Author: Victoria Scott
Publication Date: February 15, 2014 (Scholastic – North America)
Genre: YA, dystopia, contemporary
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Time is slipping away….
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything.
Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.
The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?
☆: 4/5 stars – dystopia plus social commentary? yes please.
Review: It’s only taken me this long to figure out that the “Fire & Flood” series is really not just a dystopia piece (like so much of YA right now), but it’s also a huge social commentary on how big pharma/big biopharma is really starting to harm our lives. The proof? “The Brimstone Bleed”. A lot of reviewers have panned this book as being a “Hunger Games” ripoff, but only after this long (and starting to read the second book), have I really started to see this book as what it is. I’m not sure the actual YA age set will get it, but I hope they will. I really enjoyed this one, and am currently enjoying the second one. If you’re looking for something with grit and heart, and a little bit of finger-wagging at our current society, “Fire & Flood” is for you.
It’s rare that you get a YA book with dystopic social commentary. It’s rarer when that book is contemporary (or presumed contemporary, as that’s what I’m going with in this case) . “Fire & Flood” at first seems like “The Amazing Race” on steroids (and full of angry dystopic feels), but going deeper – there is that question – why are so many of the Contenders’ loved ones sick? And what’s with the genetically-engineered Pandoras?
What exactly is the motivation of having this “Bleed” in the first place?
Looking deeper, with the existence of the Pandoras, it feels like it’s not just Tella is the center of the story here. There are hidden questions of our society therein – why are people getting sick? Why is big pharma dangling cures over our heads for (in real life, what feels like) a race to the death to get the money to get them? What’s going on with genetic engineering? Why are we letting these things happen?
We see all of these questions through Tella’s eyes as the race gets hotter, and shiftier by the moment. We get bits and pieces of answers to this puzzle throughout the book, but only towards the end do we really get more solid answers that only leave us with more questions.
Enough commentary analyzing.
Tella’s character was good as a base to build on – her motives were the starkest of all, as well as her resolve to finish the first two ecosystems of the Bleed. But I wanted a little more on her past (aside of what’s attached to memories of her brother, both pre-and-post infection), and the past of her parents (which was really tantalizing and just out of reach – hopefully that will be addressed in book two) as relating to her as well.
The other main cast development needed some work as well, but again, it was just enough to get us started on this race. I did like the love/hate/I don’t even know what I feel for you romance building between Tella and Guy, and the “can I trust them?” intense paranoia-like atmosphere that Scott builds up slowly but surely throughout the book. Loved that.
Aside from the Bleed and the Ecosystems, I did want to know more about the general world. Are Pandoras common knowledge among the general public? Why is it that only some people know about the Bleed? Little hints would have been nice and would have helped better built the world, but I have the feeling those answers will be coming later. I hope.
This one, above all, is plot-driven. Definitely a page-turner. I can’t wait for book two. “Fire & Flood” is out now from Scholastic in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!