Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with. But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all. Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.
I’ve been excited for this book since the deal announcement. A trans boy in a post apocalyptical world, who has been injected with a bioweapon and is slowly turning into a monster. He falls in with a group of queer teens, and they try to survive together in a world taken over by a fundamentalist sect. It sounded dark, angry, and so, so good. Trigger warnings: homophobia, transphobia, deadnaming, blood, body horror, gore
Oh, this book is good. It’s a primal scream of rage, one that echoes and echoes until your eardrums are raw and left ringing. It’s brutal and bloody and brilliant.
This book is about a world that swallows kids whole, chews them up, and then spits them back out. But then they turn right back around to burn the world down. It is very clear that the teens in this book are teens. They’re kids. And they have the weight of their survival, and their friends survival, on their shoulders. That’s traumatizing in of itself, but they are also faced with death and blood and fighting for their lives from those that hate them for existing. And they’re KIDS. They look like kids, they act like kids, they talk like kids, because they truly are just teenagers. And I really, really loved that about this book. It doesn’t shy away from it’s darkness, but it also doesn’t shy away from the fact that so many of it’s characters are so young, and it is devastating that they have to go through this.
Speaking of characters, I adore them. I adore Benji. He’s weird and he’s turning into a monster. He’s angry and hurting and he’s trying to grapple with the fact that he has been raised inside a cult. He’s trying to find a place in the world that does not hate him. He wants to find family, and the love that comes with it. His journey is painful, and his emotions seem to rot off him right along with his skin, and it was just so, wonderfully, wonderfully done. I love him.
I love Nick as well. Badass, autistic, and just all around amazing. He’s got a tough exterior, and he wants so desperately to keep everyone safe. I loved everybody who made up the little group that Benji met. They’re all queer, and they’re all trying to survive. They way they bond and grow together was just incredible.
The queerness in this book was just, incredible. The way that transness is discussed, it kind of hit me in the chest in a really personal way. Also the way that queerness was able to just exist and be, that was also just as incredible. It was a fundamental part of the way these characters are, but that’s because it’s just them. They’re themselves and their queerness is apart of that, but it’s not all pain because that’s not what queerness is. It’s rage and happiness and just them.
The darkness of this book, the brutality, the bloody, the horror of it, just wow. This book doesn’t hold back. It doesn’t hold back in anything that it does, but the anger and the body horror. Flesh literally drips off at times, and just wow. It’s not done for shock factor. It’s just so well crafted and so good.
Honestly everything about this book is so well crafted. My jaw dropped at times and because the way things are structured are just awe inducing.
I adore this book in all it’s rage and blood. There’s a sense of family to it as well, to embracing the weirdness and the monstrousness. It’s just so, so good.