The Farm #1
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…
And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.
Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…
Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...
Despite a rather bland title, The Farm packs a physical and emotional punch, giving us stunningly flawed characters made all the more appealing by their imperfections and providing us with a stark contrast between human and monster in this dark and gritty tale. Part of the appeal aside from the characters themselves is the world; one we’ve caught just on the cusp of evolving into something new and frightening, but in this first installment it’s still a very recognizable world to us. The initial stages of change have begun, but the explanations for the Ticks and the farms seem plausible despite the paranormal element, and we settle into Lily, Mel and Carter’s lives with an easy familiarity not altogether common in dystopian stories.
Though we alternate between Lily and Mel’s first person points of view and Carter’s third person point of view, majority of our time is spent with Lily, a young woman who is a perfect jumble of strengths and weakness and has us in her corner almost immediately. Her obvious love for her autistic twin sister Mel is one of the highlights of the entire story, her need to protect and guide Mel beautifully offset by our understanding thanks to Mel’s POV that Mel herself is often not the one of the two of them in need of protection and guidance. Over the course of the story we get to see Lily and Mel’s relationship progress from one drastically skewed with Lily believing Mel to be a responsibility (though no doubt one she wouldn’t trade for anything) to a more equal bond between the two, with the realization from Lily that Mel, given her ability to strip the world down to its simplest form and see things without menial clutter getting in the way, is more capable of understanding, communication, and emotional support than she’d ever given her credit for.
The romantic element between Lily and Carter is as emotionally complex as Lily and Mel’s relationship, their brief history in the Before giving them a solid foundation from the very beginning and making it easier for us as readers to become invested in their future as a couple. Lily’s flashbacks to her first meeting with Carter her freshman year pull an unexpected laugh from us given the precarious situation she and her companions are in at present, her inner monologue detailing her massive crush on him sparking our own memories of that first gut reaction to someone we were utterly helpless to control. Their feelings for one another now are a giant knotted mass of insecurity, attraction, and hesitancy we can’t wait to unravel as the series progresses, the complication of a paranormal element making the tension between them that much sweeter.
Overall, The Farm is a hugely successful first installment, giving us a world transitioning from contemporary to dystopian and taking us along for the dark and riveting ride as humanity falters in the face of a seemingly unstoppable predator, but as we read, we find that the extraordinary makes heroes out of the previously ordinary.
GIVEAWAYThanks to the wonderful people at Berkley/Penguin, I have one copy of The Farm to give away on the blog today! To enter, please just leave a comment on the review and be sure to include a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through midnight on Friday, January 11th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Good luck everyone!