The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist. Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all. As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.
I was drawn to this book because it was about the teens left behind, the teens in a juvenile detention center, when a deadly disease hits. I knew it would have a queer and disabled characters. Those things were enough to sell me, and enough for me to want to know what this book is all about. Trigger warnings: misgendering, blood
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. I liked it, but it also wasn’t my favorite. I feel sort of neutral towards it. I think it just wasn’t for me, but other people are definitely going to fall completely in love with it.
First off, for some reason I was expecting this book, and the disease, to have fantasyish/scifiish edge to it. It does not. Which isn’t a bad thing! Just not what I was expecting and I was sort of hoping for. It mirrors real life, and I think I’m still sorting out my feelings about that. I fear that people will write this book off because of it. It’s not a bad book at all, and I hope people give it a chance.
The emotion that this book holds, and evokes, is spectacular. The anger and the frustration and the worry and the pain and pure teenage angst comes through so strongly. It’s a book about teenagers, and dang do the teenagers feel like teenagers. So much of their emotion felt so authentic and so real. It was wonderful.
Though, I felt like there were a lot of threads this book was trying to connect, and it left some aspects in ways that could have been fleshed out a bit more. I think I wanted more out of the emotional journeys of all the main characters. Since there is three of them, and there are a ton of side characters as well, there is so much going on. And then there is the overarching plot, and the overarching message. This book does a lot, and I guess I wanted more in some spaces.
This isn’t to say that the book felt overpacked or like it left things hanging! There were so many good things it. It didn’t feel rushed, and the emotional pull it has is immense. I just wanted more from each character, I think I wanted more from the ending as well. The very ending was a gut punch, and incredibly incredible, but the ending as a whole felt a bit abrupt. It felt like the book was going and going, and then it just ended. I wanted more from the story.
Overall, this is not a bad book. It’s emotional and well written and has a wonderful cast of characters. I firmly believe it is going to find the people who adore it, and I am excited to see them love it.