Whenever Jem meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die.
Burdened with such an awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. But while they’re waiting to ride the Eye Ferris
wheel, Jem notices that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today’s number. Today’s date. Terrorists are going to attack London. Jem’s world is about to explode!
I think you have to take the book synopsis with a little grain of salt. I went into this thinking it was going to be sort of post-apocalyptic, with this huge cataclysmic event that Jem knows is coming, and that it was going to be all about that. Really, though, it's all about Jem. The attack is fairly small, comparatively, and really is more a catalyst for the action, and not the action itself. It's a story of self-discovery as much as anything.
And I didn't find this a bad thing.
The book is much more a study of human nature -- in all its harsh realities and surprising glories. There are so many things working together to make Jem's story what it is: powerful and genre-defying and unflinching. There are elements of a coming of age story, dashes of romance, gritty urban fantasy and thought-provoking sci-fi.
I truly loved a lot of the choices Rachel Ward made in this book, because I never really felt like she was holding back. She doesn't write down to her audience or pander. Jem's voice is always authentic and utterly human, by turns filled with wonder and triumph, and hopelessness and despair. Her voice and her journey -- fantastic as it may be -- is so human, in fact, that she is at times frustrating and yell-at-able in the way that truer characters can be.
I found myself so invested in Jem and her emotions, and I really felt it as she slowly opened up and grew as a person. And lest that sound really sappy and boring, I also really loved how on the edge of my seat I was through this whole book. There is a constant layer of tension and worry that pervades the story. I truly worried for Jem and Spider, and I loved that Rachel Ward never took the easy way out, or lessened her story with quick fixes and deus ex machina moments (well, there is one that comes to mind, but I actually liked it. It was very human for a deus moment... It worked.)
And through all of this there's this kick-ass concept of the numbers Jem sees, and what they mean realistically and philosophically, and what Jem's responsibility is, if any. It was all handled really, really well, in ways I wasn't always expecting, and I have to say, I ended up respecting Ward as an author and being far more impressed by this book and its unflinching human-ness than I ever thought to be. All this from a debut.
And if that sounds at all like your thing, I'd suggest you read it.
Make sure you check back in the coming days for my review of the sequel, The Chaos, as well as a giveaway of 2 finished copies of The Chaos!