Release date: Out now
Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…
And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.
Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…
Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race…
In a world where humans are infected by a virus that infects and mutates them into beings called Ticks, Lily and her autistic sister, Mel are interned in camps otherwise known as Farms. This is to ensure young people and children are kept safe from the Ticks who have overtaken the country and only pockets of resistance or Farms are the safe havens from the marauding bloodsucking mutants. However, living in a Farm is not safe and has its own dangers, such as breaking the rules which could lead to punishment by death by the Ticks, and rumours of disappearances and unknown fates when teens reach eighteen. Yet the real horror is that every person must donate blood to keep the Ticks at bay, despite these farms are supposedly safe places for children and teens. But Lily is not willing to find out that fate since she and her twin Mel, are approaching eighteen and plan to escape. But when an old crush, Carter, from her past appears in the Farm. Lily wonders if she is able to trust him or if he is a collaborator with people who run the Farm, but to survive she may have to trust him with her and Mel’s life because time is running out.
The Farm, is definitely one of the most haunting and desolate settings I’ve read, not because of its premise although that definitely adds to the atmosphere but its main strength is that of the narration of Lily and her sister Mel, which really reflects their stark situation. It was also beautifully written, and I really got sucked into the prose, especially Mel’s which was poetic and almost musical with its tone, because of her autism, she could only communicate in nursery rhymes. And that really gave the book a chilling overtone, because of the rhymes imagery mirrored to what was going on in a creepy way. I have to say Mel’s character and narration was my favourite because it is difficult to illustrate her disability especially in a tense and dark setting like The Farm. Emily McKay shined in her prose in the way she presented her character, and I loved her POV because it was insightful and beautifully written and just fantastic characterisation. I looked forward to her chapters even though they were brief at times because she really pushed forward the plot as well as being one of the most interesting characters in the book.
The book is also narrated in Carter’s POV which is in the third person while Lily and Mel’s narration is in the first person. And this was effective in showing the romantic sub-plot which I was kind of wary because of the old crush coming to the rescue trope. But I enjoyed how the romantic sub-plot developed and especially how it tied in with the wider plot of the resistance group (which Carter is a part of) and the origins of the Ticks.
I found Carter to be likeable and resourceful, and I liked his interactions with Lily and how he gave her space and time to trust him after he was forced to make his move to save her and Lily from danger. But I also liked that the romantic element didn’t overpower the main plot which is a trope that tends to be common in a lot of YA dystopians. But the romance between Carter and Lily was developed organically, and I liked how it ended up in the book which I look forward to see how it pans out in the sequel.
Alongside Carter there is also a vampire called Sebastian, who is also part of his rebel group although his intentions and desires are for more selfish reasons which is why he has teamed up with the human resistance. The vampire mythology had an interesting and unique approach and while Sebastian is seen to be a traditional type of vampire and is ancient – his race is tied to the Ticks’ evolution.
Nonetheless there were elements that was quite weak in the book, because I wished there was more explanations on the vampires and how the humans succumbed so quickly. I was not keen on the concept of an Abductura (which is an empathic human who can shape and project emotions onto others) who is behind the collapse of human society because they helped to control its disintegration. Lily is also regarded by Sebastian and Carter as one and hopes she can help their cause in the resistance because she can counteract the other Abductura who is working with the enemy. I think the idea of one Abductura managing to manipulate such a large scale of collapse and in such a short period didn’t make much sense and wasn’t believable to me. But I hope this gets expanded more in the sequel, because overall this was heart-stopping and chilling read. And even though this was a niggle, I really liked the characterisation especially that of Mel and Sebastian, who despite being predatory and cold was very charismatic and intriguing because he added touch of danger even though he is an ally. And I really like the hint of the dynamic that he shared with Mel, which towards the end of the explosive climax in the book promises to be really interesting.
Overall, The Farm is a tense and eerie read, with engaging protagonists and beautiful poetic prose. Due to this I was immersed into the story, and inhaled this book within a day. Although there were issues, I found the characters and the plot to be rich and well rounded and it made the premise memorable and it definitely stood out for me in a time where so many dystopians and post apocalyptic books are around.
I give The Farm a solid B!