The Lives We Lost
In Kaelyn’s world, most people have lost everything. Their livelihoods, their sense of security, their loved ones, and finally, their minds. Kaelyn has been relatively lucky. Though the “friendly flu” that has wrought utter destruction on her world claimed the lives of her parents and countless others, she still holds out hope that her brother is alive on the mainland, and she, a young cousin and a few of her friends have miraculously survived the virus so far. More miraculous still, Kaelyn has just discovered some samples of a vaccine that her researcher father was developing to combat the flu. Though unproven, her father’s notes suggest that the vaccine is effective --- and Kaelyn is willing to risk her life to get the samples to someone who can find out for sure.
"Despite the real dangers in her path, it seems like the biggest dilemma facing her is whether to remain loyal to her incredible, rock-solid boyfriend who refuses to leave her side or embrace the romantic overtures of her lifelong best friend and secret childhood crush."
Before she has a chance to get started, though, tragedy once again wracks her island home. This time, it comes in the form of a rogue military troop intent on wiping the place where the virus originated off the map. Once again, luck is on Kaelyn’s side. She and her friends escape, but soon find themselves stranded on the mainland, still thousands of miles away from their only source of help.
What follows is a harrowing journey through horrific conditions. Not only must Kaelyn and her gang battle subzero temperatures, low food supplies and wretched transportation, they soon attract the attention of “Michael’s Wardens.” In the wake of the widespread deaths and panic caused by the flu, a man has risen to power, organizing survivors by offering them food and protection. Naturally, Michael is very interested in the samples in Kaelyn’s care, but she is wary of turning the valuable vials over to the mysterious figure that sends his envoys out armed and dangerous.
Despite the danger they constantly face, nothing that bad befalls Kaelyn and her scrappy band. Like many protagonists of this genre, Kaelyn is old beyond her years and essentially unwavering in her belief in herself. To consider how teenagers in these circumstances would behave is admittedly frivolous, but author Megan Crewe’s insistence that Kaelyn is able to project an almost flawless face to the world becomes irritating at times. It is often the moments of vulnerability that are able to bind readers most effectively to characters living through adventures far beyond their understanding. Kaelyn does so much heavy lifting without significant difficulty that it makes her hard to relate to. Despite the real dangers in her path, it seems like the biggest dilemma facing her is whether to remain loyal to her incredible, rock-solid boyfriend who refuses to leave her side or embrace the romantic overtures of her lifelong best friend and secret childhood crush.
Yes, there are roadblocks along the way. Yes, there are hard decisions to be made. And yes, someone close to Kaelyn does get sick. But allowing the reader to entertain doubts about whether Kaelyn will ultimately succeed in her mission would not weaken Crewe’s story. If anything, it would serve to make the story more enthralling by giving readers a bit of Kaelyn they could actually hold onto.
Reviewed by Rebecca Kilberg on February 28, 2013