Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Despite More Generic Vibe, Contaminated 2 Still a Compelling, Can't-Put-It-Down Survival Story

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Mercy Mode, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from Contaminated.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.) 

It's been several years since the tainted diet drink, ThinPro, started turning normal people into zombie-like freaks.  The Contaminated ("Connies") are less feared now, but still viewed by most with cautious suspicion.  Even when the affected are wearing the shock collars that are supposed to keep them from turning violent.  To contain further outbreaks, the regions of the U.S. hit hardest by the epidemic have been identified as "black zones."  Under strict military rule, healthy citizens fight for basic needs—food, shelter, medicine—while soldiers patrol constantly looking for any sign of Connie trouble.

Ever since Velvet Ellis removed the collar from her mother's neck, she's doubted any official information about Connies.  After all, the older woman didn't die like the government said she would—in fact, she got better.  At least for a little while.  Now, 17-year-old Velvet's even more worried.  Her makeshift family—she, her younger sister, their mother, and Dillon, her on-paper-only husband—are barely surviving as it is.  With her mom ailing and Velvet feeling some effects that can only be related to her own ingestion of ThinPro, she's got plenty to fret about.  Especially when the government institutes mandatory testing for the disease.  Determined to keep her family together at all costs, Velvet must do whatever it takes to survive.

I loved Contaminated, the first book in Em Garner's dystopian "zombie" series because it brought something new to the genre.  It felt fresh and original.  Mercy Mode, the second installment, feels less so.  Still, despite a more generic vibe, the novel features a tense, taut plot line; strong, sympathetic characters; and a powerful, compelling central conflict.  Anyone can relate to Velvet's desperate plight to save the people who mean the most to her.  Because achieving her goal takes the unselfish sacrifice of her own wants, she's a noble heroine—it's impossible not to root for her success.  Like its predecessor, Mercy Mode is a fast-paced, can't-put-it-down read that will stay with you long after you finish it.  


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and intense situations

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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