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.
At first, Viral Nation seems just like all of the other YA dystopian novels on the market: a horrible event (in this case, a virus) decimated the world’s population causing one group (the Company) to take charge. This group is believed to have the best interest of the people at heart until the main character finds information that causes them to question everything they know about their society. However, Viral Nation manages to turn these common elements into a unique, gripping, and memorable storyline.
Viral Nation immediately grabs attention by giving readers a first-hand look at the devastation that the virus is causing. It’s heart-wrenching, and allows the reader to feel all of the conflicting emotions that the characters feel – especially the immense sense of relief when the suppressant is discovered. This is incredibly important, as it makes it easy to sympathize with all of the characters and their fear of the virus, while also heightening the sense of betrayal that is felt as more and more information is revealed about the Company.
The characters were all exceptionally written. The main reason that I picked up Viral Nation was due to the fact that Clover is autistic, which is rarely seen in YA novels unless they’re an “issue” story. (A notable exception is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I absolutely love). It was really interesting to look at the world through her eyes, and I felt that her personality and mannerisms (dislike of extreme stimulation, difficulty following social cues) were handled very well. I loved her relationships with her brother, West, and her service dog, Mango. West is the brother that I wish I had – he’s incredibly supportive of Clover, to the point where he’s willing to sacrifice his own dreams to give her a chance to pursue her own. Though he may occasionally get frustrated with her inability to cope with excessive sensory stimulation, it was really nice to see the unconditional love and affection between the two of them.
As a huge Doctor Who fangirl, I really enjoyed the time travel aspects of the story. While there were a few plot holes that were chalked up to being a result of the time loop, it was executed quite well and helped separate Viral Nation from all of the cookie-cutter dystopian novels.
Overall, Viral Nation was a very enjoyable, character-driven story. I look forward to reading the sequel!
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.