I knew that I was going to love Contagion the moment I started it. I’d been told it was dystopian, set partly in Newcastle, and it had fire in it. These are three of my favourite things, so I didn’t need to know much more.
Contagion starts with a mystery: who is Subject 369X? What are they being subjected to? Where are they? WHAT IS GOING ON? I suggest you don’t start this unless you have a lot of time, because you’re not going to want to put it down!
The story is told from the perspective of three characters: Callie, Shay and Kai, each offering a very different take on the events. Kai is Callie’s brother. Callie is missing. Shay might have been the last person to see her before she disappeared. Kai is hopeful that Shay can help him to find his sister. Their stories are connected, and they’re about to become a lot closer.
I really enjoy multiple perspective narratives, especially where the voices are so distinct as they are here. It gives the reader a much more rounded idea of the story and I love seeing what motivates each of them as well as the things they are hiding from each other. The insight into Callie was particularly fascinating because she is very different to the other characters in the novel and her perspective of the events is such an important one.
Although not one of our narrators, I also loved the character of Iona, and the fact that the super-smart technology wizard in the story was a girl. She’s not a character we see a lot of in Contagion but I adored her and I really wanted to know more about her and her background.
Their world is facing a fast-spreading viral epidemic: victims die soon after being infected, but in hideous pain. This is described quite graphically at times, and we get a really strong sense of the horror of this virus and the devastation it wreaks on all who encounter it. Kai’s mum is a scientist, drafted in to help solve the mystery of this virus and stop it spreading before it wipes out humanity. Almost no-one survives. Her job is made harder as the few survivors disappear.
One of the things I loved most about this book is how the complicated science is made accessible to the reader. Science is not my strong subject, but the information we were given was perfectly woven into the story and never overwhelming or too complicated, which is testament to Teri’s writing skill.
Contagion takes us on a tour around parts of the UK, and I especially loved the addition of Shetland, the highlands of Scotland and my hometown of Newcastle featuring in the story. Having the book set in a world that is recognisable as our own adds another dimension to the story, making it easier to believe that this this is a thing which could really happen. In our world. To us. Right now.
There are some serious twists in this story which kept me on my toes and turning the pages until the very end…and when I got there I was really glad I had the second book to hand, because I would not have wanted to wait long after that cliffhanger!
Teri Terry will be taking part in the Northern YA Literature Festival in Preston on 24th March. For more information, see my post here.
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