Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch #bookreview #YA #survivalist #adventure

Dry meets Hatchet in this thrilling tale of survival following a teen girl who must lead her friends across country to the safety of her estranged father’s survivalist compound after a mass power failure leaves the country in chaos.

When seventeen-year-old Zara escaped her father’s backwoods survivalist compound five years ago, she traded crossbows and skinning hides for electricity and video games…and tried to forget the tragedy that drove her away.

Until a malware attack on the United States electrical grids cuts off the entire country’s power.

In the wake of the disaster and the chaos that ensues, Zara is forced to call upon skills she thought she’d never use again—and her best bet to survive is to go back to the home she left behind. Drawing upon a resilience she didn’t know she had, Zara leads a growing group of friends on an epic journey across a crumbling country back to her father’s compound, where their only hope for salvation lies.

But with every step she takes, Zara wonders if she truly has what it takes to face her father and the secrets of her past, or if she’d be better off hiding in the dark. 

I’m always tempted by a good survivalist story, and I’ve picked up tips from every book I’ve read. With today’s world, you never know when they might come in handy.

Zara spent roughly the first eleven years of her life being raised in a survival compound consisting of only herself and her parents. Her paranoid father taught her valuable skills to keep her alive in case of a disaster, but also not to trust anyone and to think only of herself in order to survive. After a horrible tragedy, Zara’s mother flees across the country with her, leaving her father behind. Being raised in such a different environment makes interacting with other teens difficult, but Zara finds supportive friends in Stella and her brother Gabe.

Zara picks up on signs of the catastrophe her father always predicted, and soon the world is in chaos. With no power and limited food and water, she knows most of the population won’t survive, so she and her friends begin a journey across the country to her father’s compound, picking up others along the way. Zara’s character arc is well-crafted and probably my favorite part of the story. Throughout the novel she hears her father’s voice in her head repeating the rules she was taught – to think only of herself. She soon learns that although she can’t trust everyone she comes across, putting faith in those she cares about increases their chances of survival.

When society begins to break down, it comes with some tense, heartbreaking scenes that may be tough for some readers. It’s scary how quickly humanity is tossed out the window. Although the first part of the story kept me gripping the pages, it slows to a lull about halfway through before picking up again. One of the plot threads confounded me. Zara continues to make an assumption that seemed illogical to me, and I wanted her to slow down and ask herself why it was happening. It’s explained by the end, but fits awkwardly into the overall story.

With plenty of harrowing situations, a bit of romance, and a heavy dose of coming of age, Gone Dark will appeal to post-apocalyptic fans yearning for a danger-filled survival story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BlogTour Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine #bookreview #dystopian #apocalyptic #TuesdayBookBlog

In an endless winter, she carries seeds of hope

Wylodine comes from a world of paranoia and poverty—her family grows marijuana illegally, and life has always been a battle. Now she’s been left behind to tend the crop alone. Then spring doesn’t return for the second year in a row, bringing unprecedented extreme winter.

With grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, she begins a journey, determined to start over away from Appalachian Ohio. But the icy roads and strangers hidden in the hills are treacherous. After a harrowing encounter with a violent cult, Wylodine and her small group of exiles become a target for its volatile leader. Because she has the most valuable skill in the climate chaos: she can make things grow.

Urgent and poignant, Road Out of Winter is a glimpse of an all-too-possible near future, with a chosen family forged in the face of dystopian collapse. With the gripping suspense of The Road and the lyricism of Station Eleven, Stine’s vision is of a changing world where an unexpected hero searches for a place hope might take root.

Obviously, this is an unusual book description – which is one of the reasons I requested it.  The other is that I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and was curious to see how a story like this would play out in that area.

Wylodine is a wonderful protagonist – strong, determined, scarred, and soft-hearted.  If you find yourself in an apocalyptic-type of event, you could do worse than hooking your wagon to hers.  Mostly shunned by the community because of her family business, then being practically abandoned by her mother, with the exception of one good friend, she’s alone when everything starts to go off the rails in her town.  In order to survive, going it alone isn’t the best option right now, and she soon comes across people she learns to trust and depend on.  Finding your people is a strong theme in this story – like-minded folks who do what they can to form a community and care for each other.  Tragedy can bring out the best in people, but it also draws power-hungry individuals on the wrong side of the morality scale, and Wil and friends run across some of the worst mankind has to offer.

The abrupt ending took me by surprise – I even wondered if pages were missing – so a sequel may be a possibility.

To say I enjoyed such a dark, heart-breaking, grim story sounds odd, but Road Out of Winter is also well-written, compelling, and hopeful – it would be an excellent book club selection.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Buy Links: 

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