Another book that I was recommended to read by a friend, Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas (writing duo made up of Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voohries) is up there with Steven dos Santos’ The Culling in competition for my favourite book. From the opening line, Quarantine: The Loners pulled me in and wouldn’t let me stop reading. I admit, I was quite baffled when I read “Someone must have bitten off her nose”, the very first line of the book. And as first lines go, this is definitely captivating and hooking. I had read the summary a few times on Amazon after it was first recommended to me, and although it definitely sounded interesting, I never bought it until last week. The summary is as follows:
“When an explosion rocks David and Will’s suburban high school one morning, a deadly virus is unleashed on the school. The virus only infects teenagers in their peak puberty years, making them lethal to adults and children until they finish adolescence. Within minutes, every faculty member is dead. The military quarantines the building, opening fire on anyone attempting to escape and installing bi-weekly food drops.
After a year of quarantine, with no adults around, the students have created their own society. All of the social cliques have developed into gangs – The Nerds, The Geeks, The Freaks, The Sluts, The Skaters, The Burnouts, The Pretty Ones, and The Varsity – and each gang provides a service with which they can barter for provisions. Without a gang, it’s almost impossible to secure food, water, territory, or supplies.
David and Will float just under the radar, until one day David sees his brother’s long-time crush, Lucy, about to be attacked by a Varsity jock. Impulsively, he steps in to protect her, and winds up accidentally killing The Varsity member. Suddenly, the whole school is on the lookout for David and Will. How will the brothers survive and what will happen once David no longer carries the virus?”
It had me interested, but I was still a little sceptical – it just seemed a little reminiscent of Michael Grant’s Gone series, and as much as I loved that, I didn’t want to read a carbon copy of it. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about – Gone was good, but Quarantine: The Loners was exceptional.
The book is in 3rd person, and though it primarily revolves around the main character, David, and his actions, it’s also interspersed with scenes focussing on Will, Lucy, Sam, and Hilary. For the most part I actually really liked David. In the beginning, you get a bit of background to him and find out about a loss he recently suffered, as well as finding out his girlfriend is cheating on him. When he makes the decision to save Lucy from a Varsity who’s attacking her, he accidentally brings the wrath of Sam, the head of the Varsity group, down on him. Sam already had it in for David, but after this incident, Sam’s looking for blood. David becomes the leader of the Loners (albeit slightly unwillingly at first), a group of “Scraps” who have no affiliation to any of the other gangs, such as the Geeks, the Freaks, The Pretty Ones, Varsity and the Sluts, or those who’ve been kicked out of their own groups, such as Lucy. And to be honest, I think he’s quite a good leader, as he does the best he can in his situation – even though at times he’s hindered by his own brother, as well as some of the other gangs. However, he does make some decisions, and does some things, that really annoy me – I feel that he lets his feelings for Lucy get in the way too much, especially when you consider the circumstances they’ve found themselves in. Yeah, teenagers get like that, but at the same time… They’ve been locked in their school for a year, with some awful fights and other things… Pretty sure sex and girlfriends is going to be the LAST thing on their minds. However, there’s one thing David does that I really liked – something has gone horrifically wrong for him, and he’s decided that he wants to hide in his laundry room until it’s time for his “graduation” but when he thinks his brother’s gone missing, David’s off like a shot to try and find him, regardless of the consequences. To me, that showed quite a bit of courage, especially when you consider what had just happened.
David’s brother, Will, is a character who I was a bit iffy with throughout the whole book. Don’t get me wrong, he was a really good character, I just couldn’t decide if I liked him or not. Throughout the majority of the book, I felt quite suspicious of him because I just couldn’t work out what he was all about – was he really with David (it didn’t often seem like he was), or was he actually going to go off and try and get into one of the other gangs? Also, he’s so selfish! His brother has tried his best to look out for him, but Will is basically all “Woe is me, the girl I like, likes my brother and my brother likes her, I hate him he should die.” Okay, maybe it’s put a bit more eloquently than that, but that’s the vibe I was getting quite a lot from Will. I feel that I would have liked Will a hell of a lot more if we’d got a bit less of this whinging; I get that he’s pissed off with his brother, but I’m sorry, there are far bigger things going on, and David has sacrificed a LOT in order to do his best for Will. He’s just really quite selfish in my opinion, yet for some reason… I still like him. He’s really well–written, despite the complaining (although I guess that adds to his character?), and I’m looking forward to reading more about him in the second book, Quarantine: The Saints.
Lucy was another character I was quite iffy with in the book. I liked her, even though she could never make up her mind between David and Will, but I wish she had been allowed to develop more. It’s like she was JUST there so the guys had someone they felt they needed to protect and they treated her like she was a fragile object which would just shatter if it got too close to any fighting – yet as we see towards the end of the book, she’s the opposite of that. She had even mentioned during the book that she could fight and they didn’t need to protect her, but did Will or David listen? No, of course they didn’t. So although there were times I liked Lucy, I wish she had been developed more and given the chance to be more than just the damsel in distress.
Sam and Hilary, however, were great. Seriously, I loved them so much. They were definitely the “bad guys” of the novel; Sam was the leader of Varsity and Hilary of the Pretty Ones. They were extremely well–written, and actually almost kind of scared me at points with their actions! There’s one scene with Hilary (you’ll know it when you read it) where my jaw just dropped and my eyes were about 3 times the normal size, because I was just so shocked. If I’m honest, when I started the book I had thought that Sam was going to end up being the kind of character who tries to act all tough, but when it comes down to it is just a cowardly kid… I had that totally wrong. The end of chapter 10 was another scene which had me sitting in shock; it was kind of expected but I didn’t expect it to happen in the way it did. So I’m really, really looking forward to reading more about the two of them in the second book, and hopefully they’ll get some further development – even if they don’t, I’ll be perfectly happy, because they were really good in this! I believe that’s the majority of the really main characters covered, but I’d just like to add in one minor character that I also loved – Zachary. The first time I met him, I just fell in love because he was funny, and generally just brilliant. Of course, he then had to go and do something that totally shocked and saddened me, but I still thought he was a great character, and I guess I can understand why he did what he did… The entirety of the Loners group were all characters I liked, but not enough to name them all individually I’m afraid. There were a few other characters I quite liked, but again they didn’t have as much an effect on me as the previous ones did.
The writing of the book was just fantastic. It really managed to hook me in right from the get–go and it succeeded in that for the rest of the novel – no mean feat, I’ll say that now. Often you get books which sound great at the start and you really enjoy them, but then they take a dip in the middle and drag quite a bit; but sometimes (just sometimes) you find those books which, once they’ve got their claws into you, pull you in and don’t let you go until you’ve read the final page. Quarantine: The Loners falls straight into the latter. I’m really hoping the sequel will live up to my expectations (it’s got a lot to live up to though), and I can’t wait for the third book either. Quarantine: The Loners is a book that I highly recommend, and is one I’ll be recommending for quite some time.