Partials: Dan Wells
June 13, 2012
Author: Dan Wells (@TheDanWells)
Age Range: 14 and up
Partials is a new YA post-apocalypse dystopia novel by Dan Wells. The story takes place in a near-term future world in which genetically engineered "Partials" have been created by humans. The Partials are virtually indistinguishable from humans, except for being stronger, faster, better fighters, etc. 11 years earlier, the Partials rebelled, and released a virus that killed nearly the entire human population. About 40,000 immune human survivors have made their way to Long Island, where they live barricaded away, out of sight of the Partials. This society is doing ok in some ways. They have plenty of food, entertainment, clothing, homes, etc. The problem is that their babies are not immune to the virus. All of the babies born over the 11 years have died. Kira, a 16-year-old medic, desperately wants to find a cure. When Kira comes to believe that the only cure lies with the dangerous Partials, she sets out on a dangerous quest.
As you can see, the premise of Partials is pretty complex. I couldn't do it justice in a couple of sentences. As is sometimes the case in first books of dystopian series, a fair bit of the book is taken up with setting the stage, and building this world for the reader. But I can't say that I minded. I think that the world-building in Partials is excellent. I could really picture Wells' kudzu-covered, decaying Long Island. I could understand the conflicts facing a society desperate for an immune baby to be born. (Do you coerce women into having babies that they know will probably die? As a woman, is it your responsibility to try?)
Even the Partials themselves are solidly constructed (in a story sense). Wells understands their physiology, as well as the makeup of their society. There are a number of questions about them that remain at the end of the book (as their should be, if there are going to be future books), but they are far from being one-note villains. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the characterization of Kira's Partial potential love interest is quite a bit stronger than the characterization of Kira's actual human boyfriend. Here's a quote that I liked:
"A human face. A human mouth and nose. Human eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. A young man, handsome, with short, dark-brown hair and the beginning of a bruise on its jaw. The greatest enemy mankind had ever faced, the vicious monster that had ended the world." (Page 174)
In general, I found the characterization in Partials a little thin. Kira is a bit too consciously (on the author's part) channeling Katniss from The Hunger Games (there's actually a quote in which someone calls Kira a "firebrand"). Many of Kira's actions are motivated by her affection for her friend who is practically a sister, Madison. But I didn't really get a fix on Madison as a character, or feel their friendship. Similarly, I didn't even understand what Kira was doing with Marcus in the first place, even though he seemed to have a good sense of humor.
I did find Kira's willingness to risk her life to cure the virus and keep babies from dying moving. And I liked how much conflict their was among the characters. Even between friends, and certainly between different interest groups on the island. Wells pretty much left no stone unturned in building conflict. He wraps Partials up well, but leaves plenty of scope for future books.
I also liked how much science there is in Partials. Kira does research to try to cure the virus. She uses lab equipment, and studies viral structures. There's not enough science to be offputting, but there is enough to, perhaps, make a few teens think "hmm, medical research could be cool." And that's a wonderful thing. There's also a quote comparing the movement of a rioting crown to "fierce Brownian motion", which I liked a lot.
I expect teens to like Partials quite a bit. It's got a similar feel to Veronica Roth's Divergent and Insurgent, and would make a great next book for fans of that series. Personally, even though I'd like a bit more depth to the characters, I'm dying for the next book in the series. Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, age 14 and up.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@balzerandbray)
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle
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