Welcome to my stop on the Rebel Nation blog tour, presented by Rockstar Book Tours! This is the second book in Shaunta’s series, after Viral Nation, and I’m very happy to be sharing my review with you.
Sixteen years ago, a plague wiped out nearly all of humanity. The Company’s vaccine stopped the virus’s spread, but society was irrevocably changed. Those remaining live behind impenetrable city walls, taking daily doses of virus suppressant and relying on The Company for continued protection. They don’t realize that everything they’ve been told is a lie.
Clover Donovan didn’t set out to start a revolution—quiet, autistic, and brilliant, she’s always followed the rules. But that was before they forced her into service for the Time Mariners. Before they condemned her brother to death, compelling him to flee the city to survive. Before she discovered terrifying secrets about The Company.
Clover and the Freaks, her ragtag resistance group, are doing their best to spread the rebellion and stay under The Company’s radar. But when their hideout is discovered, they are forced, once again, to run. Only this time, The Company has special plans for Clover, plans that could risk her life and stop the uprising in its tracks…
About the author:
Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. Viral Nation is her debut traditionally-published novel.
The nitty-gritty: A post-apocalyptic story with an unusual protagonist, a spare writing style that works well for this story, and a budding romance that doesn’t take over the plot.
Rebel Nation is book two in Grime’s young adult dystopian series, and after finishing it I sincerely hope that book three is in the works and will be making an appearance in the world soon. I enjoyed Rebel Nation, although I’ll admit it didn’t have quite the excitement of Viral Nation. It definitely felt like a “middle book” to me, something I’ve been running across more and more. It’s almost as if authors are saving up all their best writing for the final book in the series (and I’m not just talking about debut writers—one of my big “Book Two” disappointments was none other than Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear, which I did love, but it couldn’t compare to The Name of the Wind.) And I’m not saying I’m disappointed in Rebel Nation at all, but Grimes ends it in such a way that now I am clambering to get my hands on the next book.
The best part of Rebel Nation, and Viral Nation as well, is main character Clover, a sixteen-year-old autistic girl who has joined a rebel group who is trying to get out of the walled city of Reno, where people are supposedly safe from the killer virus that decimated the United States sixteen years earlier. But Clover knows some hard truths about the suppressant injections that citizens are forced to take daily in order to keep the virus at bay: they are nothing more than a way to keep everyone compliant, and they aren’t even necessary.
Clover is one smart cookie, and her autism doesn’t seem to hinder her day-to-day life much at all. I don’t know the ins and outs of autism myself, but to me, Clover is definitely a higher-functioning autistic. She has many of the traits associated with autism—she doesn’t like to be touched and she doesn’t like loud noises or too much outside stimulation—but she knows how to communicate with people and she can usually take care of herself, although she does get a fair amount of help from her brother West and her service dog Mango. I love the fact that Clover is brave and selfless and cares for others, and she’s especially dedicated to the cause of freeing the orphans from Foster City and banning together with the “Freaks,” who are the country’s best chance at rebelling against the city’s controlling regime.
I don’t think it would be too much of a spoiler to tell you that Clover also falls in love and has her first kiss in this story, which I loved reading about. The fact that she doesn’t like to be touched, yet she will allow a particular boy to kiss her, made her such an interesting character. The romance is slow to bloom, and the way it was handled felt just right to me.
My main issue with the book is that it felt as if the plot were building up to something, but that something never came. There was an impending sense of doom throughout, as Clover and her friends risk sneaking out of the city to try to find a safe place to start a new life, all the while trying to avoid being seen and captured by the guards at the city wall. Clover is also being chased by a man named Bennett, who wants to use her as a “time mariner,” a person who can travel through a time portal and bring back information about future criminals (à la The Minority Report). The kicker is this: only autistic people can time travel in Grimes’ world, and Clover is a valuable commodity. There is quite a bit of the gang running from place to place and staying just ahead of the bad guys, but I never felt as if their running was getting them anywhere. Only near the end do we glimpse the exciting conclusion that I’m hoping Grimes has planned for book three.
Even though the time travel elements are mentioned several times throughout the book, they really don’t come into play this time around. I missed those elements, because they were so strong in Viral Nation. But if the hints the author drops are any indication, I expect time travel to play a much bigger part in the next book.
Grimes has created such a bleak and dangerous world, but she’s also created a heroine who adds much-needed warmth. Clover will go down in history as one of my personal favorite young adult characters, and I hope many readers get the chance to experience her wonderful traits. As for me, I’ll anxiously be awaiting the conclusion to this intense and very unique story.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.