Thursday, 10 October 2013

What I've Been Reading :: 'The Farm' by Emily McKay

Lily and her autistic twin sister, Mel are one of the many residents of The Farm, one of several teenage quarantine camps set up to keep America's teens safe from the Ticks, genetically modified monsters that roam the country, devouring anyone who gets in their way. But the Farms aren't the benign places the government would like you to believe. They are blood farms, places were teens are farmed for their hormone plentiful blood, a favourite of the Ticks.

All Lily can think about is getting out of the Farm, getting her sister to safety. She's spent the six months she's been in the Farm making sure that nothing bad happens to Mel but as their eighteenth birthday draws ever closer and their fate hangs in the balance, Lily begins making plans to escape, gathering necessary supplies and finalizing the plans to escape the electric fence and make it to the Canadian border, and hopefully, safety.

But she wasn't counting on a ghost from the past getting in her way. Carter, an old friend from High School who she hasn't seen since the outbreak, arrives at the Farm just days before they are due to escape. But why is he here? Where has he been? And in the back-stabbing environment of the Farm, where anybody would sell out their friends to save their own life, can Lily even trust Carter? But when he offers to help her and her sister get out of the Farm safely, how can she refuse? 

And so begins a fight for survival in the American wasteland beyond the walls of the farm. 

This was a great read. I wasn't sure what to expect to be honest. I remember seeing the cover of this book in the new releases section of Waterstones and being drawn to it. Then, while browsing in the library a couple of weeks ago, the cover jumped out at me again and I couldn't resist. I'll admit I have a slight obsession with Dystopia and Apocalyptic novels at the moment. And that's one of the things that drew me to this book. On the other hand, while I love Vampire fiction, since the whole Twilight Saga fiasco, I'm a little reluctant to read YA fiction with vampiric elements. But this looked to good to pass up and I decided to at least give it a go. And I'm glad I did.

For one, the Ticks in this novel aren't so much Vampires as a genetic anomaly barely even related to the idea of vampires. These are blood sucking monsters with tiny brains and no remnant of humanity. They reminded me a little of the creatures from The Passage by Justin Cronin (which is also a great book by the way). Yeah, there is a Vampire in this novel: a two thousand year old bloodsucker battling to save humanity. And he's actually pretty cool. And guess what? He doesn't sparkle in the sun.

The characterisation in this novel is brilliant. The story is told from three perspectives: Lily, Mel and Carter. Lily's voice is the main source of narration and we really get to know her throughout the course of the novel. Emily McKay has done a great job of letting us inside her mind and she's probably one of the most convincing YA voices I've read. Using Mel as a narrator was a brave move and one that I admire. Getting inside the head of someone suffering with autism is hard. I actually have a friend with Asperger's and she talks often about her communication difficulties and inability to understand body language and verbal clues. I think Mel was really well written and the chapters told from her perspective were really insightful.

Carter was a surprisingly interesting character as well. I don't normally like the whole big strong boy comes to rescue the damsel in distress plot but this felt different. Carter is a compelling character. He's been through a lot, he really cares about Lily and Mel and I think he has a lot more to give. I'm interested to see where his character ends up in the sequel. 

All in all, this book was a winner. Great characters, a clever premise and most importantly, the plot was gripping, kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end and didn't disappoint. I'm excited to read the next book in the series. And as I have an ARC, I'm sure I'll be starting it very soon.

Buy it on kindle or in paperback

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