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Review: Sick

Author: Tom Leveen

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre(s): Horror - Zombies

Format: Paperback, Free uncorrected proof from RiffleYA!

Breakfast Club meets The Walking Dead as a group of unlikely allies tries to survive a deadly outbreak.

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.

My Thoughts: I wouldn’t call this a “zombie” book. They’re zombie-like but they’re not corpses that came back from the dead.

The synopsis on Goodreads, I feel, does a disservice to the book, mainly the “Breakfast Club meets The Walking Dead as a group of unlikely allies tries to survive a deadly outbreak."tidbit. I’m a fan of both The Walking Dead and Breakfast Club and both, I feel, are pretty hard standards to live up to. 

The Walking Dead is all about character development and does such an incredible job and has the luxury of taking place over months, letting the characters either prosper or spiral. Sick doesn’t have the luxury of that much time nor are there any profound differences in a number of the characters. There are some distinct transitions for the characters, namely Chad and Laura, but apart from that, I don’t think the few hours over which the story takes place allow enough time for significant developments. I can see the similarities in fighting off "zombies” though.

I made more connections to The Breakfast Club. The non-sick few that Brian’s stuck with are similar to The Breakfast Club because they’re a bunch of different kids from different groups thrown together. There aren’t any real clear stereotypes presented other than “the drama kids” in Sick but, through the characters actions, we get the idea that most of them aren’t friends. Much of what I appreciated most about this book though was the way the kids came together at the end. They didn’t pretend as though they were all best friends forever now, much like in The Breakfast Club, but they saw that they had more in common than they didn’t. Brian especially got to see sides of his peers that he didn’t know existed.

Admittedly, I had to wrestle with myself to finish this book. Not because I didn’t like it - once things started going insane, I had to finish - but because of the offensive things Chad said. I know people say things like that in real life because I’ve been right there during those moments, listening to the offensive things people say about/toward members of a different ethnic group/with a different skin color or different romantic interests, but it was equally hard to swallow while reading. This story takes place in Phoenix so it made me wonder if it’s a particularly prevalent issue there or if Leveen was making a point or if the remarks were there to serve as a character arc for Chad. Whatever it was, it was still hard to accept.

My favorite part of this entire book - other than beating up the “zombies” - was the idea behind their “illness.” People are infected in a stereotypical zombie-like fashion by being bitten but it’s more of an illness than anything else. There’s some actual science to it. Hating biology and all, I don’t know how likely it is that something like this could happen but I bought it. i bought whatever sickness Leveen was selling and went with it. The presentation of the “zombies” was strange but realistic given my familiarity with other aspects of it, such as what arthritis does to a person, which was what I enjoyed. I’m a big fan of new/different takes on the same old story and Sick was a novel that did that. Leveen took a pop culture idea and spun it into a story that was action-packed, a little romantic, and almost apocalyptic. 

Which brings me to my next point, my absolute favorite aspect of this story was that there was no solution. I’m a fan of endings that leave things to the imagination and don’t tie up loose ends and Sick did that. We’re left with the idea that there could be a cure for the illness but we’re also left unaware of the scale of the outbreak and what’s going to happen now that Phoenix seems to be overrun with these zombie-like people. 

Would I recommend this book?: Yes. It’s a quick, fun read.

BOARDING SCHOOL SHENANIGANS: Boarding schools come equipped with lack of supervision and lots of secrets. With so many teens in close proximity, there’s a lot of trouble one can get into at boarding school. Thus, they make the perfect setting for YA novels. Check out the other books on this Riffle list here: http://read.rifflebooks.com/list/share/29948

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