by Dan Wells
There are so many post-apocalyptic YA novels these days, I can afford to be choosy. I love post-apocalyptic novels, but that doesn’t mean I’ll read anything in the genre. I have spent a lot of time in the YA section of my local bookstore lately, though, because I am finding a lot of high quality stuff there. Partials is no exception.
I had heard of Dan Wells as a horror author–I am Not a Serial Killer and ts sequels, I Don’t Want to Kill You and Mr. Monster received good reviews. I’ve heard good things about him, but I overdosed on horror when I was a teenager, and now I am very easily creeped out, so I haven’t dived in to his books, even though they sound very good. Still the good reviews encouraged me to give this book a try.
I am so glad that it did–it was an excellent book. The main character, Kira, is a strong but realistic character. She is smart and brave, but she is still a 16 year old girl who likes hanging out with her friends and wearing pretty clothes. She is much like many other strong female teenagers in books these days, so well done that I forgot the author of the book was male at one point and was surprised when I looked at the cover. The other characters in the book are well drawn as well, with complicated motivations that bring to mind real people with mixed motivations for all that they do.
The story is a bit more nuanced than many post-apocalyptic novels, too. A small number of humans have survived a deadly plague that is still killing off all newborns. They assume that the plague was unleashed by the engineered people created to look human and fight humanity’s wars so that people don’t have to do it themselves. Of course, these Partials rebelled as soon as the wars were over; they had to be created to be smart in order to be ideal soldiers after all. Kira is studying the deadly disease, hoping to find a cure or at least a treatment before she is old enough to be subjected to the Hope Act, which requires all women to give birth over and over in the hopes that some infants will survive and humanity will carry on.
There are themes of fascism and misogyny, with the government imposing martial law to maintain control and the treatment of all women as brood mares, but given the very real danger of humanity’s demise, everything isn’t as obviously wrong as it seems. Most of the government and citizenry are truly attempting to do the right thing for the human race. The Partials turn out to be not as foreign as they seem, either, nor as strong and unified. Not a lot gets resolved in this book, which is obviously the first in a series, but the questions that are uncovered are intriguing. What does it mean to be human? How much freedom should we have when the fate of humanity is at stake? Who has a right to determine the answers to these questions?
A look at Wells’s website shows that he will be here in St. Louis the same day that Veronica Roth will be here, as part of the “Dark Days of Summer” tour, so I am already planning to see him, even though I didn’t realize it. I also see that the sequel, Fragments, won’t be out until next spring, but there will be a Partials novella released as an eBook this fall, so that should help tide me over while I wait.