First thanks to Scholastic and Netgalley for allowing me to read an e-galley of this, even though I didn’t get to it until the last minute. I loved The Collector by Victoria Scott, so I was very excited to read this. And I was not disappointed at all. In fact, when I picked it up, I could have probably finished it in just one day, if I’d had more time. I only had time to read about a third of it on Thursday, but then yesterday I couldn’t put it down. Even as tired as I was before bed time, I couldn’t go to bed until I finished it, it was that good. There was no nodding off and forgetting what I’d read like happens when I’m usually that tired.
This is the gist of the story. The main character’s name is Tella. Her brother is sick. Her family has moved out to the country, because her mom believes the fresh air might help him get better, or at least to be more comfortable. Tella is bored to death, as her mother has even outlawed all technology, so she can’t even get on the internet. One day Tella finds a gift wrapped box just sitting on her bed, and though it doesn’t say who it is from, she opens it, assuming it is a gift from her parents to make up for her having to go live out in the boonies. Inside is a little ear piece thing. She thinks maybe it is like an iPod. When she puts it on, it is a women’s voice telling her that she can enter a race called the Brimstone Bleed, and the winner of the race wins the cure to save someone they love. Like her brother. When she goes to thank her parents for it, her dad takes it away and won’t let her have it back. Her mom and brother seem to have an idea about what it is, but no one will tell her anything. When she sees her father burning it late that night, she sneaks out to the fire after he goes back in the house. What she sees is that the fire hasn’t damaged the little earpiece at all. So, she goes into her room, packs her things, and follows the instructions to where this race will start. The recording told her once she got to the location, she would need to pick out her “Pandora” which was something that would help her through the race. The room where she goes has a bunch of what look like eggs sitting all around. Different sizes, colors, etc. And soon a bunch of people run into the room and begin grabbing the eggs. Tella is able to finally get hers with the help of a very attractive, yet very mean looking boy a few years older than her it seems.
So once she gets to the start line, they know there are four parts to the race. They will go through the jungle, the desert, the ocean, and the mountains. The whole race will have a time limit of 3 months. The first part is the jungle. Where the eggs/Pandoras hatch. And these Pandoras are really incredible. They are animals, not what you’d necessarily think of hatching from eggs exactly, but they have extra powers or abilities. The cute/scary guy has a lion that can light fires with his eyes. Tella’s Pandora is a cute little fox-like animal that seems to have no abilities. And also seems to not be able to understand when Tella asks it to do something, like all the other ones seem to be able to do. She meets up in the jungle with some of the other contenders, including the cute/scary boy, named Guy, a girl named Harper, and a woman named Caroline with a young boy named Dink. Though they are all there to try to win to save someone they love, they figure until it gets closer to the end, they can work together, and also protect each other from the not so cooperative or nice contenders. Like Titus. Who seems to have not only a bit of a crush on Tella, but is really a jerk. It seems he even is mean to his Pandora, possibly whipping it.
So, those are your main characters. Lots of them have different reasons for being there. And while Tella has no idea where or when this race started, some of the other contenders know more, and she tries to find out what she can from them. What she learns, is a whole great background story that makes the race even more crazy.
My only negative, and it’s not a negative to me, but I can see some people pointing it out and saying it, is that the idea of a race/contest like this is “just like the Hunger Games“. Yes, there is something similar. But, even before Hunger Games there was Battle Royale, or before that there were the Stephen King stories, The Long Walk, or the one that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie made from it, The Running Man. So, get over that point, and move on to the differences, and the good parts of the story. I loved how the race worked. It reminded me more of a Survivor tv show type race, again having to be able to survive in different elements, in this book, jungle and desert. And making alliances is like that too. And the Pandoras! I loved them! I want Tella’s Pandora, she named it Madox, although the other contenders just called their Pandora by the scientific name, like G-6 or RX-13. I also loved the characters, Tella won me over right away. Victoria Scott’s writing style is so easy to read, and fun to read as well. I can’t believe I’m done with it, and now have to wait at least a year probably for book 2!!! No fair!