Wow... just, wow. I have to confess that dystopians are my favorite genre. So add a dash of bioterrorism and infectious diseases, and I knew that I would be hooked!
Fair warning (but not a spoiler), pretty much everyone dies. So be prepared to say goodbye to several characters right off the bat. Personally, I was glad so see a few of them go as they were annoying to me. But this story is about survival. Lucy is one of the lucky FEW that survive, but why was she so lucky? With internet and cell phone usage being sporadic, at best, Lucy has to hold on the hope that her family remained safe and healthy as well. But how can she find out when she is trapped in her school?
I loved most of the characters (hooray for killing off the rest!!), but each one played an important role. There is a good amount of action and it moves at a brisk pace. So you will not be bored. This is one of those books that you need to just block out a couple of hours and sit down to read it in one or two sittings.
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Lucy opened her phone and clicked through her newsfeed.
All the doomsday prophets were broadcasting their end of the world theories as a full-fledged assault. Several of her feed items were calls to faith in the midst of judgment day. If Lucy believed in evangelical Christianity, she would have guessed her classmates had been spirited away through rapture. But Lucy shook her head and scowled—she may not be perfect, but she had a hard time believing that God would leave her behind and take the entirety of Pacific Lake High School instead.
This was ridiculous. The overreacting. The fear.
There was no way that any of this strangeness amounted to anything remotely exciting. She just needed her damn homework so she could go on vacation with her family. For a moment, she thought of just walking with confidence down toward her locker and if a guard stopped her, she would just say with calm precision, “My ride to the airport is waiting outside. I just need my Ray Bradbury book and I’ll be on my way.”
The walkie-talkie crackled again, but it was moving away from her. Further down the hall it traveled. A man’s voice, some security guard, sounded an “All Clear” for the science and main hallways. The talking turned a corner, toward the cafeteria, and away from her.
With a deep breath, Lucy hesitated. Then, without thought, she sprinted, running as fast as her legs would carry her, shoes slapping heavily on the tile. She closed her eyes and ran; straight by lockers and classrooms, past the front of the building and the main office, they were all a blur as she sped down the wide stretch of hallway.
Then, she rounded the corner toward the English hall. Within eyesight of her locker, she slowed her pace, her heart beating with rapid thumps against her chest, blood pounding in her ears. Then her body flew forward. Pain shot up her legs and arms as she hit the tile with a crash, knocking the air out of her body. She landed on her elbows and knees, and slid forward several feet before stopping. Her head caught the metal of a locker—a burning pain traveled from the top of her ear and all the way down her neck.
After a few moments, Lucy collected her composure and took in a giant gulp of air. She hoisted herself into a sitting position and then turned to see what had caused her fall.
And that was when she saw the body.
Crumpled in a heap, like someone dropped a wet rag on the floor and left it there.
She scooched herself backward, her feet slipping against the tile, until she felt her back hit the hardness of the lockers. It was a boy, his face turned in her direction, his eyes open and staring past her; one eye, one-solitary eye, was filled with blood, the blackness of the pupil still peeking through the bright red. It was a freshman she didn’t recognize.
Lucy stood up, viscerally aware of how her knees wobbled together. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest; pulsating outward all the way to her fingertips. As if walking on a small ledge, she high-stepped along the row of lockers, until she reached her own and only then did she turn around, her hands shaking as she spun the lock.
There was a dead boy in the hall.
A dead boy in the hall.
Someone left a dead boy in the hallway.
And yet she was still fully fixated on her homework and getting the hell out of there.
She couldn’t shake the boy’s image as she pulled up and opened the locker with a click. Lucy grabbed big purple binder that was covered in Salem’s doodles, political cartoons and a photo of her family stuck on one side and a picture of her holding Harper on the other. She dropped the binder into the backpack and then grabbed her copy of Fahrenheit 451, sliding it into the bag and zipping it up. Only then did she realize she had been holding her breath and she let it in one giant hot gush. Voices down the hall snapped her to attention. Men’s voices, conversational, but hushed.
Time was up.
The voices were gaining on her.
No more than thirty feet away were the doors leading outside. Lucy could hear the distant sounds of sirens traveling up the street. Ethan was out there, waiting for her, and her mother and her family were at home. They had a plane to catch. This couldn’t be happening; she had a plane to catch.
Lucy struggled to wrap her mind around the evidence—the lack of students, the dead classmate. The lockdown. Her fear was intense; Lucy gnawed on her bottom lip until she tasted blood.
Her time was up.
The voices approached. To run to the door now would risk exposure, but to wait would risk abandonment. She ducked into the closest classroom, grabbed the handle and shut the door without making a noise. Then she reached for her phone. It blinked with three unread messages. Amidst the panic she had not felt the phone pulsating in her pocket, and she took a sharp intake of breath and braced herself for the news from the outside.
The first was a cryptic message from her mother:
“Not what we expected. Please come home. Please come home. NOW.”
The second was from Ethan:
“Mom needs me. She called. She was frantic. Bawling. Screaming. Going home. Taking Anna. We will come back for you. Sit tight.”
The third was from Salem:
“My family is dead. They’re all dead. It’s the end of the world.”
About the Author:
About the Author:
Shelbi Wescott is a high school Language Arts and Creative Writing
teacher, a mother of two, a television junky, and a board game
connoisseur. Her first book, "Virulent: The Release" was born from a
challenge issued by her students to write a book that would interest
them. When she isn't writing or teaching, Shelbi can be found throwing
unnecessarily elaborate birthday parties and officiating weddings. She
is a fan of: Spanx, bourbon, Powell’s Books, and tabloid magazines.
Shelbi lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband (a local sports
editor) and her two sons, Elliott and Ike.