ThinPro, the diet drink that unleashed the Contamination, is history; its effects—victims descend, zombielike, into mindless violence—are anything but.
To contain the still-spreading outbreak, areas hardest hit—Pennsylvania, much of the Northeast and Pacific coasts, and urban centers—are designated “black zones,” where healthy residents live under brutal, chaotic military quarantine and the Contaminated are rounded up and incarcerated—a one-way trip. Velvet and Dillon, who’ve married strictly to qualify her for benefits, struggle to maintain their fragile household: Opal, Velvet’s sister; their mother, freed from her collar but ailing; and an elderly neighbor. While Dillon toils at his government-mandated job, Velvet prowls their abandoned subdivision seeking food and other necessities, sometimes making frightening discoveries. Hardship toughens her—but Dillon (and sometimes Velvet herself) worries there’s a less benign explanation for her vastly increased strength, stamina and ruthless practicality. After all, Velvet herself once downed ThinPro. This violent world feels real because the violence has real-world consequences that force grim choices. Weighing the safety of loved ones against what’s ethical and humane is agonizing, especially for Velvet. Tough and empathetic, hard yet vulnerable, she belongs in the front ranks of the dystopian sisterhood.
Volume 2 of this smart series builds momentum and suspense, raises stakes and expands narrative scope—in short, plan on a marathon, up-all-night read. (Science fiction. 12 & up)