Positive

When most people hear ‘apocalyptic novel’ they think of a natural disaster such as global warming, drought, tsunamis or hurricanes, or even a man-made problem such as nuclear warfare, but they don’t leap first to a zombie apocalypse.

Positive by David Wellington takes what some would deem a supernatural or sci fi concept and makes it seem as likely as one of the more traditional apocalyptic events as those above. Particularly as the protagonist Finn hasn’t ever seen a zombie since he was born after the event from two parents who met in one of the many emergency shelters. Since Finn and his closest childhood friend have never even seen a zombie, and no one has reported any in years, they are distanced from the very idea of what that means. Not just distanced but even annoyed by the previous generation who display behaviors similar to the effects of PTSD that the post event generation doesn’t relate to.  The previous generations come off as paranoid and zone out at times when something reminds them of the horror. All Finn cares about is the simple life of his family, and doing his part to keep them fed with his fishing expeditions to the subways, which flooded years ago with no one to maintain them.

A discovery during one of the fishing expeditions leads to an life altering event as Finn discovers that there are things about zombieism that he never knew, including the idea that he might be harboring the virus that causes such a state in his own body. Well, he doesn’t believe it, but his community does and brand him a ‘Positive.’Finn is booted out to go live in a camp with other ‘Positives’ until two years have passed and he will be proven to be safe from zombiesm.  Not a great situation, but its made worse when his ride turns up dead and suddenly this sheltered boy is on his own.

However, he is not on his own for long as he meets an eccentric array of characters, some positive and some negative that will lead him on a journey across the country. I mean, what’s better than a good old-fashioned road trip adventure? A road trip with zombies. Yes, Finn quickly learns why the First Gen behave the way they do, yet it’s not just zombies that force him to grow up so quickly. In the world outside his community there are bandits, thieves, child molesters and questionable people galore. Yet, there are also those who live with honor in a world turned upside down. My favorite character is the female ex-patrolman who follows the strictest rules in a world where there are none anymore.  She reminds me of reading Shane in middle school.

Some of the action reminds me of Mad Maxx minus the desert, but with the vehicles, violence and the fall of women to property status. I like that the author David Wellington didn’t turn Finn into some kick ass fighter, or a torn soul tempted by violence. Each encounter and act on his part is a struggle, which is what makes him interesting in a world where it would be much easier to throw aside your scruples to simply survive. I guess that’s what Finn is all about, his goal isn’t to simply survive, he wants more.  He has a vision to rebuild the world, and right the wrongs, a decision that may cost him and the ones he loves everything. Because he narrates his own past in the book, we know he survived, but did he lose his purity and his vision for a different future? That’s what kept my interest throughout this YA book that had a maturity beyond its YA market.

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In The Country of Ice Cream Star

In The Country of Ice Cream Star author Sandra Newman has broken some rules. First, in her post-apocalyptic tale most of the American survivors are black or Hispanic. Second, Ms. Newman doesn’t just build a world, but she builds a new language. Third, the book is nearly 600 pages.

It’s interesting that Sandra Newman, who is Caucasian, decided to create a situation where the survivors were minorities. Was she trying to make a political statement? Did she use this as a device to turn our ideas about the world upside down, the same way an apocalyptic event would flip everything we thought to be true about our world?   Ideas such as we can fight any threat either technologically or militarily? That disaster will bring out the best in people? That the young and vulnerable would perish in greater numbers than adults with skills and experience?

Probably one of the reasons Ms. Newman made this choice is that it allowed her to write the book in a new language of her invention. Maybe ‘new’ is not completely accurate as I was able to read the book without ever being exposed to this language before, but it wasn’t the English that I know. Instead, this is a form of English that has evolved, and more specifically it evolved as a language of youth and from current African American vernacular.  The fact that the heroine of the book is named Ice Cream Star already sets you on the path of buying into this invented language. You see in Ice Cream Star’s country, the former USA, the adults were killed off by WAKS a disease that seems something similar to the Black Plague or modern day Ebola. The disease reminded me of the Black Plague because one of the symptoms that appear when kids reach their eighteenth birthday is sores referred to as ‘posies’. The song lyrics ‘ring around the rosey, pocket full of posey’ that children sing on playgrounds now actually is about the Black Death, the ‘rosey’ being the sores and the ‘posey’ being flowers that people sniffed to avoid breathing in the smell of decaying bodies. The respiratory issues of WAKS are somewhat Ebola-like.

Ice Cream Star doesn’t have a reason to worry about WAKS yet, as she is only fifteen, until her brother, the leader of her people, the Sengles, approaches his eighteenth birthday. Besides Ice has plenty of other things to occupy her mind as the Sengles are petty thieves who steal to supplement what they hunt. Also, she is mother-figure to many of the Sengles who range in age from babies and up. Considering everyone’s short life span it doesn’t seem like a stretch that she would have such responsibilities. Yet, in other ways Ice Cream Star is exactly like a fifteen year old when it comes to her emotions, which include some complicated feelings for boys in and outside her community. The Sengles are not the only band of survivors in Massa (the former Massachusetts), there is a religious sect called the Christings and the Armies, a violent misogynistic tribe. Yet, it’s among the latter that Ice Cream has a romantic entanglement. I think that was the most frustrating, but also the best part of the book due to the challenge it gives readers. How can Ice with her bravery, leadership qualities and compassion be involved with someone from a group that rapes girls? Even after nearly 600 pages I was still asking that question.

That’s the other rule Ms. Newman broke, the story length. Usually with post-apocalyptic books there is so much action and violence that writing a lengthy book would be like a roller coaster ride for an hour. It’s too much, there’s a reason that any rollercoaster in the world is a short ride albeit an intense one. Usually, if an author in this genre has an extended story to tell they simply end the book at 200-350 pages and continue the story in a sequel. Based on the length of this book I thought it was just a one book story, but I have confirmed that there will be a sequel. I have to hope it will be released soon as after getting use to the new language of the book, it’s cadence feels more natural than when I started, but if I have to wait very long for the sequel, I will have to relearn the language.

The New Order

While I can’t say I am a big M. Night Shyamalan fan overall, I did like his movie The Village for one strong reason, the idea that outside the village normal life was going on. It’s that idea that just outside a dystopian world or apocalyptic situation is a place where people are carrying on as normal that interests me. I mean, how many of us faced with either scenario just wish we could close our eyes and when we open them again everything would be alright, everything would be as it was?   That’s not to say our present world is perfect, far from it, but faced with darker alternatives we would take the bad with the good of our present times, right? If you can go from the horrific situation you are in back to some normalcy, what are the repercussions? Your innocence is gone after what you have endured, you view situations with more assessing and jaded eyes and how can you ever truly relax again when being on the defense is the way you survived when others didn’t.

If you haven’t read The New Order by Chris Weitz yet, you may want to visit this post after you have done so, otherwise you about to read a major spoiler.

The Young World left us with two quest members dead, See Through and Kath. Jefferson was nearly killed by the Old Man who injected him with the Sickness to see if the new Cure mixed up by him and Brainbox worked, which it did. So one would have expected that this next book would be the remaining team struggling their way back to Manhattan with the Cure and whether the teens of all tribes should be given it.

Instead, we are confronted with the reality that the Old Man was not the only adult left alive. Indeed, millions of adults and kids survived the sickness, they just happen to be living overseas. So why don’t the teens know any of this? Well the very people who can explain what’s happened to the world are the ones keeping the teens a secret from the rest of the world. Yes, there is a worry about the Sickness mutating, and yes, there has been a rebalance of the world order, but when it comes down to it those reasons are nothing in the face of the Lord of the Flies existence the kids have been living for years now. So when the Washington Square Park and Haarlem kids are put into isolation on a Navy ship and interrogated, they aren’t feeling like helping the adults much. In fact, when they are each contacted via a coded message from a rebel group within the adult military troops, all of them decide to side with the rebels, except Captain who at least keeps the secret. However, during the kids’ escape plan to head back to NYC, Donna is separated from the group and ends up in England instead.

That’s the part that fascinates me, how she goes from a hellhole of eating rats and trying not to get eaten by cannibals, to living in picturesque Cambridge as a university student. So while Jefferson and the gang have to go back into the violence knowing that there is another world out there, which is bad enough, I feel like Donna has the harder struggle. Yes, she is no longer fighting for her life, but she has to assimilate back into the world, keep the big secret and swallow the guilt she feels about living in the lap of luxury while god knows what is happening to the rest of them.

Yet that doesn’t excuse her behavior when it comes to so quickly replacing Jefferson when she is told that he was killed. It’s one thing to move on to another relationship, but to sleep with the other guy when she wouldn’t even sleep with Wash, let alone his little bro, just struck a weird note with me. Also, the fact that when she met Mr. Welsh, for all his civilized British ways, she knew he was just using her as much as the U.S. Navy had tried to. He was just doing it in a classier way, but yet she lets her guard down and that just didn’t make sense.

One thing I did prefer in this book was that instead of only alternating narrators between Donna and Jefferson, that the author let a few of the other characters have a turn. Peter’s turn made me chuckle with his “It’s like this. I’m not a sidekick, I just play one in life” line and his social commentary on being a gay black kid. I wish he had gotten more than two chapters as a narrator. The fact that Kath, yes, that Kath, the one who was supposed to be dead got a turn blew me away as I typically see a plot twist coming a mile off and I was blown off my feet by it. The most interesting narration though was Brainbox’s even though his were the shortest. Diving deep into the mind of a genius is a wild ride and I found the way he spoke in his head to be very James Joyce stream of consciousness. It was great, but also a little hard to follow, which may explain why his chapters were shorter than everyone else’s and how his thoughts moved and the detachment in them was a little spooky.   It was a little strange that Mr. Weitz didn’t make the switch to these other narrators until near the ending of this second book, if I had a chance to interview him that is something I would definitely ask about.

I did like that The New Order ended with three different sets of actions and perspectives converging….our uncertainty whether Brainbox will live and if he does will he help save the world or end it, Jefferson realizing that instead of guiding the teens to a new world that he may have to force them into it, and Donna swinging back into the action for a hell of a lot of vengeance and may prove to be just as much of a wild card as Brainbox. We shall see.

The New Order

While I can’t say I am a big M. Night Shyamalan fan overall, I did like his movie The Village for one strong reason, the idea that outside the village normal life was going on. It’s that idea that just outside a dystopian world or apocalyptic situation is a place where people are carrying on as normal that interests me. I mean, how many of us faced with either scenario just wish we could close our eyes and when we open them again everything would be alright, everything would be as it was?   That’s not to say our present world is perfect, far from it, but faced with darker alternatives we would take the bad with the good of our present times, right? The New Order by Chris Weitz explores this conundrum.  If you can go from the horrific situation you are in back to some normalcy, what are the repercussions? Your innocence is gone after what you have endured, you view situations with more assessing and jaded eyes and how can you ever truly relax again when being on the defense is the way you survived when others didn’t.

If you haven’t read The New Order by Chris Weitz yet, you may want to visit this post after you have done so, otherwise you about to read a major spoiler.

The Young World left us with two quest members dead, See Through and Kath. Jefferson was nearly killed by the Old Man who injected him with the Sickness to see if the new Cure mixed up by him and Brainbox worked, which it did. So one would have expected that this next book would be the remaining team struggling their way back to Manhattan with the Cure and whether the teens of all tribes should be given it.

Instead, we are confronted with the reality that the Old Man was not the only adult left alive. Indeed, millions of adults and kids survived the sickness, they just happen to be living overseas. So why don’t the teens know any of this? Well the very people who can explain what’s happened to the world are the ones keeping the teens a secret from the rest of the world. Yes, there is a worry about the Sickness mutating, and yes, there has been a rebalance of the world order, but when it comes down to it those reasons are nothing in the face of the Lord of the Flies existence the kids have been living for years now. So when the Washington Square Park and Haarlem kids are put into isolation on a Navy ship and interrogated, they aren’t feeling like helping the adults much. In fact, when they are each contacted via a coded message from a rebel group within the adult military troops, all of them decide to side with the rebels, except Captain who at least keeps the secret. However, during the kids’ escape plan to head back to NYC, Donna is separated from the group and ends up in England instead.

That’s the part that fascinates me, how she goes from a hellhole of eating rats and trying not to get eaten by cannibals, to living in picturesque Cambridge as a university student. So while Jefferson and the gang have to go back into the violence knowing that there is another world out there, which is bad enough, I feel like Donna has the harder struggle. Yes, she is no longer fighting for her life, but she has to assimilate back into the world, keep the big secret and swallow the guilt she feels about living in the lap of luxury while god knows what is happening to the rest of them.

Yet that doesn’t excuse her behavior when it comes to so quickly replacing Jefferson when she is told that he was killed. It’s one thing to move on to another relationship, but to sleep with the other guy when she wouldn’t even sleep with Wash, let alone his little bro, just struck a weird note with me. Also, the fact that when she met Mr. Welsh, for all his civilized British ways, she knew he was just using her as much as the U.S. Navy had tried to. He was just doing it in a classier way, but yet she lets her guard down and that just didn’t make sense.

One thing I did prefer in this book was that instead of only alternating narrators between Donna and Jefferson, that the author let a few of the other characters have a turn. Peter’s turn made me chuckle with his “It’s like this. I’m not a sidekick, I just play one in life” line and his social commentary on being a gay black kid. I wish he had gotten more than two chapters as a narrator. The fact that Kath, yes, that Kath, the one who was supposed to be dead got a turn blew me away as I typically see a plot twist coming a mile off and I was blown off my feet by it. The most interesting narration though was Brainbox’s even though his were the shortest. Diving deep into the mind of a genius is a wild ride and I found the way he spoke in his head to be very James Joyce stream of consciousness. It was great, but also a little hard to follow, which may explain why his chapters were shorter than everyone else’s and how his thoughts moved and the detachment in them was a little spooky.   It was a little strange that Mr. Weitz didn’t make the switch to these other narrators until near the ending of this second book, if I had a chance to interview him that is something I would definitely ask about.

I did like that The New Order ended with three different sets of actions and perspectives converging….our uncertainty whether Brainbox will live and if he does will he help save the world or end it, Jefferson realizing that instead of guiding the teens to a new world that he may have to force them into it, and Donna swinging back into the action for a hell of a lot of vengeance and may prove to be just as much of a wild card as Brainbox. We shall see.

The Young World

What, you think that just because the world ended there’s no longer racism, slut shaming, or even fashion? Well, welcome to the Sassy Apocalypse! This irreverent view of a post-apocalyptic world was what has been missing from this genre. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the earnest self-sacrificing young heroes and heroines in books such as Divergent and The Ashes trilogy, but as a superfan of Veronica Mars and Buffy, this book showed me you can survive the apocalypse with a wicked sense of humor intact. Turns out that may be more of an advantage than any weapons or survivalist training when it comes to how one manages the life you are handed when the world falls apart.

Of course it helps that the author, Mr. Weitz, has a home court advantage over other authors with his background as a writer and director of films such as Antz, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and About a Boy. I mean the guy kind of already knows his way around building a narrative and sequencing action to maximum effect or his movies wouldn’t sell so many tickets. It strikes me as wonderfully subversive that the guy is reverse-engineering the current trend of writing a YA apocalyptic or dystopian novel and then selling it to Hollywood to be made into a film. The guy makes films, but chose to tell this story in book form — well at least for now. What I would not have expected from a ‘Hollywood guy’ is the skewering social commentary provided by the two main characters, Jefferson and Donna. In addition to racism and slut shaming, there is also ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­class warfare and religion as expressed mostly through Jefferson’s observations who is a co-narrator of the book along with Donna.   Donna is more responsible for the wealth of pop culture references liberally sprinkled in every chapter. By telling the same story through two very different character’s points of view it creates many layers of perspective.

The story takes place in New York City, one of the best locations for an end-of-the-world story with skyscrapers layered over the teen Lord of the Flies dynamic instead of a remote island. All the adults in the world have died of some kind of sickness leaving teens on their own in a kind of messed up Charlie Brown reality. While the pair of narrators have very different views they team up with some other members of their local tribe to save the world and in the process give us a bit of heroic Lord of the Rings type quest mixed with touches of The Breakfast Club in which each member of the mission represents a different teen archetype.

I believe that Jefferson is the alter ego of Chris Weitz who has a degree from Cambridge. There are several scenes where Jefferson visits his old favorite haunts such as the New Library, Museum and Zoo and appreciating how they have endured amid the backdrop of violence. He is the thinking man’s hero rather than a man of action leaving that in Donna’s feminist hands. He actually sees what has happened as an opportunity to rebuild a better world than the one which was destroyed, “Typical Jefferson. While he’s working on restoring civilization, everybody else is figuring out new ways to cook rat.”

Donna mourns the world of Before even though she knows it contained a lot of silly fluff, but hey we all have our own guilty pleasures when you think about it. She still reads People magazine and takes note of post-apocalyptic fashion, “I walk past the kids in the firing line. And I notice that even when the world has gone to hell, people still have a sense of fashion. The looting opportunities in our particular neck of the woods have made for some pretty electic looks. Prada overcoats with military insignias, peasant dresses cinched with ammo belts.” I am sure some will complain about the attention to pop culture she brings to the story with references to Kindles, Resident Evil, YouTube, Walmart, texting, Harajuku and Game of Thrones just to name a few, but I loved it.  It IS the world we live in, and as silly as some of it is, it’s what results when you don’t have to spend every minute you have just staying alive.

I don’t know about you, but if the apocalypse were to happen I want to hang with those who either inspire me, like Jefferson, or someone like Donna who can still make me snort with laughter even in the worst of times.

A Matter of Days

The expression ‘Old School’ was originally used as a derogatory description, though the term has evolved as retro became cool. I would describe A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer as Old School, Old School meant with a positive connotation. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to this story; it’s just a simple tale of family love amidst the dark days following an apocalyptic event. It’s not a book that’s likely to be optioned for a movie….there’s not much of a hot romance, nor are there a lot of scenes that lend themselves to special effects, stuntwork, etc. and in my book there’s nothing wrong with that.

Even the apocalyptic event was not triggered by some malevolent superpower, instead it’s a result of an accident, an accident that nevertheless has a devastating impact. Nadia, the daughter of a military man has an advantage when it comes to surviving this changed world, her father taught her to, “be the cockroach” in other words – adapt and survive. Her Dad didn’t just try to teach his daughter practical skills, he would take her little brother Rabbit out on camping trips to give hands on practice. She didn’t learn as much from her Mom, despite the fact that her mother is a nurse because Nadia’s mother hated her husband’s military career which took him too often away from the family and put him in dangerous places, until eventually he is killed in one.

Her father’s death forced Nadia to grow up quickly as her mom was frozen in grief after her father’s death, though there is another father figure in her life, her mysterious Uncle Bean. However, Bean isn’t around when the apocalyptic event happens leaving Nadia in charge of keeping her promise to her Dad and Bean to get her brother to their grandfather’s home, a long trek from Seattle to West Virginia. On a daily basis she has to employ everything she ever learned from her Dad to keep herself and her brother from starving, from being robbed and worse from survivors who didn’t become better people as a result of the situation. That’s what I enjoyed most about this book was that there were some educational aspects wrapped inside entertainment. Things like what kind of supplies should be packed if you need to travel across a now dangerous world, how to siphon gas from abandoned cars to keep moving, basic first aid techniques, etc. Maybe I particularly appreciate it as I consider myself a city girl. I have never been the outdoorsy type who likes to camp or hunt. I also am completely lacking in mechanical ability, in a world where you can’t take something to be repaired, you better figure it out. I have had discussions with friends about how useless our modern ‘skills’ would be in an apocalyptic world….so much for tech skills if there’s no power for computers, social media and marketing – useless, really how many of us would be as well-equipped as 16-year old Nadia?

Quarantine: The Saints

Quarantine: The Saints, is the second book in the Quarantine series.  Something that intrigues me about this series is that it is written by two authors!  Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies use the combined pen name of Lex Thomas.  I would love to hear about their process and how they make this work so well.  When I read the series I forget it’s written by two people as it’s seamless.  It doesn’t seem that they alternate chapters as the voice is true throughout. The fact that they live on opposite ends of the country is also fascinating to me.  I have always thought of fiction writing as a very solitary pursuit and unique to one person’s vision, but these guys prove me wrong.

The series is like The Breakfast Club meets Lord of the Flies and continues the story of the kids trapped in McKinley High as they carry a virus that is deadly to all adults.  Will’s older brother David, the hero of the first book in the series, has ‘graduated’, meaning that he has reached an age where he is no longer contagious to adults, but instead of being allowed out, he had to escape because of the events in the first story.   Epileptic Will is left to carry on his brother’s legacy with the Loners, one of the school’s many gangs who were just misfits until brought together by David.  Also still left in the school is Lucy, who had become David’s girlfriend briefly before his departure, but Will is desperately in love with her. 

A new group of kids from a private high school breaks into the school and is helping the McKinley students before a truck comes crashing through the exit blocking everyone’s escape, including the new kids who will be tagged The Saints by other gangs.  However, most of Will and Lucy’s group, the Loners, made it out before the crash, so with the numbers down to 10% they and the rest of the group have to make tough decisions about how they will survive the brutal life inside the school.   However, at least they won’t starve anymore, as they were on the verge of doing when the military stopped the food drops, as now some parents have arrived to continue the food drops, though they are not able to let the kids out because of the deadly nature of the contagion and the fact that the military would shoot any kids they find outside.   The reduction of their gang is not the only hazard they must face, the leader of the Varsity gang, Sam, still wants to murder Will, and he has killed before, yet he might not be the only psychopath running amok in the school.   How Will and Lucy navigate these changes makes for a very gripping and sometimes violent adventure.    As each book has ended with a real cliff hanger, I am impatiently waiting for this author duo to finish writing book 3.

Quarantine – Graduate….or Die Trying

Lord of the Flies is such a seminal book that most people were assigned to read it at some point in school.  That book seemed so chocking, but it shouldn’t be.  The veneer of civilization is thin.   We like to pretend that we human have evolved and would maintain our ethics and sense o fair play in any situations, but how long would any of our polish and manners last given the worst of circumstances?  The novel Quarantine by Lex Thomas updates that question.  You don’t have to be stranded on a remote island to get in touch with your baser nature, as David, the main character quickly finds out.

David is the quintessential All-American boy.  A member of his high school football team, actually the star quarterback?  Until the death of his mother he has been dating Hilary, who is what else?  A cheerleader.  He seems to have the perfect teen life until his mother’s accident that triggers a series of events including his girlfriend cheating on him with his teammate Sam, who David punches in a jealous fit, the ripples of that moment carry throughout the book  When David arrives at the high school for his senior year and his little brother’s freshman year, he was already expecting trouble.  What he was not prepared for was the bombing on part of the school, watching his teachers all die because of a disease the teens have been exposed to making them lethal to all adults.  Quarantined by the government into what is left standing of the high school,, without adult supervision and traumatized and near starving, the teens inside quickly devolve into violence.  Almost amusing is the fact that like any high schools with cliques, the teens organize themselves into gangs, though only the Nerds and Varsity are recognizable as similar to a normal high school click, the Freaks, Loners, Sluts, etc. are much more sinister than normal high school cliques.  Like any teen group, each dresses to represent their affiliation, but in this case attire is meant to intimidate and even cause bodily harm as items taken from the school like spikes and nails are integrated into outfits.

Sam, David’s nemesis from the team, leads Varsity who due to their athleticism are able to scoop up the majority of food and supplies from the government’s drops, the rest of the groups have to hustle to gather enough to survive.  Unlike the Lord of the Flies, the fact that this is a co-ed high school does add another dimension.  Without adult supervision, without knowing if they have a future, and without having much to do, obviously sex is prevalent and for some of the girls it’s a form of currency of survival, particularly The Pretty Ones who all date Varsity and are led by David’s ex Hilary.  For some of the female population of the school, the threat of rape is very real.  That’s how Lucy enters David’s life.  David who had become persona non grata with Varsity even before the quarantine, life has been difficult.  He takes care of his epileptic brother and supports them by hiding in an elevator shaft and washing clothes to earn food and things to trade.  The government has communicated to the students that the seniors at the school will be released once they have ‘graduated’ meaning the disease has left their body.  A booth has been set up to take an automatic blood sample and if the results are clear, the door to the outside will open.  David worries what will happen to his brother when he leaves. 

One day David sees Lucy sprinting to a booth, not to  ‘graduate’ but to hide from an attacker and instead of staying under the radar, David instinctively tries to help and ends up accidentally killing a member of Varsity making him a marked man.  Seen as a heroic figure by a group of high school misfits, he is recruited into becoming the leader of a new gang, the Loners, a role that causes friction with his brother, as does the growing attraction between David and Lucy who it turns out has been the girl Will has always had a secret crush on. 

High school even without a life or death lockdown can already be brutal for many teens.  The recipe of teen immaturity, quest for identify, hormones, and rebellion is a dangerous recipe.  How many readers of this book think they would have been able to take the high ground as David tries to or think they would become a Sam?  How many adult readers with teens of their own wonder about how their own child would handle such a situation?