An introverted girl's struggle with isolation mirrors her island's quarantine during a mysterious, deadly epidemic.
Kaelyn prefers observing wildlife to having a social life, as human interactions baffle the closed-off teen. She's in the odd position of pseudo–new kid, since she has moved back to her hometown, a small island community, after a few years living in a different city. Worse, she and her childhood best friend haven't spoken in years, and she's lost the chance to reconcile as he has left for school. Her personal resolution to connect with others comes right as getting near people becomes dangerous—a new virus is rapidly spreading by human contact, killing nearly all infected. Soon the government forcibly quarantines the island. Residents respond in a variety of ways, some trying to help him and others doing anything for personal survival. Crewe (Give Up the Ghost, 2009) utilizes a less-is-more approach, subtly closing the walls in on the characters as they run out of resources. The narrative consists of Kaelyn's letters she'll never send, addressed to her estranged best friend. While the entries sometimes read less like letters than prose, the focused perspective enhances the claustrophobic atmosphere. An abrupt ending neglects some story aspects but nicely completes Kaelyn's social arc.
Readers will root for the believable characters struggling through heartbreaking situations. (Science fiction. 12 & up)