Welcome to this stop of the Viral Nation Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Tours!
Title: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes
Published: July 2nd, 2013 by Berkley Trade
Source: ARC provided by author
Format: eBook (from NetGalley)
Group age: Young adult
Grade rate: A
After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.
Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.
When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.
Just wow! I’m a lover of the dystopian genre and I really loved Viral Nation. What a fast paced, complicated and riveting read!
Let me start by telling you how hesitant I was to read this book, I wasn’t sure that I would understand the mindset of an autistic character, but I need to worry as Ms. Grimes is a master of characterization. Clover is brilliant, and has autism. She has dreamed all her life going to the Academy, but during her interview, something goes wrong and she is send to the ‘Company’. Clover’s character is fascinating to read about. The inner workings of her mind and her triggers and difficulties are understandable and part of her. Believe me when I tell you that her condition is in no way a disability. Mango is Clover’s dog and he’s been trained to help her.
West is so good. He has sacrificed a lot to keep Clover stable and safe, and although he might resent it a little bit, I think he resents more his dad for leaving them on their own. West is really smart, loyal, a natural leader, and very loving. I really admire him for what he did and still does for his neighbor, and almost mother Mrs. Finch, for his friend Isaiah, for Clover and even for Bridget.
Now, let me introduce you to the Freaks; that’s what they call themselves in the book, really! Jude is great and I hope he grows to be an asset to the revolution. Phire, Emmy, Christopher, Geena and Marta round up the rest of the Freaks, with the exception of Bridget, which accidently falls in with this bunch.
Ned Waverly is plain crazy, all I’m saying.
James, West and Clover father is haunted by a decision from his past that crippled him as a father. I really can understand his pain, BUT is just not right to leave his children to suffer because of it.
The plot is complicated, a tale of domination of the ‘Company’ after a host of natural disasters and disease. What they did to the surviving population and most of all, the children was despicable, and I’ll stop there because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I really can’t understand how the world turned out to be so messed up in such a short period of time! To add to the overall confusion of the characters, is the brilliant addition of time travel through a portal that looks two years into the future. The story is enveloped in a sense of mystery and suspense that had me reading non-stop until I reached the ending. This causes all sort of confusion of what was and what will be as time loops develop quite often. The story is told in the third person, from James, West and Clover’s points of view. This gives us a clear outlook of what all the characters are going through at different points of the story, especially when the characters are not together. The writing is really good, flows freely and it’s easy to read.
Overall, Viral Nation is a great addition of the YA dystopian genre, one full of twists and turns and a testament to Ms. Grimes imagination. I can’t wait for the next book in the series and see what’s in store for the Freaks!
The influence of the government in dystopia
Any genre of novels has its tropes. One of the biggest for dystopian novels is a corrupt or broken government. In nearly every dystopian story, no matter the format (book, movie, TV), people struggle to get along in a world where the central unifying, governing force has collapsed or has become something really scary. In Viral Nation the US government is around, but has become a figure head. The real power is in the Company. The Company gives everyone what they need. Not just every American, but everyone everywhere. A major theme in Viral Nation is the question of how to be a citizen when the bottom falls out of your society.
Whether it's the Holnists in David Brin's The Postman, President Snow in Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games, or the fighting mayors in Jericho—we are fascinated by the idea of the downfall of the few people at the top. Dystopia is the place where that downfall happens, I think, because the opposite of a broken government would be a utopia. Utopia means 'no place.' It can't exist. There is always something under it, lurking, dark, greedy, and corrupt. Even if we haven't seen the underbelly, we imagine it there. In dystopian fiction, we get to take it out and examine it. And we get to imagine what it would be like to be on our own, without the comfort and confines of a working government.
Stories need conflict. That's creative writing 101. Put your character in a tree then throw rocks at her and see what she does. The ruling class is Goliath to the average David. Instant conflict. In the case of Viral Nation I thought—okay, I have this Company and the people running it are doing some pretty bad things and it's a bunch of kids who find the cracks. Now what? How do Clover and West and Jude and the rest of the Freaks handle it? What do they do when the Company gets them up a tree and starts throwing rocks? The government is bigger and meaner and badder, right? So the characters have to be smarter and faster and better.
About the Author
Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. Viral Nation is her debut traditionally-published novel.
How to Connect with Shaunta:
Five finished copies of Viral Nation US/Canada only
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*Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a member of Rockstar Blog Tours and a copy of this book was provided to me by the author. Although payment may have been received by Rockstar Tours, no payment was received by me in exchange for this review. There was no obligation to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, publisher, publicist, or readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning Use of Endorcements and Testimonials in Advertising*