Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).
Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.
The perfect soldier is done taking orders.
The main character, Wren, is known the most deadly and dangerous of the Reboots by her peers and the HARC, the corporation which effectively rules the Republic of Texas. Reboots, which at first might sound suspiciously like zombies, are actually quite different. In the novel, it's briefly theorized that Reboots may be more advanced humans whose bodies had the capabilities to manipulate the virus that swept through the population. Their deaths were actually more akin to a resting period - or incubation period, perhaps - for the virus and that, instead of killing them, it made them stronger, both physically and mentally (if you count less emotion as a strength). Reboots, however, are no longer considered humans but Other (by both the HARC and the remaining human population) and have become slaves tasked with hunting down and capturing or killing human criminals.
Perhaps because they are labelled Other, the Reboots themselves, especially those labelled with higher numbers indicating that they were "dead" longer than lower numbered Reboots, no longer consider themselves human. They consider themselves a race unto themselves. For me, this stood out as an important detail: I knew Reboot featured a romance, but I couldn't imagine how the inhuman Wren would suddenly be able to fall in love, especially a love that was strong enough to change how she interacted with the world.
Wren and Callum's romance was believable for me because Callum, a 22 (and, therefore, a Reboot who is, except for a few physical changes, still pretty much human) sees Wren as more than Other - allowing her to see herself as more than the narrow label of Reboot as determined by the HARC. Some may have found the romance odd in a world filled with so much violence and so little emotion, but, for me, the love between Callum and Wren, the understanding and connection between them, is the only force that could effectively combat the kind of brainwashing the Reboots endured at the hands of HRAC. It reminded me strongly of the aftereffects of colonization, where, after time, the colonized may view themselves negatively when the viewpoint of the conquerors is repeatedly forced upon them.
The relationship between Callum and Wren was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. I loved Callum, he was a typical human guy, which I think was necessary distinction. I could see how some might think the relationship (and the laughter between the characters) a bit odd in the midst of such darkness, but I think Wren and Callum acting less serious and enjoying life was a sign of hope... that there was still something left to fight for when everything else had become so unrecognizable. Others might wonder how Wren could be both a killing machine for the HRAC and, simultaneously a giggling teenager, but I think it just shows how desensitized Wren had become at the hands of the HRAC and her parents, before she became a Reboot, and that how she lives her life & values are a direct result of those influences, not who she truly is. Plus, in a world where you really can't be sure you'll live to see the next day, making out with the person you're head over heels for, potentially for the first and last time, seems like a fantastic idea.
I felt the pacing of this novel was absolutely perfect. I never once felt bored or rushed while reading. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, but not before wrapping up the bulk of the action in book one. Instead of leaving tons of unanswered questions throughout the entire book and into the next installment, Tintera presents new questions and a new setting for book two as well as leaving some of the overarching, deeper questions. I cannot wait for book two, where I hope we'll find out more about what exactly Reboots are and how things will change after the game-changing events in Reboot.
Don't waste any time, grab a copy of Tintera's debut as soon as possible!
HarperTeen, May 2013, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780062217073, 352 pgs.