Sick by Tom Leveen

Title: Sick
Author: Tom Leveen
Source: ARC from the Publisher
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Amazon | The Book Depository
Brian and his friends are not part of the cool crowd. They’re the misfits and the troublemakers—the ones who jump their high school’s fence to skip class regularly. So when a deadly virus breaks out, they’re the only ones with a chance of surviving.

The virus turns Brian’s classmates and teachers into bloodthirsty attackers who don’t die easily. The whole school goes on lockdown, but Brian and his best friend, Chad, are safe (and stuck) in the theater department—far from Brian’s sister, Kenzie, and his ex-girlfriend with a panic attack problem, Laura. Brian and Chad, along with some of the theater kids Brian had never given the time of day before, decide to find the girls and bring them to the safety of the theater. But it won’t be easy, and it will test everything they thought they knew about themselves and their classmates.

As happy as I am that I've started reading other sub-genres of YA again (it took a while, yes, but reading nothing but contemporaries did take its toll), I've been craving for something different. Something out of the box. Something not like any other YA book I've read. When I first chanced upon the blurb of Sick, I instantly knew that this was the book that I've been looking for... and make no mistake, I had to have it. (And that I did!) This is my first foray into reading YA zombie books, but, wow, Sick surely didn't disappoint. While I did have my fair share of misgivings with the novel, all in all, I ended up liking it a whole lot.

A lot of reviews of Sick I've seen voiced their displeasure on how Brian was fixated in saving only the people he knew, or more accurately, the people he wanted to save, as opposed to wanting to save the entire world. Honestly though, this aspect of the novel is as realistic as it may come. As horribly selfish as this may sound - if it were me in that zombie-infested school, I would prioritize saving myself and the people I loved. I would also try my damn hardest to save the others, sure - and that is what Brian did, make no mistake about it - but they wouldn't exactly be a priority. A bit callous, sure, but that's how I feel. Survival of the fittest, simply put. Sometimes, I'd rather read about someone I can actually relate to - someone who feels the same way I do - as opposed to reading about a hero who feels nothing but a caricature of a character.

One of my biggest qualms about Sick is that I feel that not enough attention and detail were given to the development of the characters. It's as if the growth of the characters was shunted in lieu of the rapid pace of the story, as well as the overall plot development. The blurb of this book referenced The Breakfast Club, and I expected something similar - I expected to read about different kids from different backgrounds with all sorts of different attitudes revealing who they truly are to each other. What I instead got was the main character's perception of who his peers were. See the difference? I think that it would have been much better if Sick was told in several perspectives as opposed to one.

However, make no mistake about it - I did  like the pacing of this novel. I liked how I was on the edge of my seat with every turn of a page. The fact that every chapter began with a time stamp really set the tone of the novel as well - one can't help but marvel how lives could permanently change at such a a short time! Furthermore, I liked how Leveen was able to adequately portray the helplessness - as well as the young age- of these teens who were suddenly thrust into this sordid mess. On the flipside, I was also impressed at how Leveen was able to showcase that maturity is not necessarily positively correlated with age. Brian and his friends truly amazed me with the calmness they showed in such adversity - I don't think I would have been able to think of a sound escape plan in the face of zombies!

I was a huge fan of the supporting characters and Brian's relationships with some of them as well. You rarely get YA novels exploring sibling dynamics, but this one did. Leveen successfully demonstrated just how much Brian loved his sister Kenzie - heck, Brian was pretty much safe and sound from the zombies and yet he decided to go ahead and risk his life to make sure that she was okay! I like how Brian and and Chad's friendship was depicted as well. With no hesitation whatsoever, Chad agreed to help out Brian find Kenzie.. at the possible expense of his own life! Moments wherein it was shown that only Brian could successfully calm down Chad were some of my favorite parts of the book as well.

I'm clearly in the minority when it comes to the ending, but I happen to think that Leveen did a great job with it? How else was it supposed to end - with all loose ends tied up in a pretty bow and a happily-ever-after? That simply isn't possible given the plot, and it wouldn't be realistic either. For what it's worth though - the last chapter is brilliantly written, and it honest to goodness stayed with me. Also, make no mistake about it - you do get your answers before you reach that final page. All in all, I enjoyed Sick and my introduction to the world of zombies. I recommend it to any YA book lovers out there who are in dire need of something fresh to read!

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Broken by CJ Lyons

Title: Broken
Author: CJ Lyons
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Source: Ecopy for Review
Amazon | The Book Depository
New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.


While I was reading the first few chapters, to be perfectly honest, I thought I knew what to expect from this novel. I even thought that the entire story was a little bit cliche - here we have your average, ordinary girl (except this one has a life-threatening disease) attending high school for the first time, makes both great friends and awful enemies on her first day alone, and finds herself smack in the middle of a love triangle. I was rolling my eyes good-naturedly, thinking that there was nothing special about this book other than how on point the MC's voice was. Heck, I was even mentally writing the first two paragraphs of my review after the first few pages or so!

So you can just imagine my shock when Broken went into completely uncharted territory and left me floundering and stuttering while reading its latter half. This book was NOT what I expected... AT ALL! (And once again, a book teaches me a lesson - sometimes, it's simply impossible to predict where a plot is going!) Gone are all the thoughts of Broken being the least bit cliche, because I'm pretty sure that I have yet to read a book even remotely similar to this one. So props to you, CJ Lyons - I can barely string a coherent interview together because your book blew my mind (in a good way)!

Okay, let me try to pull myself together...

I really liked Scarlet. Here you have a girl who's about to die (and she knows it), but she doesn't let that affect her disposition in life. She's being bullied left and right by her classmates who chose to label her a freak simply because of her disease, but she soldiers on and fights back against these people. Her sheer determination to actually live life as long as she can was just so refreshing to read through. Enough of those MCs who just hate absolutely everything and want to go sulk in a corner - here's someone who's actually fighting tooth and nail to live. Scarlet's voice is so raw, so gritty - with every word, you understand how she feels, even if she doesn't say it point blank. You get to know all her fears and all her dreams. Lyons did such an amazing job writing this character - by the end of the book, without a doubt, you know who Scarlet is.

The supporting characters made for an interesting read as well. Despite having their own problems, I love how Nessa, Celina, Jordan, Tony, and Scarlet herself helped each other out wholeheartedly. There was nothing of the 'my problem is worse than yours' scenario or anything like that. None of these characters felt sorry for themselves - instead, they chose to support each other with all their might. Oh, I'd also like to note that I couldn't be more wrong about the whole love triangle thing. Lyons went into a completely unexpected direction, and I really loved this book a lot more because of her doing so.

The story, the story... How do I even talk about it without spoiling anything? Initially, I pegged the novel as a contemporary read, but I was sorely mistaken. While Broken does indeed have aspects that fall under the contemporary genre, the second part of the novel dealt with Scarlet delving into the subtle holes of her medical history... and things got awry pretty fast, let me tell you.

All in all, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. All the characters were compelling; the MC had such an engaging voice; and do not get me started on the awesomeness that is the storyline. Suffice to say I'll definitely be on the lookout for CJ Lyons' books from now on!

Rating: 4 Stars