Another adult-killing pandemic rages….
Fifteen-year-old cheerleader Clare is a delayed-onset sufferer of Pest, meaning she is one of the adolescents who, while infected, won’t die from it until later in puberty. Orphaned, Clare briefly survives solo before encountering and joining a schoolmate, 13-year-old chess prodigy Jem, and the two little girls he’s protecting. Jem has no personality flaws and is conveniently supplied with plenty of survival savvy, so Clare frequently defers to his leadership and judgment. Besides surviving without modern amenities, the heroes are threatened by the Cured, people who received an early treatment that failed most patients and drove the survivors into violent insanity. Both the disease itself and the Cured are underdeveloped as concepts, but the story shines in detailing the minutiae of everyday life in a post-apocalyptic world. It highlights the less-than-glamorous complications that other stories overlook, such as figuring out where to defecate and coping with survivors’ stench. The heroes follow broadcasts by a surviving adult who calls himself the Master and promises a cure. The third-person omniscient narration switches occasionally to the Master or his child followers, letting the readers know so much more than the protagonists that all mystery is lost. The Master’s creepiness is drawn in such broad strokes as to make him a caricature rather than an effective villain. The ending concludes the story instead of teasing a sequel.
A stand-alone option for die-hard post-apocalyptic fans. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 11-16)