Fourteen-year-old Tory Brennan’s life has been all topsy-turvy since her mother was killed by a drunk driver. Devastated and alone, she moves in with her father, whom she’s never met and until recently didn’t even know she existed. His name is Kit Howard, and he lives on a remote island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, doing marine biology research. It’s a tough situation for both of them to get used to, though Kit’s girlfriend is enjoying it. She’s dying to play dress-up with Tory and enter her into the debutante scene of Charleston. But that’s not Tory’s idea of fun. She would much rather be reading the science books her newly discovered great aunt, a famous forensic anthropologist, sent her, or boating on the ocean with new friends Ben, Hi and Shelton. Then again, though, maybe dancing at a cotillion would prove to be less deadly than the mess Tory and her friends stumble into.
While Tory, Ben, Hi and Shelton are exploring on Loggerhead Island where Kit does his university research, they come across an old, crusty dog tag. Curiosity plagued, they do some research of their own, breaking and entering into the university lab to use some equipment, which leads them to a buried human skeleton and a decades-old murder mystery. Determined to solve the mystery and bring justice to the young victim, Tory and her friends use their smarts to uncover the truth.
Unfortunately, they all start to feel a bit ill. They’re hoping it’s just the flu, but after uncovering some deeply buried secrets in the lab, they realize the truth: they’ve been infected with a rare form of parvovirus that infuses with their DNA, giving them intense strength, incredible speed and highly developed senses like that of a wolf. And it only gets more interesting from there…
This is Kathy Reichs’s first book for teens, though adults know her from her Temperance Brennan series and as the creator of the hit TV show “Bones,” which which is based on those bestselling novels. As Reichs expands out to the YA world, she introduces readers to Tory Brennan, Temperance’s young niece. And like her famous forensic anthropologist aunt, Tory gets down and dirty with discovered bones, using lots of brains and science to solve the case. An awesome role model, Tory proves it’s cool to be smart and interested in science and biology. She has a strong will, a determination that never fizzles out, and a tendency to overlook the rules. She also has a deep love and respect for nature, and a bit of a wry sense of humor.
VIRALS is a clever blend of thriller, mystery and fantasy, and its pages explode with energy and action, quickly riveting the reader who becomes amazingly addicted. Fans will be waiting for the second installment of the series with high anticipation.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman, author of FINDING MY LIGHT on November 2, 2010