Kathy Reichs is famous for her Temperance Brennan series, the one they adapted into the show Bones. It’s about a forensic anthropologist solving crimes using bones and smarts and some investigating. Reichs hereself is a forensic anthropologist and she pulls some of her plots from real life situations (although she changes them to suit the story/keep confidentially). Virals is her first young adult novel (it now has a sequel, Seizure). I’m a fan of Reichs’ work so I was excited to see what she did for the YA shelf. I enjoyed the book but it had its pros and cons. Let’s jump in and discuss them, shall we?
A Quick Synopsis: Tory Brennan is a teenager who lost her mom in a car crash and moved in with her father, Kit, who didn’t even know he had a daughter until he became her legal guardian. He’s a scientist who works at an island lab for the University, and they live on Morris Island off the coast of South Carolina. Tory makes friends with the three guys her age, all of whom ride the ferry to the mainland for school together. They’re all science geeks in one form or another. One day they find an old dog tag, and that leads them to a body and a forty-year old missing persons case.While trying to find answers, the group comes across a secret parvovirus experiment being done by one of her father’s colleagues and they free the infected dog.
+ Reichs always weaves a suspenseful mystery and this is no exception. As a reader, I needed to know was going to happen and tried to piece together clues as I read along, just like in her adult series. It’s the same writing style and same level of mystery. Human remains are found and the question is who are they, how did they die, and is someone guilty?
+ Our heroine is a brave, butt-kicking girl who fits in with the boys and is the leader of their group. There’s no love triangle, either, although she does have a crush (not one of her gang) and it’s pretty clear Ben likes her. Tory doesn’t need guys to come to her rescue and she’s smart, funny, and likable.
+ The cast is well-rounded and well-developed. All three of Tory’s scoobies—Hi, Ben, and Shelton—are unique and interesting people. Frankly, a series of science geeks solving murders has all kinds of potential and doesn’t even need the supernatural wolf DNA element. Ben is the stoic man of few words, Hi is the nerdy, clumsy one with the pop culture references and quick jokes (though he’s also very smart) and Shelton is the cowardly computer geek. But they extend beyond those initial types and read like real people.
+ Solving mysteries with science! Science rules!
+ The main character’s name is Tory and we all know Toris are awesome people, even if they spell it with a “y.” *wink*
What Bugged Me:
+ 3rd Person Sections: Whenever a book is told in first person, I always feel cheated when there are sections from another perspective in 3rd. I feel like as a writer, you have to pick your perspective and accept the limitations it provides. If you need other voices to create suspense, you shouldn’t use first. I’m sure it works fine for some people, but it always bothers me and pops me out of the story. I realize in some cases, the person “telling” the story may have had these other parts relayed to them–although that’s impossible in at least one case–but I just don’t like it.
+ Tory Brennan is Temperance Brennan (she’s even a Brennan by her mom’s side, no relation, just so she can have the same name). They are exactly the same character. Not just their interests and personalities. They are identical right down to their quirky mannerisms (they both pace, tick points off on their fingers, etc). Even their knowledge of forensics and worldly artifacts. Reichs tries to lampshade this saying Tory has read all of Temperance’s books but still, how does the kid know how to dig out bones in reality? I’ve read the books too but I sure as hell wouldn’t know the proper protocol to use while digging up remains. The one difference is that Tory is a teenager and doesn’t have access to labs (legally) or police forces, and has to commit crimes to get anything done. But that’s it. It’s like she took her existing model, made a few quirks to make it YA, and bam!
+ The supernatural DNA alternation makes no sense in Temperance Brennan’s world. Yes, it’s science fiction but it’s still supernatural. If this series were a separate entity, it’d be fine, but it’s not. Tory is the long lost daughter of Temperance’s nephew, a character shoe-horned into the universe on purpose. By extension, she’s rippled the fabric of her world building and created doubt that science will always be Tempe’s answer, and that’s weird. Why not just make it a different series? Why force the connection?
+ The constant Mac/Apple advertisement. No one has a computer in this series, it’s always a Mac. And only one person doesn’t have an iPhone, and he’s the guy with the ancient cell. I have a Mac and I like Macs (though I prefer my Android phone) but I hated hearing about Apple products so much. At least change it up and give Hy a Dell or something. And yes, sometimes brands are used to show something about the character. In this case, it just seemed like the only computer/cellphone outlet in the entire state of South Carolina was an Apple store.
All and all, I love the way Reichs builds and tells a mystery, and I will probably read its sequel.