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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Virals (Virals #1) by Kathy Reichs

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends--they're a pack. They are Virals.

Released: November 1st 2010          Pages: 448
Publisher: Razorbill                         Source: Library

First Look: ***** I like teens-gain-mutant-powers-and-become-an-inseparable-team stories, so I thought this would be one of those.  Turns out, it isn't.  It's mostly about saving a puppy, avoiding a debutante party, and referencing Temperance Brennan over and over.  (Also, who wears a white shirt on a forest escapade?)

Setting: ***** Here's the area where I'm willing to praise this book.  I could tell that the author had put a lot of thought into the setting.  It was obvious that it was planned out, and I got a very nice sense of what kind of place it was.  I appreciate an author who doesn't throw in setting as an afterthought, like so many authors seem to do.

Characters: ***** Has the author even been near a teenager lately?  It doesn't seem like it.  Some of the attempts at "authentic teen dialogue" sounded awkward and forced.  Tory is what, fourteen?  She didn't act like it.  She acted more like an adult with degrees in forensic science and biology that was somehow still in high school.  I never got the sense that she was close to Ben, Shelton, and Hi.  All she ever did was order them to commit crimes.  Not to mention the fact that she was an obvious example of the average-looking-girl-that-everyone-ignores-suddenly-becomes-beautiful-to-popular-guy cliche.

And the boys themselves--I couldn't distinguish one from the other.  They didn't have distinct personalities.  I feel like I could have taken a line from any of them and give it to one of the others, and it would still make perfect sense. 

Also, why was Karsten their enemy and then suddenly their friend, but then *spoiler--highlight to read* was conveniently killed so he could no longer help them? *end spoiler* 

Plot: ***** This plot consisted of three things: committing crimes (such as breaking-and-entering), angst over a debutante party, and going on and on about how hot the school's hottest guy was.  Oh, and there was a little bit of a murder mystery as well.  It was well over 250 pages into the book before we finally got to see the effects of the parvovirus, which I had assumed, given the book's pitch, was the main point of everything.  Apparently not. 

Also, does nobody in this book understand how the American justice system works?  Breaking and entering is a punishable crime.  Even if you do it for a "good reason", and you gain incriminating evidence that somebody is a murderer from it, it's still a felony, and you're still going to be punished for it.  It doesn't take a Harvard law degree to know that.  So why did these kids get let off the hook for it?  Why did Shelton, Ben, and Hi never object when Tory did her nightly "Guys, I'm basically ordering you to go and commit a felony" routine?

Uniqueness: ***** Let's see...secretive research base?  Weird virus/drug thing?  Scary wolfish dogs?  Oh hello there, The Hounds of Baskerville.

Writing: ***** The voice was an obvious attempt at an "authentic teen narration style".  The problem when authors try too hard to be authentic is that it never, ever works.  It doesn't sound good.  It sounds immature and like some sort of robot spewing slang terms every so many words.  I couldn't get past the awkward teen voice.

And then there were the other awkward sentences, in general.  Plenty of run-ons and other examples of grammar that was just plain incorrect. 

Apparently, it's necessary for this character to insult basic societal necessities like industry and factories.  I remember at least one point where a factory was mentioned, to which Tory replied "what jerks" (in reference to the fact that the factory was on an island or something).  Excuse me?  Now everyone who puts up a factory is a jerk?  Yes, maybe they had to cut down some trees, but there was no mention of pollution, or dumping waste in wetlands, or otherwise harming the environment.  America 101: We need factories to make things.  Most of the things Tory had were made in a factory.  There is nothing inherently wrong about a factory.  (As you might have noticed, the author hit on a pet peeve of mine, and managed to make me angry every chapter or so over this same subject.)

Likes: Um...yep, I have nothing.

Not-so-great: Why would they need a special app in order for the whole group to communicate?  Have they never heard of group texting?

Possibly my biggest pet peeve of this book: the author assumed everyone knows who Temperance Brennan is.  Well, I don't.  Something to do with Bones?  That's the extent of my knowledge, but the author kept on slamming me over the head with references and I just thought "Stop talking about Temperance already!  I don't care!" Is this the same syndrome Cassandra Clare has, the stop-milking-that-cow-already thing?

Overall: Pro Tip: If you don't have a good idea of how teens speak, interact, and behave, please just do us all a favor and DON'T WRITE A YA BOOK.  Anyway, this book was more teen drama and murder mystery than sci-fi adventure.  The main character didn't act at all like a teenager.  I don't know or care who Temperance Brennan is.  The main character's friends weren't at all distinguishable from one another.  It's a generous 1.5 stars, so I suppose I'll have to round up.  Two stars.

Similar Books: Everything about this book screams Maximum Ride!  It had the teens-banded-together feel of Variant, the I'm-not-quite-human aspect of Mila 2.0, and slammed you over the head with an environmental message every so often, like Hoot.  And it really, really made me think of The Hounds of Baskerville.

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