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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz

Life As We Knew It meets Lord of the Flies in a mall that looks just like yours

A biological bomb has just been discovered in the air ducts of a busy suburban mall. At first nobody knows if it's even life threatening, but then the entire complex is quarantined, people start getting sick, supplies start running low, and there's no way out. Among the hundreds of trapped shoppers are four teens.

These four different narrators, each with their own stories, must cope in unique, surprising styles, changing in ways they wouldn't have predicted, trying to find solace, safety, and escape at a time when the adults are behaving badly.

This is a gripping look at people and how they can--and must--change under the most dire of circumstances.

And not always for the better.

I arrived at work today to find a package of No Safety in Numbers waiting for me in my mail slot. I had never heard of it, but, inside the package, I found a face mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer, which, luckily, piqued my interest. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the cover art on the galley I was sent. Personally, I think a black background with a red title would look cleaner. The crinkled yellow background that it features now makes it look almost childish, not serious, which I feel would be more fitting of the plot. BUT if you find the cover off putting like I did, whatever you do, don't dismiss this debut! 

I love the concept of this novel, though it isn't necessary something you've never seen before. It's a movie plot that's been done more than a few times and is being pitched as Contagion meets Lord of the Flies, though, in all honesty, it leans a bit more towards Contagion then the latter. Still, Dayna Lorentz focuses on a group of teens trapped in this dangerous situation, which keeps what could be tired idea fresh. 

I don't know a lot about biological warfare, or warfare in general, but I know enough to be terrified of the possibilities it could create. The setting of No Safety in Numbers makes the idea more present and realistic. The reactions of those quarantined, with little explanation and virtually no information, were, simultaneously, understandable and unbelievable. Being an outside observer, while still being able to put oneself in the position of the character, the reader is at an interesting crossroads. I realized that I would probably try some of the same things if I were trapped inside, but I also know, as the reader, it would all be pointless and lend itself to chaos.

I appreciated that each of the characters had relatable and realistic feelings about the situation. At one point, one yearned for a leader, even one lacking stability, one wanted to help others, one didn't want to feel alone, and another felt separate from everyone else... The next moment feelings would seem to switch between the characters as more unforeseen events developed, lending the characters greater personality.

No Safety in Numbers is the first in a planned trilogy, but the ending of book one wrapped up nicely while still leaving me craving the continuation. Towards the end of this book, I was feeling more of a Lord of the Flies vibe, which definitely caused some excitement and leads me to believe the next installment promises good things. I'd definitely add this one to your 2012 to-read list... you'll never think of a weekend trip to the mall the same way again!

Penguin/Dial. May 2012. Hardcover. ISBN: 9780803738737. 263 pages.

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