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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer

 On Day 56 of the pandemic called BluStar, sixteen-year-old Nadia's mother dies, leaving her responsible for her younger brother Rabbit. They secretly received antivirus vaccines from their uncle, but most people weren't as lucky. Their deceased father taught them to adapt and survive whatever comes their way. That's their plan as they trek from Seattle to their grandfather's survivalist compound in West Virginia. Using practical survival techniques, they make their way through a world of death and destruction until they encounter an injured dog; Zack, a street kid from Los Angeles; and other survivors who are seldom what they seem. Illness, infections, fatigue, and meager supplies have become a way of life. Still, it will be worth it once they arrive at the designated place on the map they have memorized. But what if no one is there to meet them?

Amber Kizer's A Matter of Days has a deceptively simple plot: a virus has swept the country, leaving the majority of the population dead, and a small number of shell-shocked survivors in its wake. Nadia and Rabbit, who watched their mother die a painful death from the virus, called BluStar because of the blue bruising that forms as the victim's blood hemorrhages beneath the skins surface, are two of those survivors. They're survival had very little to do with luck. Before the virus took hold, Nadia's uncle sent her a cryptic messages urging that she, Rabbit, and her mother administer shots he sent, with no explanation other than a mysterious and chilling insistence of importance. Nadia and Rabbit immediately followed through, but, by the time their mother complied it was too late. Now, left alone, the siblings set out to fulfill their uncles command that they make their way across the country to their estranged grandfather's well-stocked bunker in West Virginia. Thus begins a journey filled with danger, chance encounters, and a chilling look at the destruction BluStar has wrought in only a matter of days.

One of the things that sets A Matter of Days apart from other post-apocalyptic literature is how little introduction the plot requires. The premise set forth by this novel is one of the most realistic in that it was far to easy to imagine events actually occurring. There is no long, drawn out downfall from the time BluStar strikes to their decimation of most of the human population. As the title implies, it really is only a matter of days until the entire world is forever changed. Because the effects are so immediate, it was terrifying how easily the reader could put themselves in Nadia and Rabbit's shoes. Just imagine if next week, your entire family had died in front of you. Your classmates? Dead. Your neighbors? Gone. Electricity? Running water? Fresh food? Gone, gone, gone. 

The main characters are what can only be described as typical. Nadia and Rabbit weren't especially close before BluStar, but nothing creates a bond like living through the near annihilation of the human race. The fact that the main characters are siblings adds a compelling and fresh dynamic within post-apocalyptic genre: the two can trust one another. There is no doubt that they have each others' backs... So, while they definitely encounter survivors that are scary and untrustworthy, as long as they're together, they always have someone to trust. Comparing Nadia and Rabbit's experience to the other survivors they encounter during their cross-country (family) road trip(from hell) was exceedingly interesting. One sad soul they encounter appeared to have literally lost her mind, left alone and completely unable to cope, she'd suffered a complete break from reality.

While Nadia and Rabbit are in many ways typical of people their age, they have unique advantage: Be the cockroach. Their grandfather, an intense conspiracy theorist, had been convinced for years that they end of days was approaching. If anyone was prepared for something like BluStar, it was him. Their father, in addition to being raised by a man obsessed with preparing for such an event, was in the armed forces, and impressed upon Nadia and Rabbit the importance of being able to adapt. To be survivors instead of statistics. Armed with the advice of their father, the siblings are as prepared as they'll ever be to survive.

Fans of post-apocalyptic stories will appreciate the straight-forward nature of Kizer's A Matter of Days and the intelligence and common sense of Nadia and Rabbit. Action, introspection, and haunting encounters fill the pages of this well-executed tale.

Delacorte BFYR, June 2013,Hardcover, ISBN:9780385739733, 276 pgs.


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