Keep together. Keep your eyes open. Keep your wits about you. The desert is unkind in the best of times. And the decade since the Civil War has been anything but the best of times for Daisy Wilcox—call her Willie—and her family. This tense, heart-pounding alternate history about a young woman fighting to survive the unthinkable will keep fans of Westworld and The Walking Dead reading late into the night. A horrifying sickness has spread across the West Texas desert. Infected people—shakes—attack the living, and the surviving towns are only as safe as their perimeter walls are strong. The state is all but quarantined from the rest of the country. Glory, Texas, is a near ghost town. Still, seventeen-year-old Willie has managed to keep her siblings safe, even after the sickness took their mother. But then her good-for-nothing father steals a fortune from one of the most merciless shake hunters in town, and Willie is left on the hook for his debt. With two young hunters as guides, Willie sets out across the desert to find her father. And the desert holds more dangers than just shakes. This riveting debut novel blends True Grit with 28 Days Later for an unforgettable journey.
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What worked: This novel kept me on the edge of my seat! Right at the start, I was captivated by Willie and her small Texas town. Willie comes across as hard and tough, but it's her love of family that keeps her going. After the death of her mother, she's the maternal presence in her sibling's life. Tough as nails, deep down Willie's love of her family keeps her going. I really liked Willie and how she'll do just about anything for her family in order to survive.
The starkness of the Texas desert, along with the almost hopelessness of not only the terrain, but the survivors is shown in vivid details. The whole premise of an infectious disease causing people and animals to kill and devour others is horrific. The zombie premise has been before, but I really liked the True Grit feeling going on in this book. And I usually don't like westerns! The battered down towns that Willie and her guides travel down are filled with danger and other encounters.
This novel hints at possible romances, but the stakes are high for Willie. She must find her dead-beat father to protect her younger siblings from the wrath of those who demand the stolen money. Readers get glimpses of the humanity that Willie still clings to even at a terrible reveal later in the book.
Nail-biting alternative history meets The Walking Dead, this novel will haunt readers to the very end.
2. Willie is strong, courageous, and a total badass heroine