It’s been two years since the end of the world. Two years since the night of Brooklyn’s winter formal when a monstrous version of a woman more animal than human came out of nowhere, attacking the car and chasing Brooklyn into the night. Two years since she killed the monster with thick, black blood using only a kitchen knife before being rescued by the government and taken to Camp Eleven. There, she and other survivors are preparing for the future as they train, day in and day out, learning to shoot, stab, and kill anything that comes at them. It’s been two years since she last saw her family, two years of vague promises and platitudes. Two years of lies.
They were told it was a virus. They were told they were humanity’s last hope. They were told they had to obey Isolation, the agency who knew what was best for them. Brooklyn no longer knows what to believe, but she knows who she can trust: her friends Gabriel, Dawson, Julian, and Porter and the other kids from Camp Eleven, until even that truth she’s held on to with both hands ends up being a lie.
Torn between the fight for freedom and the hunt for the truth, Brooklyn has to decide who she is going to be. Is she the weapon Isolation made her in to? Is she a monster? She’s not the same girl who vanished the night of winter formal, that’s for sure. The past two years have changed a great deal, including Brooklyn. When face-to-face with a monster trying to kill you, or an armed government agent trying to return you to your cage, it’s easy to know what to do. It’s harder, though, when Brooklyn is facing her complex feelings for Porter and the new, growing attraction to Gabriel, her best friend. While she’s wanted to kiss Porter forever, it’s Gabriel, with her challenging smile and bright, sparking humor that makes Brooklyn’s heart turn in her chest.
I really don’t want to give away too much of the plot, which is difficult as there is so much plot in this book and not-so-much relationship. As the first book in a new series, this story is focused more on the world-building and the introduction of the characters, the mysterious agency called Isolation, and the speculation behind Project ECHO. Even working within those limitations, the author managed to turn Brooklyn from an average teen girl into a believably ruthless, cold-hearted, ass-kicking hero.
Brooklyn starts out somewhat passive, never really questioning her life. She accepts the ritual and the routine she’s been given, getting up for training, eating when she’s told, doing the chores she’s told. You get the sense that she’s — while not thrilled with what happened to her — just living her life. As events unfold, Brooklyn tries to stay in the back, both in combat and out, but as they keep getting separated from one another it falls to Brooklyn to make decisions. When the others might have been willing to stay in a somewhat safe place rather than keep heading deeper into danger, it’s Brooklyn who decides they will be moving along. It’s Brooklyn who makes the decision that they will not be killing a traitor and Brooklyn who later ruthlessly breaks someone’s fingers, one at a time, until the woman gives up the information the group needs to plan their next move. As her friends get hurt, get taken, and even die around her, Brooklyn goes from a follower to a leader and I cannot wait to see what happens to her in the next book.
Brooklyn isn’t sexually active, might never have been, but she has had a crush on Porter for the longest time. Even once she learns about the bad things he has done, she can’t quite bring herself to stop caring about him, or to stop being captivated by him. She knows he has a crush on Dawson, but that’s not her business. After all, there’s also Gabriel. Gabriel, who is Dawson’s on again, off again fling and maybe, maybe-not girlfriend and makes Brooklyn feel things Porter doesn’t. She wonders what it would be like to kiss Gabriel, and when she finally has the chance, it only leaves her more confused than before. She likes both of them, is interested in both of them, and they’re both interested in her while still being together with Dawson.
This isn’t a love triangle, it’s a square. The only romantic pairings we don’t see are Porter and Gabriel, which I honestly don’t think will happen, unless Gabriel’s allowed to bring a gun, and Dawson and Brooklyn. There is a scene between Brooklyn and Dawson where he comforts her and, in return, seeks comfort from her. It’s nothing more scandalous or salacious than a hug, but it’s a little bit more than a simple hug between friends.
There’s promise and potential in almost every relationship among all of these young men and women, with no stigma or jealousy. There’s no anger at Porter or Dawson for their bisexuality any more than there is a fetishization of Gabriel and Brooklyn’s own fluid sexuality. That’s not to say there isn’t — and won’t be — drama, but it isn’t because anyone is bi or gay or something else. It’s because relationships are complicated, and even while you’re in a life and death situation, people are people, and people want and need emotional anchors to help them through their trauma.
The writing in this book is lovely, with descriptive, evocative phrases and this book has one of the few dream sequences that felt properly, eerily dreamlike. The pacing is taut with the ever present threat of the unknown, both the agency that held them captive and the all too real monsters hunting them. This book is a quick read, which is a shame, because I wasn’t prepared for it to end as soon as it did, though I was expecting the cliffhanger. There are hints and foreshadowing and I had a few speculations about where everything was going (and I was right on two of them and very off on a few others) and I can’t wait for book two. This is a young adult novel so there is a lot of emotional drama, confusion, and angst, but it’s very well balanced with drama, good writing, and an enjoyable story line. If you like science fiction, horror, government coverups, and teenagers as super soldiers, consider giving this book a try.