by Rachel Ward
The curse of the NUM8ERS continues in Rachel Ward's CHA0T1C, earth-shattering sequel!
Adam has more than inherited his mother's curse: When he looks in someone's eyes, he not only sees the date of their death...he feels the searing, shocking pain of it. Since Jem died, Adam has lived by the sea with his great-grandmother, Val. But when rising tides flood the coast, they return to London. The city is an alien, exciting, frightening place. Most disturbing of all, Adam can't help but clock how many people's numbers are in January 2027; how many are on New Year's Day. What chaos awaits the world? Can he and Sarah stop a catastrophe? Or are they, too, counted among the "twenty-sevens"?
In my review of Rachel Ward's first book, Numbers, I talked about how impressed I was with the story that she had crafted, and the raw, unflinching feel of it. Book 2, The Chaøs, continues in this same thread, but with a few twists. The Chaøs alternates POVs this time around, following Adam, Jem's son, and Sarah. Adam is similarly gifted as his mother was -- he can see the Numbers, people's death dates -- when he looks into their eyes. But he also sees more than that. He actually feels their death for a brief moment, experiences it along with them. A lot of these Numbers and death dates seem to revolve around 1 specific day: New Years day, 2027.
Sarah, who has led a much more cushiony life than Adam, has problems of her own to say the least -- as well as an ability of her own: she has a vision of a horrific event -- one in which Adam plays a part . The date of her horrific vision? New Years Day, 2027. These two stories play off of each other and slowly weave together in a very skillful way.
Rachel Ward upped the stakes in The Caøs in some really interesting ways. In Numbers, Jem and Spider were on the run, and that really provided all the tension you'd need (not that that was all the tension their was, but it provided plenty). In The Chaøs, tension is built through a number of things. Adam, like his mother, cannot see his own death date, and with a huge cataclysmic event coming, he's worried he'll be one of the "twenty-sevens" -- and there are things to support the idea that he just might be. This, coupled with Sarahs' nightmare vision, provides a strong baseline for the tension and unease of the novel, and creates a sense of immediacy. But other things -- the idea of the cataclysmic event, the increase in "Big Brother" style governement, tensions between Adam and Sarah, and tensions of a wholly different sort with a boy who targets Adam -- all of these work together to keep the reader feeling anxious, knowing that any minute, the other shoe is going to drop. It just has to.
I loved this. Rachel Ward can keep you on the edge of your seat for sure. (Side note: This was a read-in-one-sitting type of book for me. No matter how many times I told myself that I needed to go to bed, I simply couldn't stop until I knew.)
There were a few drawbacks for me. There were times, especially in the beginning of the book, where things mirrored book 1 to the extent that I wondered if it was just going to be a rehashing of the same story. Adam has anger issues, as Jem did, and the way it sometimes came out of nowhere and he just had to act out and break something or freak out (and then later, when Sarah had to do the exact same), just started to feel a littel hollow to me. Like Ward couldn't find another way to show her characters angst. But it was something that was either righted at some point, or I got so caught up that I failed to notice it, because at some point in the book, I was completey invested and not aware of any "hollowness" or repetition. It also could have just been a symptom of me reading the two books back to back, come to think of it... It certainly wasn't enough to keep me from recommending these books, or to keep me from adding the final book, Infinity, to my wishlist.
All told, this a strong and complex continuation of the Numbers story, made more interesting by the addition of a 2nd point of view -- something that's normally tricky and can weaken a story, rather than improve it. The dystopian/post-apocalyptic element was much stronger in this one, so readers of Numbers who were disappointed with that aspect in book 1 will be pleased with book 2, I think. With The ChaØs, Rachel Ward has cemented herself as an author to watch for me, and I'm eager to see how the story turns out.
*Don't forget to enter to win 1 of 2 finished copies of The Chaøs, provided by Scholastic/Chicken House!