Author: Kathy Reichs
Release Date: November 2010
Published By: Razorbill
Goodreads Rating: 3.86 stars
Review: When Tory Brennan and her rag-tag group of science-obsessed friends rescue a caged dog, they are exposed to a mysterious strain of canine parvovirus. Among their symptoms of dizziness and fever, they have new abilities - heightened senses and increased physical strength. As not just friends but a pack, they work to solve a murder that everyone seems to have forgotten about and find the killer, who may be right under their noses.
It can argued one way or another that VIRALS is middle grade or young adult, but one thing you can't argue is that this book is straight up action and adventure. Every page is a non-stop thrill ride, packed with scenes to make your heart beat and your palms sweat, and there's never a moment when you want to put the book down.
However, the mystery, suspense, and excitement isn't the only reason you won't want to stop reading. Tory is a first-person narrator with the kind of sardonic voice that not only keeps you laughing out loud but also transitions nicely into some poignant moments that add depth to the story. She may be relatively young for a typical YA protagonist, but she has a maturity and instant relatability that will appeal to a reader of any age.
I also really loved that the setting was incredibly unique. So many books take place in this same bland, read-one-and-you've-read-them-all high schools, but VIRALS is actually set on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. It heightened the mystery and tone of the novel to have such an exotic background, and I enjoyed reading about the dynamics of an unfamiliar place.
If I had to make any complaint, I would say that the villain in this book was a bit bland. I won't say who it was, but his/her actions were rather predictable, and I think a more interesting motive would have really spiced things up. Still, it wasn't particularly bad, just enough to strike me as I was reading, and it didn't interfere with my experience that much.
All in all, VIRALS is a novel with a fast pace that action fans will enjoy and enough character depth and development to satisfy even those who tend to prefer contemporary fiction. The narrator is hilarious, the setting is exotic, and the mystery is intriguing - what more reasons do you need to pick this up?