A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer

Inspired (or scared silly) by Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone and Stephen King’s The Stand, author Amber Kizer says she first became fascinated with viruses and pandemics and apocalyptic survival when she was in middle school. “With Nadia and Rabbit’s story I got to live out one fantasy of a worst-case-scenario pandemic,” says she.

Nadia and Rabbit are a teenage girl and little brother, alive in world where a nasty weaponized virus has killed 98% of the world’s population. And what’s left is a lot of dead bodies and anarchy. It’s a pretty repulsive and violent world, but Nadia and Rabbit have been taught by their father, a marine, and their uncle, an epidemiologist in the military, to “be the cockroach”—in other words, to survive. So, using practical survival techniques and common sense, Nadia and Rabbit leave their home in Seattle to travel eastward to West Virginia where they hope to find their grandfather and uncle still living and preparing a place for them to survive in this brave new world. Don’t read any more if you want to read the novel for yourself without spoilers.

I liked this story a lot, although it had its flaws. The main thing that didn’t make sense was that Nadia and Rabbit at first think they might be the only people left in this world, but after the halfway point of the book, they meet people, other survivors, almost on every page. And there are plot developments that just seem to be dropped. At one point Nadia is captured, and her captors threaten to trade her to some one named “Jonah” who “wants all the girls.” In most stories, Jonah would show up later, and we’d get some idea about who he is and why he wants all the girls. In this story, Jonah is never mentioned again. That’s realistic, but not very satisfying as a story (see Chekhov’s gun).

Still, I recommend this story for those who have not tired of the recent spate of apocalyptic survival stories. Read-alikes would include: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, Epitaph Road by David Patneaude, Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, The Compound by S.A. Bodeen, Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeiffer.

2013 Cybils nomination category: Young Adult Speculative Fiction

3 thoughts on “A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer

  1. Hi, Sherry. I’m glad you mentioned “Alas, Babylon.” It was part of the curriculum at the HS where I taught — 15 years ago — well before the dystopian/post-apocalyptic book craze. I’d love to see more teens reading that book.

  2. Sounds very interesting! My husband is currently reading another book about life after the electricity all goes out. I think it is his third such novel. 🙂

    He loved The Hot Zone and I had planned on reading it but we loaned it to someone right after he finished and then forgot who that was. They never brought it back and that has been a few years… Which made me remember why I rarely loan books these days.

    I, too, liked Alas, Babylon very much. Read long (long) ago when the threat of a nuclear war with Russia seemed imminent. One of the best of that genre.

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