Author: Megan Crewe
Genre: Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: February 2013
Hardcover: 288 Pages
First, the virus took Kaelyn’s friends. Then, her family. Now it’s taken away her home.
But she can’t look back—the life she once had is gone forever.
A deadly virus has destroyed Kaelyn’s small island community and spread beyond the quarantine. No one is safe. But when Kaelyn finds samples of a vaccine in her father’s abandoned lab, she knows there must be someone, somewhere, who can replicate it. As Kaelyn and her friends head to the mainland, they encounter a world beyond recognition. It’s not only the “friendly flu” that’s a killer—there are people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the vaccine. How much will Kaelyn risk for an unproven cure, when the search could either destroy those she loves or save the human race?
Megan Crewe’s second volume in the Fallen World trilogy is an action-packed journey that explores the resilience of friendship, the ache of lost love, and Kaelyn’s enduring hope in the face of the sacrifices she must make to stay alive.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Fallen World Trilogy
How did I get this book: e-ARC from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): e-ARC (via NetGalley)
Why did I read this book: I thoroughly enjoyed The Way We Fall, the first book in the Fallen World trilogy, and was keen to try book 2.
When the deadly “Friendly Flu” sweeps through Kaelyn’s island home, the Canadian government immediately quarantines the isolated location, hoping to staunch the spread of the virus. On the island, things have been bad – Kaelyn has seen the death of many neighbors to the virus (she’s barely survived the flu’s effects herself) and her parents have succumbed not only to the virus but to the ensuing chaos on the island. After her microbiologist father’s death, Kaelyn finds his secret work – a vaccine that could be the key to inoculating the human population against the virus. Armed with six vials of the test serum, Kaelyn decides to strike out to the mainland to seek help from any one that might be able to replicate her father’s work… only to discover that the rest of the world is just as obliterated by the Friendly Flu’s reach. With her friends, Kaelyn starts the long trek to Ottawa to find a scientist or government official that might be able to help – but as they travel further inland, the news of the vaccine spreads, and other groups will stop at nothing to claim it for their own.
The Lives We Lost is the second book in Megan Crewe’s Fallen World trilogy, picking up almost immediately where The Way We Fall left off. Unlike the first book in the series, The Lives We Lost moves the book from the island and onto the mainland, and for the first time we really see just how far the Friendly Flu has propagated. Like Kaelyn and her friends, we are shocked and frightened at the scope of this epidemic (which is on the scale of the medieval bubonic plague – huge swaths of the population infected and dead, with no cure in sight). While the change of scenery means more action and higher stakes, unfortunately, The Lives We Lost is very much a middle book and doesn’t quite live up to its promise, or to its predecessor. It’s a fine book, and a very readable book – but for all the chase scenes across a wintry, devastated Canadian landscape ravaged by so much death…it’s actually a placeholder that bridges the insular first novel with all the actual meat of the story that (presumably) will happen in the final book.
But first, the good. The Lives We Lost shows some great growth in character arcs and introduces a ton of new information about the world beyond the insular confines of Kaelyn’s home island. In The Way We Fall, Kaelyn is an innocent, sheltered teenager that lives a quiet life in a quiet place with a good family and close friends. Very quickly, this idyllic lifestyle is irreversibly distorted when the virus claims her neighbors, her friends, her parents – even infecting Kaelyn, along the way. After these struggles, after the pain and loss, Kaelyn finds a new reason to hope in The Lives We Lost and goes on a daring (possibly suicidal) mission to the mainland to find help, in hopes of saving the world. She has to come to grips with her own decisions as the choices that she makes placing others – including her young cousin Meredith, best friend Leo, boyfriend Gavin, and an assortment of new characters – at great risk, and I appreciate this growth and acceptance of the leadership position in this book. Kaelyn is also placed in some morally compromising situations, including the decisions to kill or not to kill, to leave someone behind or to continue pushing on together. The choices she makes might surprise you (they certainly, refreshingly, surprised me). I also appreciated the scope of this second book and the realization that the world has gone to hell, very quickly – while it might be a bit too fast and too much (would society truly have crumbled so quickly and so completely?), I’m a sucker for a total apocalypse, and The Lives We Lost certainly fits the bill.
On the negative side, however, The Lives We Lost has some questionable decisions and shortcomings. In terms of writing, the style of the novel shifts significantly from the first book, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing. While it’s probably not realistic to tell this second story in the epistolary style of The Way We Fall, I feel like we lose that sense of intimacy with Kaelyn, that deep connection with her character and that sense of claustrophobia, so integral to the first book. In this first person point of view second book, we are privy to Kaelyn’s thoughts and fears, but it’s an odd choice considering the distinct letter/journal entry style of the first novel.
But beyond stylistic preference, more significantly, there is no getting around the fact that this is a novel suffering from serious middle book syndrome – essentially, the entire novel is a (slow-ish) chase across Canada. Kaelyn and her friends trek to big cities to look for help in probably the most roundabout, disingenuous ways possible, but they are in over their heads and I guess that makes sense. And for all that driving and hiking and hiding and death, nothing really happens in this book. Not much is accomplished in the way of overall storyarc, except that Kaelyn and her friends now have an urgent need to find help before they are caught by some predictably one-note Bad People that want the vaccine for their own nefarious purposes (think…the TV show Revolution or The Walking Dead and the one-note villainous antagonists in power).
There are other things that niggled – there’s a Love Triangle (quadrangle?) of Doom that rears its ugly head (in the form of Leo, Kae and Gavin – and Tess). There are quite a few convenient outs for Kaelyn and crew – they find a group of benevolent folks that are happy to take in and offer aid and succor to Kae and her friends, the group is conveniently saved from a whiteout blizzard by a miracle barn in the middle of nowhere (fully stocked with firewood and a truck with gasoline, naturally), and so on and so forth.
These things said, The Lives We Lost is a fine book. It sets the stage for big things to come in book 3, and I’ll be around to check it out.
Notable Quotes/Parts: No excerpt for book 2, but if you want to read a section of The Way We Fall, an excerpt is up online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: We are thrilled to have Megan Crewe over today to answer a few questions about The Lives We Lost. Make sure to go forth and check it out for a chance to win a copy of the book!
Rating: 6 – Good, recommended with reservations
Reading Next: The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman
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