Author: Rory Power
Publication Date: 09 July 2019
Genre: YA – Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Press
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
I was immediately drawn to this story for two reasons: 1) I love the reading about unknown outbreaks and epidemics…this appeals to my scientist heart and 2) the cover is both stunning and erie. I was fortunate enough to read an excerpt on Bookish First, and I had to know more.
First things first, I loved the idea of an unknown virus/parasite/microbe that is infecting the inhabitants of Raxter School for Girls. The Tox was much more disturbing that I envisioned based off of the description. Once it infected the girls, they either inherited grotesque mutations or the illness wreaked havoc on their system before their ultimate demise. While I really enjoyed the world building of this story, there were times that I thought the writing went into too much detail when it came to what the Tox was doing to its victims, which left me horrified more than anything. Additionally, there is a suicide scene that is particularly disturbing, so be mindful of that.
I think the author did a wonderful job with the character development of Hetty and Byatt. I also loved the fact that there is LGBTQ+ representation in this book. I didn’t realize that there was a queer romance, so I was really excited for that storyline. This was one of those romances that did not feel forced nor did it detract from the storyline.
One of my biggest grievances when it comes to this book is that because it is so heavily focused on action, there isn’t much backstory to everything that is happening at Raxter. I read 200 pages of the book before I even started to understand what in the hell was going on, which in my opinion should have been explained a bit earlier. Additionally, since all of the major revelations of the book took place in the last 30 pages or so, which ended up feeling rushed.
Overall, I think that this story had the opportunity to be really fantastic but fell a bit short for me. I do think that it has some really great parts with friendship and survival being the focal point.
Thank you to Bookish First and Delacorte Press for providing an ARC for review. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.