ARC Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen

3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped. 

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game. 

Kira Jordan survived her family’s murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis. 

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it. 

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira’s psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan’s secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira’s only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can’t escape. 

GAME 0VER

My Rating: 2 cupcakes

Countdown is a fast-paced read that contains a bit of everything: a dystopian society, plenty of action, romance, futuristic technology, and even slight supernatural elements. While all of these ideas were interesting, it felt as though Rowen was trying to include too much in one novel, causing many aspects to feel rushed and underdeveloped.

The premise itself reminded me of a mix of The Hunger Games and Saw: contestants are forced to play a game that could cost them their lives, while a bloodthirsty audience hangs on to every moment. The challenges themselves weren’t nearly as terrifying as I had expected them to be. Each task lasted for about five to ten minutes, which didn’t leave room for much development or for much suspense — judging by the little amount of time the tasks took and the amount of remaining pages, there was never any reason to worry about the protagonists’ safety.

The worldbuilding was virtually non-existent. We learn that it has been 25 years since the Great Plague decimated sixty percent of the population, leaving the city in shambles. There are brief mentions of what the world was like before, but we never learn anything else about it. We’re never told how the Plague began, where it struck, what was done to prevent it or whether or not the rest of the world was affected by the Plague as well. Granted, we are told that the Plague caused mutations in certain members of the population, granting them psi powers, but that’s barely explained aside from the scenes showing Kira using her own psi abilities.

I never became overly invested in any of the characters, though that’s not to say that I didn’t like them. Kira flip-flops from trusting to suspicious at the drop of a hat, which makes sense given her past and her present circumstances, though it became a bit tiring to read about. She’s strong and self-reliant, and is willing to think before she acts — especially when that action may result in someone else’s death. Rogan is your typical YA love interest: an attractive bad boy with a tortured past. I enjoyed finding out about the circumstances that led him to participate in the Countdown, and his sarcastic banter with Kira was fun to read.

When you’re fighting for your life, you would think that you’d have other things to worry about than whether or not your partner in the challenges is a viable romantic interest, right? I know I would. Kira, though, clearly didn’t agree. I lost count of the number of times she commented on how attractive Rogan was, and even though they had only known each other for a few days, she was more than willing to jump into bed with him. I know that life or death situations can cause people to form close relationships very quickly, but still.

Overall, Countdown had so much potential to be an excellent book, but its rushed, underdeveloped nature caused it to fall a little flat. The action scenes were well written and fun to read, but were ultimately overshadowed by the insta-romance.

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