Title: Virals (Virals #1)
Author: Kathy Reichs
Publisher: Arrow (UK) | Penguin (US)
Publication Date: Nov 2010
Paperback: 454 pages
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Source: Review Copy
Reviewed by: Carolyn
RATING: 7/10 – very good, would definitely recommend
Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.
As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.
Fortunately, they are now more than friends they’re a pack. They are Virals.
Some of you may know the author Kathy Reichs because of her adult crime novels featuring Temperance Brennon, or through the TV show, BONES. This is the author’s first venture into the YA forum and I must say I am pretty impressed. ‘VIRALS‘ is a mixutre of mystery, intrigue and, surprisingly, elements of the supernatural, but as I love the supernatural this was a welcome surprise and definitely added to my enjoyment of the book.
The writing flows very well and Ms Reichs’ incredibly vast writing experience shines through. The main character is Victoria “Tory” Brennan and she’s fourteen years old – usually this is a little on the young side for me when I’m reading young adult fiction, but Ms Riechs gives her character a maturity beyond her years and because she’s just like her great aunt Temperance it’s believable, in fact it reads very realisitcally and I liked Tory pretty much from the first page.
Tory’s friends are just as intelligent and into different geeky things – they make a great team: Shelton, who’s into gadgets, Ben, the muscle-man and Hiram, the comedian – all have something to bring to the group.
It was also refreshing to read a young adult novel that wasn’t filled with romantic triangles and love-lorn teenagers. Although Tory does have a crush or two she isn’t paralyzed by it, instead she’s a strong independent young women. There are moments where I rolled my eyes at the simplicity of certain aspects of the story, such as breaking into a highly secure laboratory to steal evidence – I’m not really sure a fourteen year old would have the knowledge or skill to achieve such a goal, but I enjoyed the fun ride all the same.
The other aspect that I didn’t particularly like was near the end when instead of calling her friends by their names, as she had done for the entire novel prior to this point, Tory began to call them VIRALS. I felt that this was only used to coincide with the title and it quickly became annoying. You wouldn’t suddenly go from calling your friend ‘Hiram’ to ‘the viral’ or as a group ‘the virals’ – it was a bit odd.
The other characters such as parents and police are all a bit frustrating but as I was reading the novel through the eyes of a fourteen year old maybe that’s why I found them to be so annoying. They wouldn’t listen to Tory, even when she and her team of buddies had found human bones and thought it was a murdered girl they were looking for, and her Dad’s girlfriend was the most irritating of all – I just wanted to bonk her on the head with something hard. But they’re all well written and flesh-out so they didn’t read like silly charactures but like real people.
The paranormal element is very subtle and only comes into play in the second half of the book but lays the foundations for future novels featuring Tory and her friends, that I hope will be as exciting as this one.
Overall, ‘VIRALS‘ is an engaging and entertaining read. There are a few negative points, but they are minor and overshadowed by a fun and past-paced story that I had difficulty putting down at times. There are lots of twists and turns that made ‘VIRALS‘ a pleasure to read and I would definitely recommend it to young adults and adults alike.
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