Author: Kathy Reichs

Publication: 2010, Razor Bill

Pages: 454

Overall Rating:  bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]                      

Rating for Action:bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

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

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Tori Brennan, niece of the famous forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, lives on tiny Morris Island off the coast of South Carolina.  Morris is home to only a handful of families, all of them employed by Charleston University and working at a research facility on nearby Loggerhead Island.  Tori and her science geek pals – Hiram, Shelton, and Ben – attend a private school in Charleston but spend their free time hanging out in an abandoned Civil War bunker and exploring the woods and marshes of Loggerhead.  During one such trip they come across an old set of dog tags.  Being scientists at heart, the crew is driven to clean up the tags and learn who they belong too – even if this means breaking into one of the off-limits labs at the Loggerhead Island Research Institute in order to use the equipment.  There they stumble across a captive wolfdog pup being used for scientific tests.  They rescue the pup – and unleash an experimental virus that infects all of them, altering their DNA and giving them the senses and strength of wolves.  But even with their new-found powers, will the Virals be able to survive the powder-keg of danger when their investigation into the old dog tags puts them on the trail of a murderer?

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Tori has a hip and lively voice that drew me in from page one.  I loved her funny, self-deprecating attitude and her interactions with Shelton, Hi, and Ben were right on target.  The dialogue is snappy, and Tori’s internal voice had enough wit to make me smile without ever feeling forced or over the top.

The city of Charleston and the forests, marshes, and bays of Morris and Loggerhead felt utterly realistic.  It was easy to immerse myself in the genteel charm of Charleston’s upscale neighborhoods, before slipping effortlessly onto the ferry for the ride to the isolated wilds of the islands.

While Reichs doesn’t skimp on the science, she keeps it credible and simple enough that most readers should be able to follow it with little explanation.  It works without ever feeling like Tori and her friends are pushing the limits of what four science geeks should be able to handle.

What I Liked the Least: There’s not a lot to say on that note.  I guess I could have gone for a more dangerous adversary in the end.  The final confrontation between the Virals and the murderer felt like a bit of a let-down.  But that’s not something that caught my attention at the time.  It’s only a reaction I had after the book was done.

How Good was the Action? Excellent.  Reichs’ writing is taut throughout, but during the action scenes it’s almost impossible to tear yourself away.  She writes in short, compelling sentences that brim with tension and provide the perfect mix of emotion and blow-by-blow action.  It’s easy to feel the danger in your bones.

How Engaging was the Story?  Tori’s character alone could have kept me reading, but Reich’s has also thrown in a flawless plot, filed with unexpected twists and turns as the Virals slowly claw their way to the bottom of the mystery they’ve uncovered.  There really are two stories going on side-by-side – the mystery of the dog tags and the viral infection.  The two come together seamlessly, and the intersecting plots lines make for a great read.

Overall Assessment: Virals is a fun, fast-paced read with plenty of action and humor and a great cast of characters.  Really, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Profanity: Some.  Reichs sprinkles it around, but quite sparingly

Sex: Nothing more than a mild kiss.

Violence: Yes, but it’s all pretty tame.  There’s little to no blood and certainly no gore.

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