail to panic. “Amazing, the herd’s ability to forget the disturbance of their peace,” thinks Marco, even as he understands that there is a lot the powers-that-be are not telling: “Grandma was in some serious shit—exactly what kind of shit was the mystery in need of solving.”
A whopping and disturbing cliffhanger serves as the conclusion. Readers will anxiously await the sequel. (Thriller. 14-18)