Fourteen-year-old Tory Brennan faced a huge change in her life when her mom suddenly died, and she had to move to South Carolina to live with a father she barely knew. Who would have guessed that life would get even more complicated than that? When she and her pals, Ben, Shelton and Hi, caught an unusual strain of parvovirus from the research facility where their parents work, their lives got tossed into a storm. Now they have wolf-like super powers --- and no answers to their unending questions and worries. But as long as they stick together, the Virals figure they can survive, and even have a bit of fun with their new abilities along the way.
And then comes the devastating news --- the funding for the research facility is slashed, and their parents will lose their jobs. Desperate to find work, they must search the country and world for new employment, which will split up the Virals just when they need each other the most. It seems hopeless, but the Virals refuse to give up without a fight. Maybe if they can find a huge sum of money, they will be able to save the research facility and stay together.
After searching for any and all money-making schemes, the Virals are desperate for ideas. Tory sniffs out a possible solution. She hears of a famous female pirate from the 1700s named Anne Bonny, who supposedly buried a treasure that has never been found. It’s a long shot, a desperate attempt with little hope of success, but it’s all they have --- the Virals are going hunting for long-lost pirate treasure.
Then they discover that someone is following them, even shooting at them, and the stakes are raised. Tory delves deeper into her powers for any help she can get, discovering she can actually smell others’ emotions and even communicate telepathically with the other Virals. Their search leads them from museums to insane asylums to ancient dungeons to hidden tunnels beneath the city of Charleston, following a string of cryptic codes left by the famous Anne Bonny. Hundreds have searched before and failed, but they didn’t have what the Virals possess --- their incredible wolf-like powers, their enduring friendship, and Tory’s dogged determination never to give up.
Kathy Reichs is a genius, and the Virals series is fantastic. The intriguing storyline, the colorful characters, the heart-pounding action, the wild thrills --- everything about these novels entraps readers and refuses to let go, long after the last page is turned. Tory is a captivating main character. She’s incredibly smart, into science, animals and the environment, and tenacious almost to a fault; even her best pals know they can’t argue her out of a mindset.
But never giving up is just one of the wisdoms woven into this story, along with the power of friendship. The relationship between Tory, Hi, Ben and Shelton isn’t sappy or dripping with sentiment, but they are tightly bonded, completely loyal, and tease each other unmercifully, which is just as heartwarming. All have little personality quirks that lend to the humor sprinkled throughout. Reichs dives deep into the infinite possibilities with the Virals’ super powers. They can see, hear and smell with incredible detail, and Reichs transcends that into the descriptions. The storyline continually shocks with roller coaster-like twists and turns that will have readers shivering with horror and quivering with exhilaration.
Fans will be thrilled to know that the series continues in 2012 with the third installment, CODE.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on November 9, 2011