By Heather A.
4 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆
After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.
What a world Sherri L. Smith created! Based in our own reality, post Rita and Katrina, we see the lower half of the US devastated by natural disasters from Florida to Texas (otherwise known as the Delta region). To prevent the spread of a new deadly virus, the government builds a wall and has the states succeed from the union. Fast forward 50 years from 2015, we meet Fen, a loyal O+ who now has to survive after her tribe was murdered by a rival AB tribe. The people who remained in the Delta after it was closed by the government have divided into tribes to help prevent the spread of the disease known as Delta Fever. Some tribes are better off than others, like the Os, because they are less susceptible to disease. Meanwhile, other tribes are struggling, and need constant blood transfusions, like the As, Bs, and ABs. These tribes frequently use blood hunters to attack people and literally take their blood.
It’s a cruel world that Fen was born into, but she has adapted to this life and knows how to survive (or try to survive). When her tribe leader dies giving birth, Fen is the only one who can protect the baby. She’s smart about keeping the baby quiet and has a level head when she knows she’s cornered.
This is not a romance. This might be my favorite thing about a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic novel. Fen meets a scientist, Daniel, who has come to the Delta to fix his miracle cure for the Delta region. They are both caught by blood hunters, but they team up to escape, and Fen helps Daniel get to his destination, a research center. But everything in the Delta is a threat, so it’s good that Daniel has Fen on his side.
Fen is smart, she speaks a mix of languages: English, Creole, Chinese, Spanish, so that she can communicate with various members of the Delta region. Her parents, before their death, taught her a lot of about survival, like how to escape any situation (know your assets and weaknesses), and she’s familiar with the entire city of what used to be New Orleans. The world that the author created is fantastic. There’s danger at every turn, but I was also surprised at how vividly I could see everything, despite never going to New Orleans. My favorite scenes were “the rooftops” and the creepy monsters that live below—what was that??!?!
Daniel is too naive for his own good, but manages to survive with Fen and the baby. Soon she realizes that no matter what she does, she needs him to get the baby across the wall when he returns. The ending was so sad, but fitting. The world is not sunshine and daisies and we get this reality smack in the face in the last chapter.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in post-apocalyptic fiction, especially which is based in reality of climate change and natural disasters. My only criticism is that I did not like Fen’s tribe “voice.” It was difficult to read her broken English. I understand why it was written that way, but knowing that Fen was educated as a child makes it harder to appreciate her use of it. Also, in some ways, I do wish that Fen was able to show her emotions. She eventually learns to trust Daniel, but she didn’t even get excited when she saw the people who were familiar to her. She’s a teenager and I expected certain actions from her.