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Feral by James DeMonaco and B.K. Evenson

Published by Anchor on April 4, 2017

Feral isn’t marketed as a young adult novel, but it has all the trappings: an adolescent female who has little experience with boys, although a definite interest in them, finds herself in a dangerous situation and has to survive by her wits while learning about herself and, in the process, finding a boy who makes her feel special. It isn’t a formula I seek out because I’m not a young adult and novels of that ilk too often devolve into trashy romance fiction, but readers in the appropriate market might like Feral more than I did. I can only say that this is not what I expected from co-author B.K. Evenson, who is a fine writer of adult fiction.

Feral begins in a way that suggests the beginning of a zombie novel. A fire at a place that does genetic manipulation has made something like a virus airborne, making males at Allie Hilt’s school behave aggressively. Eventually all males treat females as prey. Fortunately, Allie is athletic and pretty aggressive even without the virus that turns men into feral killers. And fortunately, the feral killers aren’t zombies, although they aren’t far removed from zombies.

The story that follows is post-apocalyptic. Three years have passed. The only goal men have is to kill women. Women have banded together in camps to protect themselves. This seems likely to be the last generation of human life, since normal reproduction is, under the circumstances, out of the question. Allie and her sister are the scouts for one of the camps. Dr. Zeman, who once worked at the company that manufactured the virus, is experimenting on captive feral men to see if she can neutralize the virus before the human race ends.

Point of view shifts from Allie to her sister to Dr. Zeman to a foul-mouthed woman named Jacky. Allie, however, is clearly the main character. And of course, this wouldn’t be a YA novel unless Allie met an uninfected boy who soon says “it was like I knew you” when he talks about seeing her for the first time. You know it’s a YA novel when the authors feel compelled to add a cheesy romance between two dreamy young people. And you really know it’s YA when, after they have sex, everyone wonders why the young woman is glowing. After that, of course, she becomes jealous, as if she’s entitled to his exclusive attention when he’s the only normal male in a world full of fertile women. The gak factor in this book repeatedly caused a bit of bile to rise in my throat.

Feral isn’t all bad, by any means. The story reminds us of the small things that distinguish humans from each other (the things humans lose when they become feral), and in that sense the story has poignant moments. But some of it is a bit silly and all of it is disappointingly predictable.


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