Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: The Lives We Lost

The Lives We Lost
Author: Megan Crewe
Published: February 12, 2013
288 Pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

A deadly virus has destroyed Kaelyn’s small island community and spread beyond the quarantine. No one is safe. But when Kaelyn finds samples of a vaccine in her father's abandoned lab, she knows there must be someone, somewhere, who can replicate it. As Kaelyn and her friends head to the mainland, they encounter a world beyond recognition. It’s not only the “friendly flu” that’s a killer—there are people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the vaccine. How much will Kaelyn risk for an unproven cure, when the search could either destroy those she loves or save the human race?

Megan Crewe's second volume in the Fallen World trilogy is an action-packed journey that explores the resilience of friendship, the ache of lost love, and Kaelyn’s enduring hope in the face of the sacrifices she must make to stay alive.

It's not often I'm this impressed with the middle book of a series. Especially since the format has changed (the first book was written in diary form) and so much has already happened in the first book. The Way We Fall  introduced Kaelyn and her small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. One day everything is fine, the next there is a virus going around called the Friendly Flu that causes people to first get sick, become itchy, then move into a phase where they can't control what they say out loud and ends with violent hallucinations before death takes its toll. Kaelyn struggles to survive as most everyone on her island gets sick, including her family and friends. Each word shows her struggle and with every page, you're not sure what to expect. I finished it quickly because there was no stopping. 

The sequel begins with Kaelyn finding a vaccine her father created before he died and she knows she must find a way to get it to the people that can duplicate it and help the world. She thought the virus was contained to the island, but the whole world is infected and she knows it's up to her to get to Ottawa and give the government the vaccine. Suddenly Kaelyn is living on a deadly planet, holding the vaccine close and trying to survive every day. With her small group of friends, they start across the country, risking their lives to save others. This is one of the most realistic apocalypse books I've erad. Everything our group encounters feels so real. Whenever they ran into someone on the street I was scared for what would happen next. People act crazy when it comes down to only one surviving. It's not just about getting to Ottawa, it's about staying alive. 

Kaelyn is one of the bravest protagonists I've seen in awhile. No one is forcing her to take this vaccine anywhere. She could keep it for herself and live on her small island with her boyfriend, Gav, and her other friends. But she risks everything to do something about it and not a lot of people would do that. There are times when she thinks about giving up, like she did in the first book, but she finds the strength to keep going, and it's amazing. I don't know if I would be able to hold up as long as she does, especially with the group following her when she knows she can give in and just do as they want. Everything she does feels so believable. Her actions, her reactions and how she deals with what comes her way. She's smart and never puts herself above others. She's the perfect role model for the teenagers reading this series. 

Crewe's writing stands out in a subtle way. She doesn't go out of her way to write pretty prose or extreme scenes. She writes so real that it's hard to imagine that the friendly flu isn't a real virus. Her sentences blend together perfectly and softly, lingering after you've read the words and leaving you craving more. The pacing is perfection. The end of every chapter made me read the next and so on until I just had to keep going until I was finished the book. Her characters jump off the page and stay with you even when you've closed the book. I can't get over the intensity I felt reading this, an intensity I haven't felt in awhile. After certain events happened, I had no idea where she would end this book, how far she'd go before giving us a break from the madness, so of course she ends it too soon as usual, and I'm stuck waiting a year for the final chapter, The Worlds We Make, and needing to know what happens to Kaelyn and her vaccine. 

The real world is scary, with or without a virus spreading and Crewe has captured the brutality of the human race exquistly. I can only hope I've done this book justice with this review and that I too can create a world within a world as well as she has. 

In the lives we'd lost, we would both have been hanging out in cafeterias with friends and arguing with parents who were still alive and not worrying about whether we might die tomorrow. But this was what we had.

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