Tara Ellis, Infected: the Shiners, 2014
Tara Ellis’ Infected: the Shiners is the first instalment in the Forgotten Origins trilogy, and introduces us to Alex, a sixteen-year-old girl who finds herself unwillingly thrust into a fight to stave off an infection which has come to earth during a meteor shower. She remains unaffected by the virus, as do her younger brother, Jacob, and a school friend, Chris, and together they are led by clues left behind from her deceased father about how to prevent the infection from fully taking over.
A very promising start for my book reviewing venture, Ellis’ book follows the traditional path set by recent Young Adult novels; that of a hero/heroine fighting alongside a small group against a higher power, however, unlike that of Tris or Katniss or the like, Alex has to rely more on her intellect and intuition, rather than strength, to solve the cryptic clues left behind by her father. This makes a fresh change to the genre as we are not simply following an ‘ordinary’ person with surprisingly extraordinary skills use these skills to their survival; we are following a girl who’s following her father’s extraordinary work.
This type of story, with a protagonist trying to figure out clues, alongside the early chapters about the virus, detailing its early effects on her mother and several of their classmates and neighbours, make the first half of the novel have a relatively slow build, but that doesn’t take away from its excitement. Throughout the deterioration of her mother, and her eventual surprising return to full health, we are left wondering about what caused this virus, and are immediately placed within the society left waiting day-by-day for the virus to either leave their systems or complete its mission.
While the novel is entertaining and exciting, there are a few confusing issues. While Ellis does a good job informing us of the various ways people have used Alex’s name (‘“Alexis?” Mom only uses this form of my name when it’s something important.’) we are not afforded the same with her younger brother. First introduced as Jake, we are not informed of his full name being Jacob, so when she first mentions a Jacob it can appear as if there’s an additional character. This name change occurs in her narration frequently; with Alex calling him either Jake or Jacob without really granting us a difference.
Another issue is the quickness that Alex and Chris were thrust together. While it is established they have a history, albeit a brief one, their friendship seems to become really close really quickly; in a novel taking its time this felt a little off. We are never really granted the full reasons why Alex and Chris are so close, or what about him she likes, or vice-versa, so we’re left with a mixture of hem being brought together by fate (being survivors) yet being really close.
Those two little niggling issues aside (and the occasion to-be-expected grammatical error), Infected the Shiners is very well presented and a very interesting introduction to the world they live in. Knowing it is part of a trilogy it is intriguing to find out where they can go from here. The narration is easy to follow, and Ellis finds the right blend of having Alex struggle with the clues before prevailing, and the stark contract between where they begin and where they end up, with all the wonderful in-depth details of their locations, makes for a good read.
Final Verdict: A very good introduction to the ever growing world of self-publishing.
Other works by Tara Ellis:
The Forgotten Origins series:
- Infected: the Shiners
- Heritage, Blood of our Ancestors
- Descent, Into the Darkness
The Samantha Wolf Mysteries
- The Mystery of Hollow Inn
- The Secret of Camp Whispering Pines
- The Beach House Mystery
- The Heiress of Covington Ranch
- The Haunting of Eagle Creek Middle School
- A Mysterious Christmas on Orcas Island