"Viral Nation" by Shaunta Grimes is a young adult dystopian novel where the world is a changed place after a virus kills most of the population. The company that created a vaccine that saved a small percentage of the population now runs the country. They administer daily doses of the vaccine to keep the virus suppressed. They distribute food, decide who gets to continue their education, and keep everyone in walled cities.
Clover Donovan is sixteen years old. She is autistic. When she was born, her mother got the virus at the hospital and died a horrible death. Right after her mother's death, the vaccine was created, and it came just in time to save her brother, West.
Her father got her a service dog when she was younger, and Mango helps her deal with the stress and pressure of normal life. She lives with West, who has cared for her since their father took a job with the Company and lives in a Company-owned barracks.
When Clover gets accepted into the Waverly-Stead Academy, where she will be able to study, she is thrilled. That's been her goal her whole life. However, when she arrives and finds out that she won't be able to keep her service dog with her, she is furious. Mysteriously, the headmaster gives her a letter and sends her to the Company, where he assures her that she will find work.
At the Company, she finds that she will be given the impressive job of Time Mariner. The Time Mariners are people who travel through a time tunnel at the bottom of a lake exactly two years into the future. She will bring back information about what is going to happen, including crimes that are to be committed.
As in any dystopian novel worth its salt, the Company is not all it's cracked up to be. Clover meets up with rebels willing to show her how the Company has abused its power.
Grimes is able to present Clover as a compelling protagonist even with her autism, perhaps because of it. Through Clover's reactions to loud noises and stress, readers will appreciate how difficult it can be for those on the spectrum to navigate everyday situations. My question might be: Does she make it too easy for Clover to manage day-to-day activities? Clover's autism seems mostly to consist of hand and arm flapping, rocking and humming, and a severe distaste for loud noises and the sensation of being touched.
The book is full of action and emotion. It will keep teen readers involved, and they will be itching to find out what happens in the next book.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader's copy provided by the publisher, Berkley Trade Paperback, for review purposes.
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