Title: Viral Nation (Viral Nation #1)
Author: Shaunta Grimes
From Goodreads: "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."
My Opinion: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion.
Clover is a high functioning autistic 16 year old girl living in a very difficult world. After a virus wipes out most of the world's population, the remaining citizens live in walled cities and make do with little food and really, little everything. Her brother, West, takes care of her and is her world since their father is buried in his work ever since their mother died of the virus right before the cure became available. Clover has always dreamed of going to the Waverly-Stead Academy but is forced to turn down her acceptance when they won't let her keep her service dog, who is her closest friend and companion and who keeps her from losing it when the outside world becomes too much for her to handle. She is then recruited to join the Time Mariners, a team of operatives who work for the Company, the agency who engineered and distributed the vaccine to the deadly virus and who now control all of the provisions including food, jobs, etc., and who now also control all of the rules the people must live with. The Time Marines time travel to gather news about the future, including crimes that will be committed. Whenever someone is found to have committed a crime in the future, they are killed in the present to prevent the crime from happening at all. When Clover's brother, West, is one of the people sentenced to death for a murder that he supposedly will commit in the future, Clover and he go on the run, along with a "band of fellow misfits and outsiders" to find out what is really going on with the Company. (I don't know if my description does it justice, but trust me, as you read the story, this all makes sense!)
First off, I absolutely loved Clover! It's pretty rare that a person with developmental disabilities is featured as a main character in a book, but she is very much the driving force behind the hunt for the truth. Even though she would prefer to be by herself, with just her dog and brother for company, she goes way outside of her comfort zone in terms of working with people she doesn't really know or trust, and fighting against authority, neither of which come easy or naturally to her. I also admired that the author never used Clover's autism as a way to manipulate the story line or as a way to garner sympathy for her - she was never depicted in any way but as a very strong 16 year old girl who happened to be autistic, and although I've read some reviews that have said it was difficult to like Clover because of her off putting personality, I didn't find this to be true at all. If you want to talk about personal growth, I can tell you that Clover grew immensely from the beginning of the book to the end, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series because I'm excited to see her continue this growth.
Now for the world building and plot: The post-apocalyptic/dystopian world in which the characters live is described in such a way that you feel yourself becoming immersed in it as you read, which is always what you hope for when reading a fictional account of a world that has gone to hell in a hand basket. You feel the desperation of the people and the hopelessness. I would give this book an A+ for world building! The plot is well written, evenly paced, and very exciting to read. I was drawn into the book immediately and stayed in it well after I'd finished reading it. Because of the characters and the plot line, and the excellent writing, this book sticks with you and makes you continue to think about it even after you've put it down for the last time. All of these things combined made it an exciting read for me and the reason that I would recommend it to lovers of YA dystopian/post-apoc fiction.
I give this book a very enthusiastic 5 stars and look forward to continuing the series :D
P.S.: I love the cover and give bonus points for that!!