It may seem like a bad idea to read a book about a bio-chemical weapon that exhibits like a flu and prompts mass panic during an actual pandemic, but that’s what I did and it was a kind of interesting study in how reality and fiction can blur sometimes. In Myers novel, a bio-chemical is released in a small town, which appears to be done on purpose for "research". When these strange flu-like symptoms prompt the schools to close early, it sparks our main character’s father, who works at the lab that seems to be responsible, to flee with his teenage son and their next door neighbor and his teenage niece. The rest of the novel occurs over the course of 3 to 4 days as the group races from the quarantined zone—now without cell service and a military presence—to get to the family cabin and potential safety. This is an incredibly fast paced young adult, action romance with a unique twist on the “zombie” genre.
The main focus of the book is on Max and Skylar and their awkward teenage love/hate relationship. How they better start to understand one another, help each other survive, and ultimately realize that their strong feelings aren’t really as disdainful as they maybe want. The romance moves fast considering the book takes place over the course of less than a week, and while the book and story move quickly, it honestly feels like Max and Sky are with each other longer than those 4 days, so the romance didn’t feel as forced as sometimes the love to hate trope can kind of feel. Sure, occasionally we get a perspective chapter in the book that isn’t Max or Skylar, but this is still very much their story, even with the deranged humans chasing them, and being caught up in something that no one seems to understand. Because if Keith, Max's dad, actually does know what’s going on and why, he doesn’t share many of the details with the kids, or the readers.
I think that was my only real issue with the book was that this felt like a first chapter in what should be a longer book, and will be with the sequels. But very little is explained and while major exciting things get set up, nothing really gets resolved, either. And then the book ends on a cliff hanger! Which is both good and bad. Bad because I wanted more, but good because it definitely makes me want to continue with the series. The adults also felt like teenagers themselves. I get Keith wants to keep things light, but both he and Skylar’s uncle came off as more juvenile and not in charge of the situation to protect these kids, let alone anything else. I will say that if you aren’t a fan of teenage romance with a side of zombie-like baddies and scenarios, you may not enjoy this a ton, so be aware going in.
All in all, this was a fun read and a great debut novel! Myers has crafted a series that is fast paced with enough unique twists to make a genre that can feel over done feel new and interesting again. The stakes are very personal for these characters, starting small but with great potential to grow beyond the small town where everything started. There’s a lot of potential growth that these teenage characters have in store for them, and I am excited to get more answers to what’s happening in the next book! But I did wish for more answers here, and expected more of the adults involved, so this is a 3.5 star for me. But if you enjoy YA romance with dystopian flavors, give “The Deranged” a chance!
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