Title: Virals
Author: Kathy Reichs
ISBN: 9781595143426
Pages: 456 pages
Publisher/Date: Razorbill, c2010.
Reviewed from ARC furnished by Traveling ARC Tours
Release Date: Nov. 2, 2010

Since I realize ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) are not the finalized book and can go through the editing process still, I figured I’d quote from GoodReads.com rather than the ARC itself. The cover image was also taken from GoodReads.com.

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends they’re a pack. They are Virals.

Although I’ve watched the TV show Bones for years, this was my first exposure to Kathy Reichs, whose books are the inspiration for the television show. This is her first foray into teen fiction. Tory reminds me a lot of Temperance, a brillant but socially unstable teenager. I mean, come on, what fourteen year old do you know who would spend her free time cleaning and cataloging shells, which is how we first meet Tory. Tory describes her relationship with her female classmates as just not clicking “with any of the resident Mean Girls,” calling them “terrible, horrible, despicable fembots […] shallow and vapid, and never showed the slightest interest in their superficial world. So the disdain had been mutual.” (65) She’s self-deprecating about her looks, which is proven wrong by the end of the book. Although I wish she had at least one GIRL friend, instead of all these guys who live on the same island as her. I realize I sound like her father and his annoying … girlfriend(?), but seriously! The girls can’t be all bad. Hannah proves the most promising, but things just don’t seem to work out with her.

Tory is obviously the leader of this group of friends/virals. She convinces and coerces her guy friends to go on one outlandish adventure after the other, most of them illegal. The fact that the guys eventually cave into her demands and blindly follow her lead speaks either of their loyalty to her or their stupidity. Because let’s face it, Tory gets lucky, sometimes extremely lucky, in her discoveries. She just happened to be there, she just happened to do this, things just happen for Tory.

The transformations (or “flares” as the characters call it) in the book from normal human to super senses pack mood are well done. And although I can’t speak for the accuracy of the science behind all these things, they are clearly explained for even the non-science person like myself to understand. I’m not sure I would want this to be an ongoing series unless they take their show on the road (so to speak), because as I mentioned the conincidences would just add up if more than one murder, espionage, crime ring, etc. existed on such a tiny island. The writing is suspenseful, with the book beginning halfway through and then back-pedaling to catch the reader up to speed. It’s an attention-grabbing technique that works here. I might be interested to read her adult stuff, now that I’ve had some exposure to her style.

Someone’s review on Goodreads compared this book to Scooby Doo meets Nancy Drew meets Animorphs. Yes, the book is a mystery, but I personally think that’s where the comparisons stop between Nancy Drew and Tory (ok, they live with their fathers too, but Nancy seems just too wholesome to be hanging around Tory.) Although the ending does follow the “I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for these meddling kids” format that Scooby Doo is famous for, I’m not so sure about the Animorphs comparison either. The teens don’t become werewolves, and if anything I would compare it to Rogue’s power in X-Men, because they came in contact with the animal and then started reflecting it’s “powers,” aka the amplified senses, strength, and stamina.

And I know it doesn’t show up well on the cover, but yes those are dog faces in the VIRALS letters. Nice touch in my opinion, although the cover is already eye-catching. Look for the sequel to come out summer 2011.

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