There are so many things I don’t like about this book that I’m not even sure where to start.
First, the minor: I found out about this book because of several illustrations that Kate Beaton made for it. Most of the articles about these illustrations fail to mention that they do not appear in the end product.
Second, the characters. Only a couple of them are more or less fleshed out, and the main character isn’t among them. The rest is pretty much cardboard stock. Jo is the best friend, Rob is the geek, Brayden is the suspicious love interest, Sutton is the creepy villain, all other adults are mostly unhelpful. Jimmy and Odessa get some development only because of the virus that ages them, and their reaction to it.
Mia, the protagonist, is an egregious case of uninteresting flaw and genre-unsavvy.
Yes, she fell down a well when she was little; then she overcame her fear of it by becoming a national-level swimmer. This is mentioned over and over but is never really relevant to the story, never becomes an obstacle, and is never tied (if not really really loosely) to the main plot.
Then, she falls in love with a new guy at her school just the day before the lethal virus spreads. The guy is extremely suspicious, is seen talking with the main villain, and keeps on apologizing for things he hasn’t done yet. So when he asks “Do you trust me?”, of course Mia replies “YES”, because she’s never seen a movie or read a book in her life. Girl, I get it, you’re in mad insta-love, but seriously? It’s called “sudden but inevitable betrayal” for a reason.
Third, the plot: 80% of this book is about getting to this Cave, where in two densely filled chapters we’re told about all the interesting stuff, which could have easily been a couple books into themselves. Yes, this is Mia’s personal trip where she overcomes her fear of water and claustrophobia (which she repeatedly tells us she already overcame, so what?), but when the flashback is more interest than the main story, something’s wrong.
Which leads us neatly into the last gripe, which is that this books ends on a cliffhanger. And not even a “this chapter closes and another one opens” kind, or even a “how are our heroes going to escape certain death?”. No, the bad guys find the magical well, the main characters jump into it, Mia remembers something she had forgotten, they get to the other side -all of this in one page- and the book ends. Cut down with a guillotine right when it was getting interesting.
If there’s a sequel coming out, I’m definitely not buying that. If this was supposed to stand alone on its own… Well, no.