Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Title: Viral Nation
Author: Shaunta Grimes

Genre: YA Dystopian Fiction
Publisher: Berkley Trade

Length: 320 pages
Original Publishing Date: July 2nd, 2013
Series: Viral Nation #1
Where I got it: NetGalley

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.

Main characters: 4.5/5

I don't really know where to start about Clover's character. I think I'll start off by saying that I've never read a book in which the main character has autism, and I don't have a lot of experience with autism. That being said, I appreciated the fact that the book wasn't about the fact that Clover had autism; it was just something about Clover that made her unique. Clover dislikes crowds and being touched, and she can be blunt when she speaks, but what I found really intriguing were the passages where Grimes outlines what's happening in Clover's head. I could relate with Clover over so many things: the way she had a million thoughts in her mind, the overwhelmed feeling that she gets around crowds, and yet the way her mind worked was fascinating to me, especially the ways that Grimes described it.
West's voice was less distinct that Clover's, if only because his main concern was keeping her safe. Grimes switches points of view between Clover and West but West felt significantly less important. Clover's voice was really the defining aspect of this novel.

Secondary characters: 3.5/5

Jude was a fabulously crafted secondary character. He held the perfect balance of sweet and hardened but I wish that I knew more about his background because at times he seemed a little underdeveloped.
I was so excited for Bridget's character at the beginning of the novel, but she fizzled out for me. I thought her interactions with West were initially so fiery and forward, and then she turned into a swoooning, crying mess.
What is it with books and GREAT secondary dog characters lately? Mango the bulldog was a fantastic addition and I loved his connection with Clover.

Writing style: 4.5/5

I'll try not to make this too fan-girly, but I LOVED the writing style of Viral Nation. First, the prologue was impeccable. It created so much tension and laid down the perfect backstory for the rest of the novel. Next, can I just say how much I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter? They're quotes from former presidents that pertain to that chapter. Some are serious, others are funny, some have wisdom that come into play for that chapter. It was perfect. Another point about the writing style was that it held the perfect balance of description and action, and the descriptions were gorgeous. The way that Grimes explained how Clover's mind worked was powerful, vivid and truly beautiful. The dialogue was realistic, the action was heart-pounding and the description was flawless. The only fault I can find is that the pacing slowed down a little bit too much in the second half of the novel.

Plot: 4/5
The premise for the dystopian world was well thought out in the prologue and the worldbuilding was for the most part impeccably done. The minor details included added a realism to the world and it wasn't so out-there that it seemed completely unbelievable. The time-travel aspect was rather unique for YA dystopian fiction as well. One of the flaws was the logic behind some of the dystopian characteristics. The decision on the governments part to wall off the cities after finding the cure made zero sense to me and I didn't understand why the citizens would be fine with it either. The mystery/conflict took a while to kick in, but I was okay with how long it took to get there because I was so entranced with learning more about this new world, and when the first inkling of mystery entered, I was hooked! The second half of the novel held less excitement and action than the first, so some of it felt anticlimactic, and that's my one big negative on the plot.

Ending: 3.5/5

I was pleasantly surprised with the ending of Viral Nation. I loved the epilogue because it provided just the smallest teaser of what was to come in the upcoming series. The things I didn't like were that it seemed like the end was just a big prep for future conflict to come (the characters were actually prepping) and then the book just ended. This goes hand in hand with the lack of major conflict in the second half of the book: there was no climax really.

Best scene: Clover re-meeting Jude on her first mission

Reminded Me Of: Minority Report

Clover (everything about her- except her name), the writing of Shaunta Grimes, the unique aspects of the plot and combination of a couple different dystopian/apocalyptic tropes into something new, the snuggliness of Jude

Negatives: Less developed minor characters, lack of action and conflict in the second half,

Cover: I really like the gritty look of it and I love that they included Clover and Mango on the cover. I do feel like it has too much of a post-apocalyptic feel, when the story was more dystopian.

Verdict: An engrossing dystopian novel with a unique and distinctive main character voice that combines old tropes into something new.

Rating: 8.0/10 (5 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

What I Was Listening To: This music has no connection to the book (that I can discern), but this is what I was listening to while reading Viral Nation. It's by DJBV, a female DJ from UConn who is actually a member of my sorority. She's pretty good, so check her out. Warning though, this song contains explicit language. 


  1. Agh I've been wanting to read this for ages, and you've really made me want to read it EVEN MORE.

    1. It was pretty fantastic! I'm a little disappointed that I haven't seen it more publicized in bookstores and other places.

  2. I really like the original use of an autistic MC. I can't wait to see how that works out. Yeay for awesome prologues :)! I love the sound of the plot; books about viruses always make me excited. Great review and I'm a new follower.