“Half Lives” Sara Grant

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published July 9, 2013. Little, Brown and Company. 392 pp. Includes “Author’s Note.”

HalfLives17-year-old Icie’s parents worked for the government, and had advance knowledge of a terrorist threat to unleash a deadly virus on the world. They make plans to send Icie to a nuclear waste bunker in Vegas so she can survive. Unfortunately her parents are arrested, so Icie is left on her own. On the plane she meets Marissa, a perky cheerleader, who becomes her sole companion. As they trudge through the desert they find Tate, a young boy who wants to be a rock star but was abandoned and left for dead. Finally, they meet Chaske a very handsome Native American teen who has deep secrets he won’t divulge. They seal themselves inside the bunker to avoid contamination…

Generations pass. A small group of survivors from Before have survived in the village of Forreal. Terrified that Terrorists will find their hiding place, the group of Cheerleaders and Rock Stars are determined to protect their mountain and way of life. As they and their leader Beckett look out at Vega, they are reminded that their god, the Great I AM, will protect them from the dangers that lie Out There. Greta, a Survivor, finds her way to the mountain from Vega. Could she be a sign from the Great I AM? Is she a Terrorist? Only time will tell…

In alternate chapters, Grant tells Beckett’s and Icie’s stories. I understood the author’s mindset of using words from popular culture to make her point of showing how people in a cult blindly follow what they don’t understand, but I did mind that she’d used “I Am,” an actual Biblical name, for the cult’s god. Surely she had to know it’s the real name used for God in the Christian Bible. Every time I read it I was reminded that this is America and everyone has free speech, but I know if she had used a certain Muslim god’s name for the book’s god instead of a Christian god’s name then all h**l would have broken loose. Ah America!

Students aged 14 and older will have some deep thinking to do as they read, especially in the area of learning about nuclear waste and its longterm repercussions on the world.

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