Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Published: January 15, 2019
Publisher: Random House
Where I picked up my book: Free book from publisher (THANK YOU!!)
Key Words: Science Fiction, Love, Crisis, Illness
My Rating: 3.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.
Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?
From the first chapter, I was completely pulled into the story. Actually, from the description, I was enamored and couldn’t wait to dig in. There is something about a city-wide crisis situation (be in a disease, epidemic, natural disaster, etc.) that completely sucks me in. Now, don’t ask me WHY I like these sorts of novels. I’m terrified of major storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and any major weather-related crisis. And I couldn’t live in California for more than a year due to earthquake panic. Plus, I’m a bit of a germ-a-phobe. So…I guess it’s one of those cases where I like to read about it, but if it were a real-life situation…I’d probably be curled up in a fetal position somewhere waiting the thing out. Anyways…I digress. This book checked that box for me and I was ecstatic to receive an advanced copy from Random House and get reading. Plus, I loved Age of Miracles, so I was doubly pumped and it didn’t disappoint.
First, Walker’s writing is fantastic! I’m starting to learn that I LOVE third person narratives. I often find myself thinking, “Oh…I loved that movie” when in fact, there isn’t even a movie made, I just visualize third person narrative so well in my head. Walker’s writing is concise, visual, descriptive (without being overly descriptive) and pulls you along quickly throughout the chapters.
Second, it was a good look into how a crisis is handled in a small town. I found myself feeling furious with the way the government and city were handling the situation. I don’t want to give anything away, but I just kept envisioning myself being in a town where a major crisis is happening, or myself being one of the people outside of the town, and I would expect there to be world-wide camaraderie to get to the bottom of the problem and find a solution. That wasn’t necessarily happening and it was making me furious. And I don’t think that it was the narration that was off. I think it’s a possible way to handle a crisis where people don’t know what to do. Is that a larger-picture problem in our society? Maybe so. That’s at least something I kept wondering about.
Third, I kept thinking that it read a bit like YA, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are different expectations for YA than adult fiction and that kept coming up for me during this book. I was in a buddy-read and people kept questioning why it happened, and aggravated that the author didn’t give us more explanations or reasons. I definitely heard their frustration, but in my head, it just read more similar to a YA novel. Young adult books, oftentimes, don’t need full explanations or reasons-they just exists for the readers to get sucked into the plot and to enjoy the story for what it is. That’s exactly what this book did for me. Plus, I sort of like unanswered questions in books. It leaves me to figure out what happened and it creates a perfect book to talk about with someone else!
My only caveat was that the middle of the book dragged a touch for me and then the ending seemed slightly abrupt, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. If you’re into slightly magical, infection-related city wide epidemic books with fantastic writing, pick this one up! You won’t be disappointed!