In order to write about my problems with Emily McKay’s The Farm, I’m going to have to take a trip into Spoiler Territory. So consider yourself forewarned, though I’ll be sure to give you another heads up before I drop any especially large bombs. First, you’ll need to know a bit about the basic premise. Two words: vampire apocalypse. (Yes, again.)
A few months back, the United States was overrun by Ticks: super-fast, super-strong, super-mutated, super-hungry people-turned-monsters. As teenagers are especially palatable to the ravening beasts, they are rounded up and housed at militaristic “Farms” for their own protection.
As any Farm resident knows, though, protection has nothing to do with it. They are required to “donate” blood on a regular basis, they aren’t allowed to leave, and people who cause any amount of trouble are routinely tied to stakes outside of the fences where they are eaten by Ticks. Our heroine, Lily—who spends most of her time and energy keeping her autistic twin sister safe—has come up with an escape plan. Just before they make their move, though, a boy from their past shows up at the Farm. Carter is Lily’s high school lab partner and longtime crush...and it turns out that he’s got an ulterior motive in seeking Lily out.
My favorite thing about The Farm is that—unlike the vast majority of paranormal-apocalypse stories I’ve read—McKay’s characters don’t exist in a pop-culture void. There are references to Soylent Green, to The Vampire Diaries and to Twilight, and said references are often both smart and funny. While there are serious gaps in believability in both character development and in world-building—Lily is supposed to be whip-smart, but never considers the possibility that the microchips they’ve been implanted likely have GPS tracking capabilities; even taking woo-woo Magical Abilities into account, the apocalypse apparently took place over the course of, like, five minutes—it’s an entertaining, action-packed read that a lot of readers will enjoy...as long as they don’t start poking the weak spots. Or noticing how many people can raise one eyebrow (at least three), or counting typos, of which there are many.
If it sounds like something you’d like to read, you may want to skip the rest of this column, as there is a MASSIVE SPOILER AHEAD. The reason that Carter has tracked Lily down is this: he thinks she’s the key to saving mankind, because she has this rare ability to affect other people with her emotions. His reason for this belief? Because, in high school, he fell in love with her at first sight. And since he was so far out of her league (she was a nerd and he was cool) she obviously must be magic.
Hilariously, that isn’t even my big issue (or the MAJOR SPOILER). My problem is this: when I read Carter’s logic—the logic that, by the way, the entire resistance movement is acting on—I immediately realized that A) either this was going to be one of the squickiest, most twisted romances ever (and I know of what I speak), or B) that Mel was the one with magical powers. Which, considering the fact that she is already more plot device than actual three-dimensional character, would make her a Magical Differently Abled Person, a trope that I find both offensive and irritating.
Long story short(ish), it didn’t go the yicky route.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.