A teenage girl uncovers a shadowy conspiracy threatening the nation’s dogs in this YA thriller.
Torrance Olivia Maddox—called Tor—is about to turn 16. Her main concerns: getting the pas de deux in the holiday ballet show, studying vocabulary, hanging with friends, and following CNN obsessively. At the dog park with her dog, Cocoa, she meets a cute guy but soon learns that both the young man and his dog died suddenly of an unknown type of influenza. Spurred by an anonymous blogger (“Are you aware that Man’s Best Friend just became Public Enemy Number One?”) and CNN’s coverage of the dangerous new flu strain, she begins investigating. Her research and intelligent deductions convince her that dogs are the vector, yet the authorities say nothing. She writes an angry email to CNN and men in black start tailing her; meanwhile, the government mandates “protective isolation” for dogs in affected areas. But what Tor witnesses convinces her that most of the dogs are healthy and that people aren’t getting their dogs back. She decides to take action, putting herself and Cocoa at risk. The smart, curious, funny Tor is an appealing young heroine. Although, she’s not entirely realistic—she’s a 5-foot-10-inch ballerina whose only “flaw” is a casual sense of style. Her friends “beg [her] to put on the micro styles that make them hate their own thighs.” The plot is suspenseful and balances the thrills with some laughs. However, Coley (Tor Maddox: Mistaken, 2015, etc.), asks readers to believe that millions of dog owners would obediently surrender their healthy, beloved pets to the government and ask no questions, a stretch at best. Also, the huge number of pets that die here is off-putting in the extreme.
A bright, resourceful heroine makes her mark in this first novel with a shaky, brutal premise.