Author: Jeff Povey

Publication: 2014, Simon and Schuster

Pages: 361

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Rev, Billie, the Ape, Lucas, Johnson, Moth, Carrie, and GG – eight teens thrown together for detention. Then a white light goes off, and when it’s gone they find themselves in an empty world, where the only other people are vicious, super-powered versions of themselves. It’s kill or be-killed – but how do you kill yourself, even when that’s the price of survival?

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: This a cool concept, no doubt about it. And Povey carries it off with a pitch perfect mix of humor, terror, romance, and action. I loved the interactions among the teens, watching the mismatched set of kids as they alternately fight and bond with one another, forming relationships that could never have been predicted at the start of the book. And I especially loved the way that each of them shared a hard kernel of similarity with their alter egos – similarities that sometimes let them predict each other’s behavior – while still managing to be radically different in both personality and physical ability.

Oh, and the ending is not to be missed – a great final twist that clearly sets the stage for volume two while providing just enough closure to keep the reader satisfied.

What I Liked the Least: The explanation for what’s happened to them is casual at best. And a lot of the questions they raise never really get answered. There’s clearly going to be a volume two, and perhaps the more complex answers are being saved for later.   But I definitely found myself wanting more than a simple surface explanation for such a crazy, impossible event. I wanted answers, and I never got them.

My other problem was Rev’s relationship to Johnson and his alter-ego, Other Johnson. Before the book she might have had a few vague fantasies about the guy but they’d hardly even exchanged words. Then within two days the relationship goes from zero to sixty. She can’t live without him and he feels the same. Other Johnson kills and betrays for her – and they knew each other for even less time. I know love at first sight is a basic element in romance, but in this case I just didn’t buy the depth of their emotional attachment.

How Good was the Action? The fight scenes don’t carry a whole lot of detail – mostly because the story takes place from Rev’s perspective, and while she might be extraordinarily brave she’s no fighter, especially not when pitted against someone with superhuman abilities. That said there are plenty of moments when the intensity bleeds off of the page as Rev and her companions hide from the monstrously huge Non-Ape, engage in high speed chases, or escape from a sky scraper that’s crumbling beneath them. Awesome energy.

How Engaging was the Story? While I may not have entirely bought into the relationship between Rev and Johnson or been disappointed by the lack of detailed explanation for what was happening to them, I still found the story highly engaging. The ebb and flow of relationships amidst such a crazily intense situation, as they deal with the loss of everything they’ve ever known while being hunted by people who look exactly like them, was impossible not to get caught up in. And I loved some of the unpredictable directions in which those relationships went, especially as time grew short and the body counted started rising.

Overall Assessment: A cool read, bringing together a quirky posse of mismatched teens forced to fight for their lives. It races along with just the right touch of black humor, fear, romance, and intense action.

Profanity: Some, but for the most part it stays relatively tame.

Sex: There is one fairly intense make-out scene and a whole lot more fantasizing and innuendo.

Violence: Yes. The Ape’s got a knack for stabbing people through the throat. And the super-powered Others have a tendency to try and tear people apart whenever they get the chance. I wouldn’t say it’s overly bloody but there is definitely some graphic violence.

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