Author: DJ MacHale

Publication: 2013, Razor Bill

Pages: 407

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Tucker and his family live on Pemberwick Island, Maine. He loves the slow pace of life there and uses it as an excuse to avoid taking any big risks. But all that comes to an end when Island residents begin dropping dead for no reason. Word of a strange virus spreads, the Island is quarantined by a previously unknown branch of the US Navy, and before Tucker knows what’s happened he’s a prisoner in his own home. He and his friends must unravel a nest of deadly lies that threaten to tear their world apart, all well dodging a growing network of spies and soldiers. Before long, they’re forced to go on the run, facing death at every turn as they fight to understand what’s happening and bring the truth to light.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: It’s a roller coaster of a read, plunging from one action scene and plot twist to the next. But that doesn’t stop MacHale from crafting a set of unique and compelling characters. Tucker and his friends are living, breathing people, full of all the fears, longings, and rivalries that make for good drama. So while it may be a plot-driven thriller, don’t for one second think that comes at the expense of solid character development. MacHale takes his time at the beginning, introducing us to each of the characters and to the island itself, creating a solid base before throwing things into chaos.

What I Liked the Least: This may seem like a small thing, but I found it annoying all the same. MacHale avoids profanity, but he doesn’t avoid the need for strong language. Instead, he creates situations where his characters would naturally use a f*** or a sh*** and replaces all of them with “jeez.” It’s pure vanilla and it doesn’t work. The first time Tucker uses the word I let it go, but by the third time I couldn’t help feeling annoyed and wishing MacHale had either dropped the profanity altogether or used the real thing.

My only other complaint, and it too is minor, was that MacHale held back a little too much of the mystery for book two. I expected to have some clue what was really happening by the end of the book, but felt just as uncertain as I had half way through – if not more so. I want to read on and find out what happens, but I can’t help thinking that MacHale could have been a bit more generous in parceling out the information.

How Good was the Action? Awesome. Now, I’ll be honest, it does take a while for the action to get going. Like I said, MacHale doesn’t rush things when it comes to building the characters and setting, and some of the early action scenes felt pretty fleeting. But as the book progresses the scenes get steadily more intense. The final fifty or so pages were basically non-stop and totally blew me away. Insane is the only word to describe it, as Tucker and his friends race their boat through a massive battle, taking heavy machine gun fire as warships explode all around them.

How Engaging was the Story? It doesn’t take long to get drawn into the characters, and with each new twist of the plot the story got more interesting and the mystery of the virus and the blockade more complex. I found myself working right alongside Tucker, trying to save his friends and piece together what was happening, and I’m VERY eager to check out book two and delve deeper into the mystery. I just hope that by the end of that book more of the questions will have been resolved.

Profanity: None, as the overuse of “jeez” makes all too clear.

Sex: A couple of kisses and brief bit of fantasizing that never gets much beyond thinking about how great his friend, Olivia, looks in a bikini.

Violence: Not a whole lot. There are deaths, but with a couple of minor exceptions they’re extremely bloodless. I was expecting some torture at one point, but it never happened. And while a lot of people are clearly dying in the battles, most of that happens at a distance. The few that are up close and personal have a powerful emotional impact, but little to no gore.

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