Book Review: No Easy Way Out, Dayna Lorentz (2013)

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Lord of the Taylor

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC of this book through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. Also, trigger warning for rape and animal abuse.)

After a biological bomb is found strapped to the HVAC system at the Shops of Stonecliff, the mall’s quickly quarantined, with thousands of hapless shoppers and employees (not to mention a few police officers and research scientists) trapped inside. In the aftermath, a new society forms. Led by Senator Ross – on the authority of the US president, no less – the official government forces attempt to provide for the needs of the mall’s residents: food, water, clothing, hygiene, and safety – both from one another, as well as the lethal flu strain ripping a path of destruction through the captive population. Naturally, not everyone accepts the power of this autocracy: rebellion, coups, conspiracy theories, and general mayhem ensues.

Book one in the series (No Safety in Numbers) introduced us to four protagonists – Lexi, Shay, Ryan, and Marco – through whose eyes we saw the story unfold. Each section of the book equaled one day in the mall; each chapter alternated between a different character’s perspective. As with No Safety in Numbers, No Easy Way Out also covers a week’s worth of the quarantine: in this case, days 7 through 14. However, Lorentz breaks with the structure she introduced in the first book: sections are divided by day, chapters by time period, with shifting character perspectives throughout. Initially I wasn’t I thrilled with this change, but it quickly won me over: it helps move the story along at a quicker pace.

That said, No Easy Way Out is rather hefty at 470 pages (for the ARC; the “real” copy will run 480 pages); No Safety in Numbers is a slim 263 pages in comparison. By no means do I shy away from thick books (Stephen King is one of my favorites, so.), but in this case I felt like the story was slow and a bit bloated, particularly in the first half. Much of the focus in No Easy Way Out is on relationships: love triangles, shifting alliances, back-stabbing, and the like. The action doesn’t really pick up until the last third of the book, when a second flu strain begins dropping teenagers like flies.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: No Safety In Numbers, Dayna Lorentz (2012)

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Just another Day at the Mall

four out of five stars

Throngs of hysterical shoppers. Public bathrooms overflowing with human filth. Teenagers running wild and free. Yup, it’s just another day at the Westchester “CommerceDome” – until an unwitting teenager discovers a biological bomb strapped to the mall’s HVAC system.

Between Masque of the Red Death, The Uglies, the Tankborn trilogy, Mortal Instruments, and The Hybrid Chronicles (etc., etc., etc.), No Safety In Numbers wasn’t even on my YA radar – that is, until I won the follow-up, No Easy Way Out, through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. At the time I requested it, I’d somehow managed to overlook the fact that it’s a sequel – and, not wanting to jump in mid-story, I decided to pick up No Safety In Numbers asap. I found myself pleasantly surprised: set in a rather mundane (even hated) locale (ugh, I shudder to think of the arduous task that was gift shopping, pre-Internet!), No Safety is un-put down-able.

Upon the discovery of the bioweapon, the mall’s immediately placed on lockdown; the occupants, quarantined indefinitely. The feds cut the land lines, jam the cell signals, and even block news channels inside the mall to keep everyone – both the captives within and concerned friends and family without – from communicating. The story follows four teens as they try to navigate this terrifying new world: exposing cover-ups, caring for the sick, and attempting escape. Stories told from alternating perspectives can sometimes take great effort to follow, but each teen and his or her voice is unique enough that they’re immediately distinguishable.

(More below the fold…)